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LOCAL TIME: 11:35 pm | Sunday, 19 November
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About Umhlanga

Umhlanga, with golden beach sands, sparkling sea and sunny skies has been the ideal holiday destination just north of Durban since the first beach cottage built here in 1869. The signature red and white Umhlanga Lighthouse is a beacon to land, sea and air travellers alike.

About umhlanga, tourist attraction north of durban

The Oyster Box, the area’s premier luxury hotel, was built on the site of this first beach cottage in 1930 and has been hosting discerning holiday guests ever since. Umhlanga grew as an upmarket resort town and now offers a variety of hotels, self-catering holiday accommodation, guest houses and B&B’s for the local and international holidaymakers who come to enjoy the pleasant weather created by the warm currents of the Indian Ocean year round. Holiday makers and business travellers can arrive via King Shaka International Airport just 15 minutes away.  

Umhlanga has emerged as a satellite city centre to the Durban (eThekweni) Metropolitan area and is a hub of national commercial business interests, high end residential properties and entertainment options.

Gateway Theatre of Shopping and La Lucia Mall are pivotal for the retail shopping market offering both boutique speciality stores and flagship national chain stores. Gateway houses Ster-kinekor Movies and fun activities for kids as well as many restaurants and nightclubs.

Sibaya Hotel and Casino just north of central Umhlanga offers gambling entertainment, live shows, nightclubs and many restaurants; uShaka Marine World is just 10 minutes south at the mouth of Durban Harbour.

BACKGROUND

Umhlanga means “place of reeds” and references the marshlands of the Olanga River which borders the northern part of the city. Originally inhabited by the San tribe of hunter-gatherers, the area was later occupied by the Nguni speaking people and unified under the Zulu King Shaka in the early 1800’s. At this time, the British colonized the area and the sugar magnate Sir Marshall Campbell took the area into his estate. Indentured workers from India were brought to the area to work on the sugar estates. Much of the multicultural flavour of the area can be attributed to this diverse mix of races.

In 1869 Umhlanga’s first beach cottage was built on a rocky site overlooking the sea. In a spirit of generous hospitality that endures to this day in the area, passers-by were served tea and scones!

The tin roof of the cottage reflected the sun off the roof and warned sailors of the outcropping of rocks below. In the 1930’s the little beach cottage was converted into The Oyster Box Hotel and in 1953 a lighthouse was built to warn mariners of the rocky outcrop. The recently revamped Oyster Box Hotel is now a luxurious testimony to those bygone days and has the esteemed function of maintaining THE switch that lights the famous red and white beacon.

Virginia, daughter of Sir Marshall Campbell built the first hotel in the area in the 1920’s and others followed suit. The village of Umhlanga Rocks became the most sought after area for locals to visit for holidays and the spirit of generous hospitality endures in this community to this day.

GETTING HERE

Umhlanga is approximately 15 minutes north of Durban and 20 minutes south of the coastal resort town of Ballito and is easily accessed from the N2 Highway or M4 Coastal Freeway. King Shaka International Airport serves the area and is an easy 10 minute drive away. Some hotels offer a shuttle service to the airport or rental vehicles can be hired at the airport. Trains and inter-city coaches arrive in Durban Central which is a 10-15 minute taxi ride from Umhlanga.

CLIMATE

The warm Agalhas current of the Indian Ocean washes the eastern shores of Kwa-Zulu Natal including Umhlanga. This creates a temperate climate through the year. Summer days are warm and sunny, with humidity levels high. Temperatures can reach 30⁰ in Summer with night temperatures around 23⁰. Winter days are mild and sunny with day temperatures around 23⁰ and nights falling to 12⁰. The wet and windy season runs from September to late October; but even these ‘adverse’ weather days are mild and quite warm.

Clothing, even corporate wear, is relatively casual in Umhlanga.

WHAT TO DO

Umhlanga is a playground in every sense of the word. It caters for young and old, active or sedentary in equal measure.

The golden coastline, stretching from Durban to the World Heritage site at iSimangaliso Wetland Park 200 km north of Umhlanga offers pristine beaches with surf interspersed with rocky bays with tidal pools and protected coves. Conditions are ideal for active water sport enthusiasts or young families wishing to paddle and build sand castles. The Umhlanga Promenade is a 3km long walkway extending from the Umhlanga Lagoon Reserve in the north, southwards. It spans the most popular apartment and resort complexes that line the golden sands of Umhlanga.

The town centre of Umhlanga Rocks has recently been upgraded. The area is now reserved for walking traffic only and offers a plethora of restaurants, bars and pubs. Many diners enjoy the open, al fresco dining experience in a cosmopolitan variety of food styles and flavors.

The Umhlanga Ridge, previously an open areas of sugar cane, was developed in the 1980’s and is now a retail, office and upmarket residential node overlooking the Indian Ocean. The Gateway Theatre of Shopping is an extensive mall offering shopping and entertainment options. Open air music festivals are regularly held in the piazza park area of Chris Saunders Park at Gateway. Movies, The Barnyard Theatre, Kids Entertainment Complex and numerous restaurants and clubs at Gateway make this a mecca for locals and holidaymakers alike.

Sibaya Hotel and Casino, just north of the Umhlanga Lagoon, is more than a gambling entertainment destination. World Class Shows are hosted here and a number of restaurants and nightclubs offer hours of entertainment for everyone. The Suncoast Hotel and Casino offers similar entertainment options 10 minutes south of Umhlanga.

Durban is easily accessed 17km away along the M4 Freeway that runs between Umhlanga Rocks and Umhlanga Ridge. uShaka Marine World is a must-do on any vacation agenda. The extensive marine aquarium and dolphin show offers a peak at the world beneath the sparkling waters that line the coast. A fun waterpark offers hours of entertainment for children and adults, retail shopping opportunities and restaurants are also housed in the facility.

South Africa, and particularly Durban, has been on the forefront of Shark management for over 40 years. The Natal Sharks Board, situated on the Umhlanga Ridge, hosts informative tours and lectures on these dangerous creatures of the deep (and often in shallower water than we think.) Many beaches along the coast are protected against shark intrusion by a series of shark nets laid just offshore. The Natal Sharks Board service and maintain these nets on a daily basis, rescuing any marine animals which may have become entangled in the nets.

South Africans are enthusiastic about their sport. The World class facility at Moses Mabhida Stadium hosts national sporting events and the Natal Sharks, the local rugby team, play at the Absa Stadium “The Shark Tank” next door.  Both the Moses Mabhida Stadium and Absa Stadium are approximately 10 – 15 minutes’ drive away, although traffic on match days can cause congestions and delays.

Annual Sporting Fixtures include the Comrades Marathon, the world’s greatest ultra-marathon run each year in June between Durban and Pietermaritzburg and the Dusi Canoe Marathon in January which attracts 2000 paddlers with a 3000 strong crew to make the epic 3 day trip from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to end at the Blue Lagoon, just south of Umhlanga. The Durban July is the city’s premier horse race run in July. The Mr Price Pro Surfing Competition is currently hosted in Ballito, 20 minutes north. This surfing competition attracts the world’s greatest surfers on the ASP tour and takes full advantage of the big surf swells in the winter season (July).

Umhlanga started as a resort village and has grown into an upmarket city offering all the facilities a city has to offer, but retains much of its relaxed, openly hospitable holiday character.

CULTURE

If you love cultural and history our article on South Africa’s Political History on Inanda’s HeritageTrail  is a must read!