King Shaka visited the area whilst on a raid down to Pondoland towards the end of his reign (1816 to 1928). When Shaka stopped to rest in the area, he had his personal attendant collect water from a nearby stream. This water was presented to King Shaka in a calabash. After drinking the water he exclaimed "Kanti amanz'amtoti" Extensions of the legend tell that King Shaka had sat under a large wild fig tree to drink the water, or that he used to meet local indunas (chiefs) under a specific fig tree. The exact tree is unknown; one tree laying claim to the distinction fell down in March 1972, and another fell down in June 1981.
Late colonial history
Dick King passed through the Amanzimtoti area on his way to Grahamstown in 1842 in order to request help for the besieged British garrison at Port Natal (now the Old Fort, Durban). The route that Dick King took through Amanzimtoti later became a road named Kingsway.
In 1847 Dr Newton Adams moved from Umlazi (where he had established a mission station in 1836) to Amanzimtoti and started a new mission station. Dr Adams died in 1851, and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent Rev. Rood to Amanzimtoti in 1853 with the express object of opening up a school.Adams Mission Church was built inland of Amanzimtoti in 1852, and Adams College was built in 1853. The college was first named "Amanzimtoti Institute" and was later renamed after Dr. Adams in the 1930s.
Different accounts identify the first house in the Amanzimtoti area, with one reference claiming a house on the south side of the Amanzimtoti River as the oldest house and another claiming a house to the north of the river as the oldest. The "first house" in Amanzimtoti, known as Klein Frystaat ("Little Free State"), was owned by Howard Wright and was situated "on the north side of the back of the old Anglican Church" on Adams Road.The house was demolished in 1984.However, the "best guess" for the first house built in Amanzimtoti is 1895, and it may have been on the "headland" south of Amanzimtoti Lagoon.
A photograph of a rowing-boat on the Amanzimtoti River taken in 1889 shows the banks of the river vegetated with Phragmites australis, Phoenix reclinata and coastal bush.However a later traveler in 1911 claims to have been the first person to take a camera up the river, but also describes "reed-covered isles", "overhanging trees" and his photographs show Phoenix reclinata growing on the banks.
The railway line from Durban to Isipingo was extended to Park Rynie from 1896 onwards, and the first train passed through Amanzimtoti in 1897. This train left Durban on 22 February at 07h55 and consisted of a Dubs-type engine with two goods trucks, two passenger trucks and a brake-van. There was a tin shanty siding at Amanzimtoti in 1897 which served as a station. The route from the Amanzimtoti train station to Adams Mission was named Adams Road. The first hotel in Amanzimtoti was built in 1898 to cater for holidaymakers, some of whom came from as far afield as Johannesburg on specially organised trains. The first hotel was built of wood and iron, but burnt down in May 1899. Amanzimtoti had its first stationmaster in 1902.