With the September school holidays just weeks away, families are now looking for ideal spring break locations to celebrate the end of winter. Because of its more tropical climes, KwaZulu-Natal remains a firm favourite, with uMhlanga in particular offering activities for the entire family, from those members looking for adventure and sport to general leisure and indoor entertainment.
Start with the Gateway Theatre of Shopping where you’ll find Wave House Durban which not only features a host of inns and restaurants as well as live entertainment, it is a water thriller-seeker’s dream. It’s home to a double-point break standing wave machine known as the D-Rex as well as two beach-break Flowriders for beginners.
The complex also houses a 4 000m 2 skatepark designed by Tony Hawk, the 10-time world skating champion, plus a 4X4 track complete with canyons, water traps, rocky faces and sand banks.
Of course, the Gateway Centre itself is a shopper’s paradise. Modelled on the famous Mall of America, it is one of the top 50 largest centres of its kind in the world, and is considered to be a prime retail and entertainment destination. It has over 400 stores, 70 eateries, an 18-cinema Ster Kinekor complex and an IMAX theatre, to name just of few of the ways in which to pass some time here. For the boffins and inquiring minds in the family, there is even the KZN Science Centre that offers edutainment in over a hundred interactive displays, as well as a brand new Planetarium.
Located on the coast, Life’s a Beach in uMhlanga, with a range of seaside spots to soak up what the sun has to offer. Umdloti Beach is an unspoiled 5km stretch of pristine sand with professional lifeguards on duty, a natural tidal pool safe for children, and marine life that will entice you to try your snorkelling skills while you discover the ocean in the shallow rock pools. As a special treat, Umdloti Beach is well known for the dolphins that swim in the waters every morning, while between July and November whales can be spotted.
Umhlanga Beach is also popular with visitors, particularly for those looking for more of a beachside resort atmosphere, with its paved walkway separating the sea and sand from a host of beachfront restaurants. The beach has proudly achieved Blue Flag status for its clean, safe and aesthetically pleasing appeal, and is ideal for families with small children or those adults who may be a bit wary around the oceans.
Tropical La Lucia Beach is in a prime position not far from the city centre, and offers excellent snorkelling and diving among coral reefs and colourful fish, while its warm waters and wonderful waves are perfect for both swimming and surfing.
Umhlanga also offers a wide selection of Family Accommodation to suit a variety of pockets. One of the latest offerings is the recently opened Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! by Marriott uMhlanga Ridge – the first of its kind in KZN. With 205 apartment-style rooms, the hotel is part of a chain that has become known for its outright funkiness, offering four-star quality at three-star rates, and this one – true to its location a few minutes from the beach – boasts a retro 1960s beach and surfing theme that will appeal to everyone, from kids and teens to grandparents who remember the era from its first time around.
Apart from catering for families looking for accommodation, it’s also a great destination for day visitors, for either a meal or sitting out on the deck around the pool.
For families who love to Go Wild, there is the uMhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve, a magnificent wilderness at the mouth of the Ohlange River. Compact at only 26 hectares in size, this is a special coastal dune forest criss-crossed by trails for those who love to spot small wildlife amid wetlands.
There are over 208 bird species here, including herons and fish eagles, along with blue and grey duiker, bushbuck and other smaller mammals. Take one of the daily guided walks through the reserve at 09h00, 11h00 and 15h00, or simply pack a picnic to enjoy along a wooden boardwalk.