Matara is at the mouth of the Nilwala River on further south from Galle. Its name is descriptive of its location –the great ford. Both under Portuguese and Dutch occupation it was an important commercial center.
With sandy beaches, fragrant spice plantations and green paddy fields Matara is a bustling town sandwiched between sandy beaches and the pastoral country side. It has a well preserved Dutch fort facing the Indian Ocean, built by the Dutch in 1640. It is a fortification of a Portuguese garrison. The fort has many structures of the Dutch and British periods. The oldest of the colonial past that still invites attention is the Dutch church. The 40M high light house built in 1890 to provide guidance to the ships plying the busy sea lane in an age before Radar is 6 kms away. Nearby is the historic shrine dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu worshipped by Buddhists as the God entrusted with the mission of protecting Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Polhena which is 3kms away offers unspoilt beaches. The coral reef provides good snorkeling and swimming. The winds and the waves that offer good surfing prospects makes it a Sri Lanka Tourist attraction. A further 48 kms to the south is Tangalle, with one of the largest natural bays in the island, protected by a reef. You will find some superb beaches hidden in small coves and bays. These are not beaches that stretch for miles as in other Sri Lanka beaches. The quiet little beach fronts are ideal hideaways amongst the breeze that sweeps across the Tangalle bay.