This article critically examines the rapid industrialisation and phenomenal growth of Richards Bay since the early 1960s. Detailed consideration is given to the nature of the development and the various factors that contributed to the unusual economic success of the locality. The article highlights the important role played by government but suggests that other factors were more important for the development of Richards Bay. Some of these factors include the natural advantages and competent functioning of the various institutions operating in the region. Despite the success of Richards Bay, the article highlights various gaps in its development, and draws together a number of suggestions for more economically sustainable growth in other localities.