Umhlanga at a glance
The seaside town of Umhlanga Rocks on South Africa’s eastern coast is upmarket and vibrant. Situated 16 kilometres north of the city of Durban, the area has become a great focus of development in recent years, and is no longer just a coastal holiday mecca – it has become a thriving urban landscape too.
Umhlanga has much to offer locals and visitors – a glorious subtropical climate, beautiful beaches, top-notch shopping centres as well as a host of outdoor activities and attractions. It is not only a beautiful place to escape to on holiday, but also a beautiful place to live, do business and enjoy life.
A little beach cottage is where it all started in 1869. The owners of the cottage were very hospitable and would serve tea and scones to people passing through the area, which formed part of a large sugar estate owned by sugar magnate Sir Marshall Campbell who had sailed to the area from Glasgow in 1850. The reflective roof of the cottage was also used as a beacon by passing ships to help them navigate around the headland.
Sixty years later the cottage was converted into a hotel and twenty years later a lighthouse was built. The world-class Oyster Box Hotel and the red and white lighthouse have become iconic symbols of the area.
Today the beachfront area is dotted with many luxury hotels and apartments and is fronted by a three-kilometre long promenade that leads to the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve. It is backed by a busy town centre that is home to a monthly night market and a burgeoning array of restaurants, shops and offices.
In 1972, Umhlanga Rocks was merged with the nearby upmarket suburb of La Lucia to form the borough of Umhlanga – and today the area is developing rapidly and attracting much investment.
La Lucia, which was once a sugar farm is a wealthy suburb with many upmarket homes as well as the popular La Lucia Shopping Mall - an exclusive shopping centre with many national and international retailers.
The suburbs of Umhlanga now include Umhlanga Ridge, Ridgeside, the Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate, Somerset Park, Prestondale, Herrwood Park and Izinga - each unique in its offering.
Umhlanga Ridge and Ridgeside are situated on a ridge and have beautiful views of the ocean as well as the Durban City skyline. These areas have developed on land that once was sugar cane farmland. They form a retail, office and residential node that is attracting exclusive property developments, both residential and commercial.
This area is home to Gateway Theatre of Shopping, one of South Africa’s largest retail destinations that offers a Barnyard Theatre, an IMAX theatre, a rock climbing wall, a Wavehouse and Water Park and over 30 restaurants.
The Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate is a luxury gated residential estate as well as a premier golfing destination while Herrwood Park, Prestondale and Somerset Park are popular residential areas offering large family homes. Izinga is a brand new suburb created by Tongaat-Hulett that comprises 4 gated estates and an open suburb component. The architectural style for Izinga uses an earthy African colour palette, combined with Mediterranean and Balinese forms.
Umhlanga’s attractions are numerous and there is much to see and do in the area.
One of the oldest establishments is the premises of the Natal Sharks Board. The highlight of a visit here is watching a live shark dissection. Visitors can also book tickets to go on an early morning boat trip with the Sharks Board meshing crews to observe how they service the shark nets of Durban’s Golden Mile.
The Umhlanga Nature Reserve, Hawaan Forest and Umhlanga Ponds will satisfy the appetites of those who love to get back into nature. They all offer an opportunity to explore the coastal forest, the Ohlanga River and the lagoon. These indigenous areas abound in small wildlife and spectacular bird life.
For the more adventurous skydiving, ocean diving, deep-sea fishing and micro lighting are just some of the activities which can be organised through local tourism operators.
Beach festivals that include surfing competitions, beach activities, beauty pageants, and much more are often held on Umhlanga’s main beach during the holiday seasons. These events are a great attraction and allow locals and visitors to soak up the sun and enjoy the energy that Umhlanga has to offer.