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.
Elizabethan detached house set in picturesque garden with river frontage in the centre of this desirable village. Reception hall Drawing room Sitting room Dining room Kitchen Utility/cloakroom 3 Bedrooms En suite shower room Family bathroom 2nd floor study Barn style double garage Large gravel driveway Landscaped garden River fronted terrace The main part of the garden to the front faces due south and extends to some 90ft in total. It has been laid out as a period garden with topiary hedging, fruit trees and substantial planting. To the rear of the property is a delightful river terrace with seating adjoining the banks of the river Mimram. There is a gate to one side giving pedestrian access onto Mill Lane.
For the first time in three years, it is forecast that there will be a 22% increase in the supply of newly built property nationally this year. Our Umhlanga market supports this statistic – cranes and scaffolding seem ubiquitous on our skyline.
However, how much of this new supply is catering to the needs of our retired population and what is the state of our retirement market on the North Coast?
Retirement options in Umhlanga can be counted on one hand and range from the more affordable Twilanga Retirement Village in Herrwood Drive to the more expensive estates like Somerset Valley in Somerset Park.
Twilanga works on the life right rental system whereby you pay a lease premium upfront and then get a pro-rata amount back if you leave or pass on within 10 years.
The village offers various independent living options ranging from R295,000 for a 40m2 bedsitter with a bathroom to R1,2 million for a 130m2 two bed, two bathroom apartment. The monthly levies are about R1,000 and R2,000 respectively.
Frail care at Twilanga ranges in price from R11,500 to R17,500 per month depending on the level of support required. This adds great value as it allows residents to “age in place” – a term coined for getting the support you need in your own living environment. This is especially convenient for married couples where a spouse needs frail care support as it saves the other spouse (and fellow elderly friends) the hassle of transport and allows more quality time between them.
On the premium end of the spectrum, Somerset Valley is a sectional title development where 20% of net profit is returned to the scheme upon exit. It comprises freestanding and semi-detached units ranging from R2 million for a 100m2 one bed, one bathroom unit to R3 million for the 170m2 three bed, two and a half bathroom option. The monthly levies are about R1,300 and R2,000 respectively.
Somerset Valley also has a frail care facility ranging in price from R18,000 to R27,000 per month depending on the services required.
Twilanga estimates that it has a 25-year waiting list and Somerset Valley has a waiting list of 15 people. The other retirement estates in our area also report excess demand and it seems, not surprisingly, that the biggest demand is for quality, affordable retirement options.
Evidently, our Umhlanga developers are heeding the call. Colin Kisten, developer of Grand Floridian in Illala Ridge, The Edge, The Meridian, Grand Central and Crystal Rock, is working on The Marina – a luxury retirement development in the Gateway area. The Marina will feature communal areas such as living areas, dining rooms, decks, a cinema and a large reception area complimenting its 150 individual units and 25%, commercial component.
“The Marina will be serviced by the medical suites that are being built as part of the adjacent Madison development, which will allow for top quality care to be provided supported further by the new Gateway Private Hospital,” explained Colin.
Another prominent local developer, Vejan Pillay, has also done some investigations into the feasibility of a retirement scheme in the Gateway area.
“We believe a well-structured retirement scheme with presence of a frail-care facility or some medical assistance and a hotel or concierge-type reception would be well-received in the Gateway area. This would be in a multi-storey complex which would be wheelchair-friendly, accommodate a manned reception, lounges etc,” says Vejan.
Further North, five minutes past Ballito, Brettenwood Coastal Estate is busy rolling out its Forest Village retirement component. The village will comprise 135 freestanding units in total when complete with two bed, two bathroom and three bed, two bathroom configurations available. They range in size from 195m2 to 264m2 and they are priced between R3 million and R4,5 million. Levies range between R2,500 and R2,900. The developers are currently in planning phase for a frail care component that will also feature step-down and dementia facilities.
The developers have paid special attention to the details of the units, including: elimination of all steps and slippery surfaces, provision of seats in showers and the use of environmentally and budget-friendly solar heating. The village also has a big substation generator to ensure uninterrupted power supply for its residents.
Perhaps the most valuable, unwritten feature of Forest Village, is that it is not isolated but rather tightly integrated with the rest of the Brettenwood Coastal Estate community comprising 705 households altogether. It provides a wonderful opportunity for retirees to live in the same estate as their children and grandchildren and enjoy all of the estate’s facilities including the clubhouse, the aerobics plunge pool, sauna and gym. The village also has an avid bird-watching community.
Catering for the needs of the elderly should be a priority, but up until now, has been somewhat neglected along our coastline. It is encouraging to see that developers have recognized this need and are responding – hopefully filling the gap over the next few years.