It’s a Saturday morning and, after a flurry of filling water bottles, applying sunblock and hitching up the bikes, my family and I have arrived at Blue Lagoon, the northernmost end of Durban’s famous beachfront promenade. Helmets on, we start our ride southwards to discover the new section of beachfront that has given the city the honour of having sub-Saharan Africa’s longest promenade.
If you’re a people watcher, the Golden Mile, as it’s also known will be right up your alley. This beautiful stretch of beach is buffered by the Bluff headland which marks the entrance to Durban’s harbour in the south and the Umgeni River mouth and Blue Lagoon in the north. Expansive and flanked by road and beach or vegetated on dunes on either side, the beachfront is a living and breathing example of the city’s multicultural status. Dog walkers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, yogis, surfers and stand-up paddleboarders, bodyboarding grannies, sun worshippers, runners, riders, tourists and locals, you name it – the area draws hundreds of people every weekend to revel in the sunshine, swim in the warm sea and connect with their people.
From Blue Lagoon to uShaka Marine World, all is familiar as we ride past restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets and people just doing their thing. The new section starts from Vetch’s Pier near uShaka and extends between the beach and the Point Waterfront development towards the end of the harbour mouth. Known as the Point Promenade, the cleverly designed new 750 metre long by 30 metre wide extension cost R380 million to build and rounds the entire promenade off to a solid eight kilometre stretch. It’s a decent ride for a family of four (kids aged five and seven) and we stop just before we reach the end to grab an ice cream from a beach vendor. Being so close to the headland, the waves are much smaller at this end making it ideal for small children, beginner surfers and dogs that swim.
The Golden Mile has enjoyed both minor and major refurbishments over the past decade and this latest one also includes an amphitheatre, new restaurants and cafes and a new clubhouse for the Durban Undersea Club, or DUC as it’s affectionately known by locals.
Dovetailing with the new promenade, construction of a new R200 million cruise terminal began in December while phase one of a new R3.5 billion multi-use development including a residential, hotel and retail element is expected to begin later this year. The new cruise terminal is expected to attract 150 vessels by 2040, giving tourism a boost and creating thousands of new jobs in the city. The promenade will eventually link up with this new section allowing passengers to disembark straight onto the promenade where everything Durban has to offer is just a few footsteps away.
Our family ride ends at the harbour end of the promenade and the kids look on as a cargo ship cruises past. Iconic and inclusive, this is a very special part of Durban. Not only does it create a sense of community but it also opens our eyes to the big picture of global commerce happening right in front of us.