Situated 16 kilometres to the north of the centre of Durban and ten minutes from the King Shaka Airport, Umhlanga is a residential, commercial and resort town on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. It is part of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality and is bordered by Mt Edgecombe to the west. Umhlanga means “place of reeds” in the Zulu language, referring to the beds of reeds growing along the Ohlanga River north of Umhlanga Rocks.
Umhlanga is well known for the Gateway Theatre of Shopping which is one of the largest shopping malls in the southern hemisphere. It has two beaches – Bronze Beach and Main Beach, both of which are patrolled by life guards.
Sir Marshall Campbell founded Umhlanga in 1895 and the town’s hotel was first established in 1920. The Borough of Umhlanga was formed on 1 August 1972 through the amalgamation of Umhlanga Rocks and La Lucia. The former chairman of La Lucia, Mr Rodney Rindel, was elected to Mayor of the newly formed Borough of Umhlanga. During the 1980’s, the development expanded inland and the small village became a large town.
Umhlanga is becoming the main economic hub of Durban with many businesses relocating offices from central Durban. The new town centre has seen major expansion with many new apartment complexes and offices being built. Umhlanga Rocks has many luxury hotels and apartments right on the beach, including the Cabana Beach Hotel, the Beverley Hills Hotel, the Oyster Box Hotel and the Umhlanga Sands Hotel. Umhlanga Ridge is a new retail, office and residential node. The Umhlanga Ridge town centre is connected by a series of pedestrian-friendly roads, parks and public places.
Umdloti and Umhlanga together, forms a region referred to as the Sugar Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Umhlanga is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa. Places of interest include the Umhlanga Country Club and The Mount Edgecombe Country Club.
Umhlanga enjoys a warm subtropical climate with winter temperatures ranging between 12°C at night and 23°C at noon. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures during February and March reaching 30°C or higher. The sea temperatures vary from 25°C in summer to 20°C in the winter, which allows comfortable year-round swimming. The average rainfall in Umhlanga is about 900mm a year, with most of the rain falling during spring and early summer.
The headquarters of the KZN Sharks Board is located in Umhlanga Rocks, where the first shark net on the Natal coast was hung in 1962. Today the board’s staff services 23.4 km of nets protecting beaches over a distance of 320 km, from Port Edward in the south to Zinkwazi Beach near the mouth of the uThukela (Tugela), as well as Richards Bay, in the north. Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve preserves a small portion (26 ha) of the original coastal forest. Trees include the rare Natal hickory. The 76-ha Beachwood Mangrove Nature Reserve was established on the banks of the uMngeni River in 1977 and is now used as an environmental education centre. The automatic lighthouse at Umhlanga Rocks was built in 1953.