kalba khorfakkan
Whether you are a history buff or an adventure lover, there is something for everyone along the east coast of the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: If you are looking for things to do as a family, with the long summer vacations just kicking in, how about exploring Sharjah’s east coast. From ancient rocks bearing the tales of civilisation over 2,000 years old to serene Nature escapes, here are some of the activities you can enjoy in Kalba and Khorfakkan.

How to get to the east coast

If you plan to visit Khorfakkan first, Khorfakkan Road – S142 – is the best route to take so that you can stop at all the top attractions. If you are coming from Dubai or Abu Dhabi, you can get on the S142 from E611 – Emirates Road – right after you pass the iconic Sharjah mosque to your right.

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If you are coming from Sharjah city, Ajman or the other Northern Emirates, get on to Al Dhaid Road, E88, which will connect you to S142, via the E611 exit.

Once you are on S142, you will need to drive straight for 70km, to get to your first stop in Khorfakkan.

1. Shees Rest Area and Shees Park

People at Shees rest area on Khorfakkan road in Sharjah.
People at Shees rest area on Khorfakkan road in Sharjah. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

The Shees Valley, or Wadi Shees, has recently been developed to offer several family friendly options to visitors. At the Shees Rest Area, which will be your first stop in the valley, you can visit the newly opened market to enjoy fresh produce and local delights, such as lugaimat and regag. The rest area also has a free children’s play area and an outdoor theatre.

Take the exit from Shees Rest Area and you will head towards Shees Park, which spans 11,300 square kilometre. From play areas, to dedicated barbecue pits and a man-made 25-metre-high waterfall, it’s a great place to relax with family and friends.

You can even take the mountain trails that surround the park, extending for 506 metres, bordered by palm trees and local plants. The trail will lead you up to a main viewing platform 30 metres above the park where you can unwind in any of the 32 shaded seating areas.

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2. Al Rafisah Dam

Al Rafisah Dam
Image Credit: Supplied

The Al Rafisah dam is another place that will give you the perfect shots for your next social media post. You need to drive down for around 15 minutes from the Shees Rest Area to get there. Originally built in the 1980s, the dam had an upgrade recently, with a new visitor centre and rest area. This location also has a play area for children, kayaking options for visitors, an island where you can explore wildlife, as well as shops and cafes.

3. Najd Al Maqsar

Najd Al Maqsar
Najd Al Maqsar Image Credit: Supplied

Another four minutes of driving from the Al Rafisah dam will take you to your next stop – the heritage village of Najd Al Maqsar, which you will be able to spot from the dam itself. This charming little village on top of the Hajar moutains has historical monuments dating back to 2000 BC, giving you a chance to explore the UAE’s heritage. Within a short walk, you can reach the top of the mountain where the upper fort, which used to defend the village some three centuries ago, was located.

More recently, a mountain hotel has been opened up in the area, after restoring units within the 100-year-old ‘Kareen House’.

However, there are many free activities that you can enjoy in this historical location, and also explore rich archaeological treasures, with intricately carved rocks featuring images of horses and camels, dating back to 2000 BC.

4. Khorfakkan Fort

A visit to the Khorfakkan Fort is a great last stop in the city to experience the history and culture of the eastern coast. Once a strategic defensive stronghold on the UAE's eastern coast, it served as the headquarters of Sharjah's government and the ruling family's residence. Following its restoration in 2019, the fort has been transformed into a museum, housing ancient artefacts that narrate the historical, political, and social journey of Khorfakkan.

And now for the drive along the east coast! As you travel from Khorfakkan to Kalba along the Fujairah – Khorfakkan Road, the first stop in the next city will be the Al Qurm Protected Area.

5. Al Qurm Protected Area

Al Qurm
Al Qurm Image Credit: Supplied

With over 500 hectares of protected mangroves, Al Qurm Protected Area is a wildlife sanctuary housing rare bird species, sea turtles and mammals.

Al Qurm Protected Area invites visitors to explore its remarkable environmental diversity, featuring mangroves, marshes, and salt flats. This reserve is a sanctuary for rare bird species, making it a perfect destination for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. Its innovative environmental design protects the coast and preserves the region's biodiversity. Globally significant, the reserve is a vital breeding ground for many rare bird species, including the Arabian collared kingfisher.

6. Kalba Waterfront

Kalba Waterfront
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You can also enjoy a great shopping experience at the Kalba Waterfront, next to the reserve, which has been built around a lake lined with mangrove trees. There are multiple indoor options for restaurants and family-friendly activities, apart from a 1,600 square metre children's play area.

7. Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre

A 10-minute drive away from the Kalba Waterfront is the Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre, which can be a great place to take children, as it hosts various species native to the desert habitat. The centre is located on E102.

8. Wadi Al Helo Nature Reserve

Wadi Helo
Image Credit: Supplied

Finally, a great natural escape to explore is Wadi al Helo - or ‘sweet valley’ in English, which is blessed with abundant underground water, and is home to an important archaeological site and a restored Islamic watchtower. You can explore the historical Islamic watchtower or enjoy the biodiversity at the reserve, which hosts a variety of plants and animals.