Durban has many hidden gems for locals and visitors to the sunny city to explore. Ansteys and Brighton beach are two hidden gems of Durban’s southern seaside suburbs that are well worth visiting.
Ansteys and Brighton Beach, Bluff
Durban offers its visitors and local residents a variety of beaches to choose from, with some of them definitely more popular than others. Ansteys and Brighton Beach on the Bluff, situated approximately 10-15km from Durban’s popular beachfront, are two of the city’s lesser known beaches. They are truly laid back gems in the southern Durban area and both are extremely popular among the locals and even many surfing aficionados around the world.
Surfing and Swimming Hubs
Both Ansteys’ and Brighton offer surfers, body boarders, kite surfers or those preferring to paddle-ski, swim or simply play about in the shallows the ideal opportunity to enjoy all of these water activities. The swimming areas have shark nets providing some peace of mind while braving the waters and both beaches have life guards on duty in case of emergencies.
Surfing enthusiasts from around the globe consider Cave Rock, close to Brighton Beach’s tidal pool, somewhat of an epic surfing spot, since that part of Durban’s coastline receives the full force of ocean swells. It apparently makes for incredibly powerful surfing conditions. Read more about it at Cave Rock.
A Feast for Kids
I clearly remember growing up and spending a lot of my childhood playing around in the paddling pools, going down the slide and playing on the fountains in the paddling pools at both of the beaches. I treasure fond memories of many days spent at those very same pools as a young mom with my own children, their cousins, family and friends. It has been many, many years since I spent any time in any of the pools, but they remain as popular among children today as they were in my younger years!
There are two different sized pools at each beach, accommodating toddlers and older children. The smaller paddling pools have ramped access, making it ideal for moms to “walk” their toddlers into the water or even for wheelchairs to access the pools. Ansteys also offers a park-like grass area and covered benches where those in need of a little shade can relax and enjoy the view and partake in the fun.
Access to Brighton Beach’s paddling pools can be obtained via a ramp further along Foreshore Drive, after the paddling pools, almost opposite Lords and Legends Restaurant. I initially missed the ramp entrance and only once I wheeled along the pavement and really looked for another way to get to the pools, did I find it. I could get to the paddling pools on my own, but once you get to that area there is a fairly high step going down to the two pools, reducing access significantly in terms of accessing the pools. Moms with prams and other baby and toddler accessories, may find the access to Brighton Beach’s paddling pools a bit more challenging than Ansteys. Given that the bathroom facilities are up a flight of stairs at Brighton it may add to Ansteys being the preferred beach for moms, disabled and elderly visitors.
Access to the tidal pool is especially limited and there is no pathway other than traversing the sand to get there, suggesting that disabled visitors will find it practically impossible to enjoy that facility – unless carried to the pool. It’s really sad though, since I can remember learning to swim in that very same pool and experiencing the exhilaration of the waves crashing over the sides while standing at the edge of the pool. Really exciting! Unfortunately, I have not been back into the pool since my walking days and other than dragging myself over the sand by my arms or being carried to the pool it’s unlikely that I’ll get there again soon – unless a walkway is somehow created to connect the road to the pool. It is completely possible!
During low tide the countless exposed rock pools offer a feast for kids – and even older folk – to discover under the water. Hours can be wallowed away sunbathing in a shallow rock pool or snorkelling quietly to catch a sneak peak of the sea creatures going about their business. Unfortunately, just like the tidal pool there is no wheelchair/pathway access onto the beach, rock pools and surf unless either carried or wheeled with great difficulty across the sand.
Entrance and Parking Areas
There is a single road entrance into both of the beaches entering from the Bluff’s Marine Drive, with Ansteys’ parking area to the left as you drive down Foreshore Drive. A little more than 2km further along Foreshore Drive, Brighton Beach can be found with a fairly large parking area situated above the paddling pools, tidal pool and beach.
The first parking area encountered at Ansteys’ Beach offers a disabled parking bay at the entrance to the paddling pool area, leading onto a ramp going down to the pools below the parking area. Further down Foreshore Drive there are other disabled parking bays with access to the pools, the restaurant and bar. The latter is generally a fairly easy and smooth pathway, provided that the wind has not pushed the sea sand onto the walkways – as is visible in the image above. If so, it can become quite tricky, not only for wheelchairs but also for prams, to get to the pools from the Foreshore Drive parking bays, suggesting easier access from the first parking area in that case.
Ideal Exercise Route
Paved walkways, as well as the short promenade at Ansteys and the longer one at Brighton Beach are relatively flat, easily manoeuvrable and offer an enjoyable walking opportunity. The distance between the two beaches provides an ideal exercise route for the not-so-serious trainers, however, the intermittent absence or accessibility of pavements in some places along the road, coupled with the fact that the road is quite narrow, can make walking or wheeling a little less safe. Nevertheless, I choose an early morning “walk”, which ensures little road traffic and a most enjoyable workout. The incredible view of a gorgeous sunrise in the morning while exercising on the road adds a priceless bonus to boot!
Sadly, there are no wheelchair accessible bathroom facilities accommodating disabled visitors. While there are ample toilets on both sides of the paddling pools at Ansteys as well as at Brighton Beach, none are according to accessibility specs. If there are any disabled toilet facilities I certainly did not find them today!
Something to Nibble
Ansteys Beach offers its visitors a modest little restaurant called “The Green Dolphin”. It serves its customers a basic menu and reasonable prices. While the restaurant is easily accessible from the parking, the paddling pools and the beach, with seating available both in- and outside the restaurant, toilet facilities in the establishment are inaccessible. The only facilities that are accessible are adjacent to the paddling pools which is a little distance away.
Brighton Beach is home to a larger, more elaborate, double story restaurant called Lords and Legends, offering their patrons a more extensive menu, drinks and cocktails. Able bodied visitors access the restaurant’s second floor by means of a staircase on the right. Although the restaurant has a ramp entrance to the second story on its left side, it is incredibly steep and completely inaccessible independently. Reaching the top with assistance, an outer door entering into the office has to be unlocked to allow access into the restaurant, taking the disabled visitor through the back, down a step, through a set of swinging bar doors and eventually into the main section of the establishment. The bottom entrance has one step into the restaurant and while that areais part of the establishment it doesn’t offer nearly the same vibe as the upstairs area, the bar or the enclosed deck. I have enjoyed a couple of good meals at Lords but had it not been for my hubby or my kids accompanying me it would not have been possible at all.
I am definitely no fishing fundi, but judging by the number of avid fishermen along the shore every morning, it seems that fishing is definitely an option to consider at Ansteys and Brighton Beach. Between the two beaches there are several additional parking areas with staircases leading down to the sand and sea from the road. Unfortunately none of these areas offer any ramp access onto the beach or any facilities for disabled fishermen to enjoy the incredible conditions.
I love going down to these two local beaches to have a brisk morning “roll”, soaking in the sunrise and 180° views of the sea. I find it fairly accessible as far as my morning exercise routine goes, bearing in mind that I don’t need to use the facilities or go down to the beach. However, as far as cutthroat accessibility goes in terms of bathroom facilities and the use of the beach, neither of the two beaches score a decent ♿rating at all.
With a little bit of thought, careful planning and a modicum of a budget, much can be done to improve accessibility at Ansteys and especially Brighton Beach to make our hidden gems far more inclusive to all of their visitors, local and out-of-town and no matter their abilities. I hope to see it happen soon!