Once a small seaside resort outside of Durban known as “Umhlanga Rock”, Umhlanga has snowballed in both popularity and size over the years. This is no doubt due to its world-class shopping centres, miles of golden sand, and its proximity to wonders such as the Valley of a Thousand Hills. In addition, this charming South African outpost lies on the doorstep of The Oyster Box, with its plush suites, luxury villas and fine-dining Grill Room. Therefore, there’s really no excuse not to find a map, take this guide and start exploring this unique slice of South Africa.
Located on KwaZulu-Natal’s northern coast and possessing almost year-round sunshine, the beaches of Umhlanga stretch for over 120 miles. Containing some of South Africa’s best surf, it’s produced some of the sport’s biggest legends (such as Chris Knutsen) and “Surfrican” slang.
Despite being in vogue (especially with glamorous Durbanites), however, Umhlanga has managed to keep its easy-going, surfer vibe. This is perhaps because residents and visitors tend to be laidback families who hit beachfront eateries such as Surf Riders Food Shack for Durban-style chow. Often planning bike trails to explore the Berg, or visiting the Wild Coast afterwards.
A local favourite for its natural beauty, the 114-acre Hawaan Forest harbours 175 types of tree and grows on a dune that dates back 18,000 years. Bounded by the Ohlanga River and the sea, the forest is so pristine that walks through it must be organized with the local Centre of the Wildlife Society in advance.
Those who desire less active pursuits may find their own slice of South African paradise at Umhlanga’s Gateway. The largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s been designed to let in as much natural light as possible, and feel like a convenient town under one roof. From the IMAX theatre to the Wave House (for surfers who want to practice in safety), there’s also karting tracks and hundreds of shops in which one can easily while away an afternoon.
As the sun sets and temperatures take a tumble, go for a gentle stroll or put the exercise gear on and run up and down the two-mile stretch of Umhlanga that’s paved. You’ll end up passing countless bathing spots, the iconic lighthouse and the pier (with its steel “whale-skeleton” arches). Which is enough activity to leave anybody in a hungry mood.
At the Oyster Box, there are Champagne breakfasts, traditional High Teas, giant curry feasts and the real coup de theatre, the Chef’s Table. Moreover, overlooking magnificent stretches of coastline, everything seems sprinkled with a little romance. Further afield in Umhlanga, there are other options, too. Whether visitors choose a healthy lunch at Thirteen East Coast, a gourmet treat at Harvey’s, or make the most of Ile Maurice’s fresh seafood and Mauritian rums, there’s a place in Umhlanga for every kind of appetite.
If golden beaches, Champagne breakfasts and miles of natural beauty have caught your imagination, why not book a suite at The Oyster Box, which possess sea-views and large lounges.