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The picturesque village of Umhlali lies inland from Sheffield Beach and Salt Rock, along the Dolphin coast, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa.
Umhlali was once a railway centre for cargo trains carrying refined sugar. The sugar came from all the nearby mills from all the vast sugar cane plantations surrounding the region. The sugar cane fields remain but the old Victorian railway station now welcomes guests to enjoy a cappuccino on the platform instead. The nearby Umhlali River takes its name from the monkey-orange tree and runs out to sea north of Sheffield Beach.
The town is patronised by local sugar farmers and visitors wanting a country break. Peaceful surroundings, a home industry, beaches nearby, and a welcoming community makes Umhlali an excellent proposition for holidaymakers.
Top 6 reasons to visit Umhlal
1. The Umhlali Country Club has tennis and squash courts and a swimming pool, while the golfers in the family enjoy a round of golf.
2. The Morewood Memorial Garden is a tribute to one of the sugar pioneers and is located at Compensation, the site of the first sugar mill. The original sugar cane plants arrived here from the French island of Reunion. The garden has much history and is a relaxing spot in which to savour a picnic.
3. Flag Animal Farm at nearby Salt Rock is an absolute joy for children and animal lovers. The farm has mostly rescued animals ranging from wolves to exotic lizards. Activities include milking of cows, wolf interactions and pony rides. There is a tea garden on the premises.
4. Grab a map from the Ballito Info Centre and travel the King Shaka Heritage Route, a route traversing significant locations where Shaka planned his military campaigns, where he studied his opponents and where he was ultimately killed.
5. Two beaches at neighbouring Ballito are worth visiting: Willard Beach has a promenade and the sea is shared by bathers and surfers alike, and Thompson’s Bay Beach with a hole through a rock leading to coves and a calm tidal pool for children.
6. The Umhlali Village Market takes place once a month alongside the train station to purchase locally made goodies and appreciate decent coffee under the station awning. Another market worth visiting is the bi-weekly Litchi Orchard Market where artisan breads, home bakes, organic products and home-brewed beer are available.
The nearest airport is King Shaka International Airport, roughly 20kms from Umhlali. Three car rental agencies are located at Ballito. There are many car rental agencies in Durban city centre and at King Shaka airport or you could order a rental online. Rikki Cabs operates out of King Shaka airport otherwise if you have the Uber app, order a ride via your mobile phone.
Did you know?
King Shaka was a revered leader of the Zulu tribal nation in the early 1800s and his legacy is felt throughout most of KwaZulu-Natal but particularly in the Umhlali area. Stories tell of the large rock separating Thompson’s Bay from Shaka’s Rock being the spot from where Shaka would throw his enemies into the sea.
The poet and writer Deena Padayachee grew up in Umhlali. His 1986 book of poems titled A Voice from the Cauldron expresses outrage at colonisation and Apartheid oppression.
Peter Matkovich is a well-known golf course designer, having designed most of South Africa’s finest courses. The Umhlali Country Club front 9 was his first ever project.