Umhlanga – Beach Holiday!
Umhlanga Rocks is the beach holiday place. Frequented by many a Zimbabwean as well as up-country South Africans, Umhlanga Rocks has long been synonymous with a beach getaway.
—-By kind arrangement of friends, we stayed in the La Lucia Sands timeshare accommodation. At which point I got confused.
To me La Lucia has always been a suburb of Durban, Umhlanga Rocks a holiday resort. In fact Umhlanga (which is a Zulu word meaning "place of reeds") is a merger of the La Lucia suburb and Umhlanga Rocks. Confusion resolved!
La Lucia Sands put us in a spacious 3 bedroomed, six sleeper, second floor apartment with a big balcony overlooking the pool, and a slight view of the sea. Well secured, as is the norm in South Africa, the beach is easily accessed via a locked gate. The weather continued to be unseasonably bad, though we did manage a few morning walks along the beach, along with an assortment of morning walkers and fishermen. That’s still the best way to start a day.
Eating Out in Umhlanga
The time share accommodation is self catering. That’s helped by well stocked supermarkets and nearby malls if you really want to get carried away. Nevertheless we found opportunity to sample the local Restaurants.
Our first night’s dinner, with all of the family and friends at a restaurant appropriately named called Fish As the name suggests, producing excellent seafood. A few of us sampled the swordfish, which was a first for me. I would highly recommend it.
Breakfast at Vovo Telo Bakery and Café started our first day at Umhlanga with some great variations on the normal bacon and eggs and griddle cakes.
Another variation on the bacon and egg breakfast theme started our last full day at Amici, at the La Lucia Mall.
We had heard about the High Tea at the 5 star Oyster Box Hotel. This is an experience for which you have to book. We had to wait for two days before we could enjoy it. And it was quite an experience.
Voted the number 1 top hotel in South Africa by Tripadvisor, and amongst the top 5 hotels in Africa, The Oyster Box Hotel is a 5 star hotel situated on the beach at Umhlanga Rocks. Originally established in the 1950’s the hotel retains a grand colonial atmosphere. Centre of the hotel is the huge palm court with its high ceilings, light and cool.
High Tea starts with sparkling wine or juice, as you might prefer. That’s followed by various large pots of different teas. As we were a group of 7, I saw Earl Grey, ordinary tea and Rooibos doing the rounds. At the centre is a large table with a large range of savouries one one side and end, and sweets on the other. Simply help yourself for a couple of hours. The food was, as you might expect"tea" food, ranging from simple sandwiches to samoosas and bahjis. All well made, and most with something to raise them from the norm, such as circular chicken mayo sandwiches coated with almond flakes. All in all a superb way to spend an afternoon.
We topped it off with a few cocktails in the upstairs Lighthouse Bar, named for its view of the Umhlanga Rocks Lighthouse. The Lighthouse offered an interesting menu, but a meal was not something we were interested in after the high tea!
The High Tea and a cocktail in the Lighthouse are definitely an experience for your trip to Umhlanga.
Malls – Gateway, La Lucia
The girls always love to go shopping at the mall. Especially one they haven’t before, or for a long time. Dutiful husbands and fathers have little choice but to tag along. To be fair, they often offer a good range of technology, photo gear and sports gear, so the guys can keep occupied. The Unhlanga area has two malls close by. The older La Lucia mall and the newer Gateway Theatre of Shopping, situated on the Umhlanga Ridge, which claims to be the largest mall in Africa. Offering a huge range of shopping, both offer some good restaurants.
Love them or hate them, the coastal area I home to wildlife, including monkeys. At the La Lucia Sands they live in the nearby trees and are very visible. As any experienced southern African camper knows they are trouble! Once they know there is food available, either because they stole it once, or some brightly unintelligent human visitor fed them, thy will return. Anything for an easy meal! One morning I hear a noise while in the shower. When I came out there were four on the balcony sharing a packet of rusks brazenly removed from the kitchen counter!
Umhlanga Rocks Beach
The unseasonably cloudy weather was not ideal for lying on the Bach on this trip. But that didn’t stop us spending time every day just enjoying walking and sitting on the beach and enjoying being at the sea.
This coast is shark territory, so most public swimming beaches have protective shark nets and lifeguards on duty. Umhlanga Rocks is no exception to that with a pleasant, if rocky, beach with all the amenities. The beach is a 20 minute walk from LuciaSands. If you are not planning a swim, the beach immediately outside the time share is too steep to be a good swimming beach, but great for morning walks and just sitting and enjoying whatever sunshine is there.
The end of the week brought our holiday to an end. Of course, after the bad weather at Hillcrest and mainly overcast and windy days at Umhlanga, the last morning, with flights at mid-day, was perfectly clear and sunny. That’s one of life’s guarantees! We dropped into the Hops at Ballito for a final brunch with a view of the sea, before the journey back to approaching winter in the UK.
In the 13 years since I last spent time in this part of the world it has changed. A lot. And in some ways not at all. I have a lot of history here, and this is where one side of my family came from. Leaving after this couple weeks was unexpectedly hard. We will be back. Sooner rather than later.