Destination Inspiration: Durban, South Africa
Though it’s best known as a gateway to Cape Town, the coastal city of Durban makes for an idyllic getaway in its own right, with highlights including rugged mountains, a dramatic coastline, a standout flea market and buzzy nightlife.
07 March, 2022
Durban, South Africa.
Situated on South Africa's east coast, Durban (formerly Port Natal) ranks as the country's third most populous city, after Johannesburg and Cape Town. Making up a hefty chunk of the KwaZulu-Natal province, it's known by locals as "Durbs", but widely hailed as the "Garden Province" for its rich flora and fauna - a result of its subtropical climate.
While it's no secret that Durban's Golden Mile beach looks like something straight off a fridge magnet, those who prefer their sun-worshipping to be somewhat serene should head 10km south of the city to the under-the-radar waters of Ansteys Beach. Struggle to spend a day on the sand? Victoria Street Market is whispering your name. This flamboyant flea market is loved by vintage magpies for its bric-a-brac, which often includes art-deco objets d'art and hand-crafted ceramics. Be sure to have a wander around the nearby Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve afterwards.
With some of the world's most treasured wildlife at your fingertips, it would be rude not to set aside a day for an off-grid safari adventure. The 14-hour Hluhluwe Imfolozi Safari Tour is one of the best ways to see baby elephants, gracious giraffes and plenty of other incredible animals in their natural habitat. Tours start at 6:30am, when you'll be collected from your accommodation, before setting off on a thrilling journey through sugar farms and traditional villages, binoculars at the ready.
Where to stay?
Stay at The Oyster Box. Positioned on Umhlanga's beachfront, this design-driven bothole offers 86 rooms, each adorned with handmade furnishings and with sea views. After undergoing a major refurb back in 2018, the hotel has added two pools, a swanky spa and a cosy cinema to its trophy cabinet. Mornings are best spent sipping a fresh juice on one of the red-and-white-candy-striped sun loungers. Come nightfall, dinner and dancing await at in-house restaurant The Grill Room.
Where to go for dinner?
To enjoy a tasty meal with sweeping sunset views across the harbour, book a table at 9th Avenue Waterside. The brainchild of Graham and Gina Neilson, this seafood restaurant serves up sublime dishes featuring the likes of freshly caught swordfish, crayfish and salmon. Dairy-lovers should start by ordering the baked Camembert appetiser - indulgence on a plate.
And for a drink…
For live jazz served with a side of native red wine, check out The Chairman. True to speakeasy form, interiors are scruffy, with a happy mish-mash of Aztec-print rugs, black leather banquettes and cobalt blue walls. A go-slow vibe meets a cheerful crowd, making for the perfect place to kick back and chat. Don't expect to leave without having made a handful of new best buddies.
Who to take with you
We can't think of anywhere better to spend a week with a big group of family or friends. This is the sort of city that is best discovered en masse, around long, spritzer-soaked lunches.
When to go
Visit between early March and late May, when the heat of the summer sun begins to dwindle and days are warm but not scorchingly hot. Alternatively, chance your luck and come in July, when it's prime safari season.
Essentials to pack
Flip-flops. You'll want to hop between beachside lounging and exploring the city's streetscape, and it pays to have comfortable shoes. These Tkees matte leather flip-flops will keep you cool on the go.
How to get there
From London Heathrow, fly into Durban's King Shaka International Airport, from where it's just a 25-minute drive to the city centre.