The enchanting coastal city of Durban is home to the Zulu nation, the oldest botanical gardens in South Africa and more sharks per capita than you’d care to know about. Durban is a multi-cultural melting pot that welcomes visitors from all over the world to its beautiful beaches, amazing wildlife and relaxed culture.
Founded in 1835 on the site of Port Naval, Durban is a relatively modern city and South Africa’s third largest (behind Johannesburg and Cape Town). However, the wider KwaZulu-Natal region has been inhabited since the Stone Age when hunter-gatherer Khoi-San people roamed the land.
Surfs them right in Durban!
Here’s a Pro-tip: The currency used in Durban is the South African Rand. About 20 South African Rand is equal to one British Pound, though the rate regularly fluctuates.
Most travellers touch down at King Shaka International Airport, which sits 30km north of the city. This shiny new airport was built for the 2010 world cup and serves both domestic and international flights. The airport shuttle departs from the airport’s international arrivals area every 45-minutes, stopping along the way at popular hotels. Alternatively, taxis are readily available and cost around £30 one-way.
Here’s Another Pro-tip: South Africa has 11 official languages, though English is widely spoken throughout the country. ‘Sawubona’ is ‘Hello’ in Zulu.
Some of the best things to do in Durban are thanks to the city’s glorious warm weather, including hiking heritage trails, diving with sharks and surfing Durban’s waves. Below are some of my absolute favourite things to do in Durban:
- Golden Mile – Durban’s Golden mile is a famous beachfront stretch where joggers, surfers and sunbathers alike gather to make the most of the coast. The area covers four miles of beachfront and is home to cycle lanes, surf shacks and verdant parks.
I prefer botanicals in my gin, but this is nice!
- Durban Botanical Gardens – The Durban Botanical Gardens are Africa’s oldest purpose-built gardens (established in 1849) and cover almost 40 acres of land on the edge of the Berea Ridge. The gardens are home to living fossil plants including; pre-dinosaur cycads, ancient Protea and other indigenous plants.
What it feels like to be on the menu!
- Shark-diving – There are many adventure tour businesses that will happily arrange a shark-diving tour with excursion. The tour guides lace the water with chum until the sharks become excited and then visitors climb into cages that provide the minimum protection required. Shark-diving is not for the faint of heart!
- Wild Animal Experiences – There are a myriad of options for viewing wild animals from Durban without going all the way to Kruger Park.
Check out the Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre or the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park for exciting interaction with powerful beasts.
- Suncoast Casino – You can enjoy live entertainment, good food and exciting gambling at this casino right outside of Durban.
- The Beaches – Durban has its fair share of beaches, each unique. For beginner surf lessons, head to South Beach, for bodyboarding, head to North Beach, and for sunbathing and swimming, visit the Bay of Plenty.
Durban is well-known for its spicy cuisine, and there’s plenty of places to dine on Indian spiced dishes across the city. Foodies can also enjoy a mix of European style cooking and South African home-cooking. Check out my favourite restaurants in Durban below:
- Impulse by the Sea – This beachfront restaurant is one of Durban’s best Indian restaurants, and there’s plenty to choose from. Expect to dine on legendary dishes of seafood curry, served in traditional copper bowls.
- 9th Avenue Waterside – Run by a husband-and-wife team, the 9th Avenue Bistro is an inviting venue where you can enjoy the luxuries of fine-dining without a high price tag. The tasting menu is scrumptious, and you must try the grilled duck.
- Cane Cutters – No trip to Durban is complete without sampling a Bunny Chow. Thankfully, this traditional dish has nothing to do with fluffy bunnies and is actually a spicy curry served in a loaf of bread. The Bunny Chow is legendary street food, and Cane Cutters produce one of the best.
No bunnies in this chow!
Durban’s beautiful blend of cultures doesn’t stop with the multitude of cuisines. This city offers a variety of places to party too, and each bar offers a glimpse of something new. Check out my favourites below:
- Moyo uShaka – This chain restaurant and bar is worth a visit to immerse yourself in traditional live music and Zulu dancers. The bar forms part of the uShaka Marine World and sits on a pier overlooking the Indian Ocean. Order the ‘African Sunset’ and watch the same thing happen out of the window!
- Lucky Shaker – Located in the affluent suburb of Umhlanga, Lucky Shaker is a bustling cafe-come-bar serving innovative cocktails and locally brewed craft beers. Cocktails are organised on the menu by ‘bold’, ‘dry’, ‘refreshing’ and ‘fruity’ to help aid your decision making. My favourite is the Jungle Brew because I’m a Bourbon lover!
- The Lighthouse Bar – As part of the 5-star Oyster Box hotel, the Lighthouse Bar offers an upmarket night out with incredible sea views. Take a seat on the terrace between the months of June and September, and you might spot humpback whales on the horizon!
Charming guesthouses, luxury 5-star resorts and boutique hotels are dotted across Durban. Below are some of my favourite places to rest my head in the city:
- The Oyster Box – As one of South Africa’s finest 5-star hotels, the Oyster Box offers guests an intimate stay at an enviable beachfront resort. The hotel boasts two restaurants (The Grill is my favourite), a swimming pool with ocean views and an on-site spa.
- Essenwood House – This charming guesthouse is the perfect option for an affordable stay. This property boasts six guestrooms, each with traditional South-African decor, an outdoor pool and a large veranda overlooking the tropical gardens.
- Teremok Marine– Teremok Marine is one of Durban’s most colourful and quirkiest boutique hotels. Each room has been decorated with funky furniture, but it’s the outdoor pool and sea views that win my vote.
You’ll have a whale of a time in Durban!
Durban is a fun-loving cosmopolitan city where beach-bums can top up their tan, while adventure seekers swim with sharks and foodies sample the best curries outside of India. Durban is an exciting, vibrant and dazzling destination!
13 Comments to “Delight in Durban!”
When I think about South Africa I always think about Cape Town and never about Durban. Thank you for the reminder! I need to go shark diving one day. Preferably eco consciously…
Ah yes, we can’t forget about Durban! Thank you for your comment 🙂
Isabella and Katie
I didn’t know almost anything about Durban, but it sounds like a good place to spend time outdoors and enjoy a mix of cuisines. My kind of place 🙂
It sure is! It sounds like you will really enjoy some time in Durban!
Isabella and Katie
11 languages? Whoa! What an interesting place to explore. Thank you, as always, for the thorough post. I know when I save your posts it will include everything I need when I go!
I saw Durban beach on a travel TV show years ago and was struck by how beautiful it looked. I’ve wanted to visit ever since. Plus I’d love to see sharks and whales – albeit at a distance haha!
I’d enjoy watching the whales and just maybe sharks from somewhere above. Definitely not in the water though!
I think a lot of people will agree with you on that!
Isabella and Katie
Love the blog setup and flow. Makes reading it informative and easy. Have wanted to get to South Africa for a while. Gotta get it on the schedule.
Thank you for your feedback! It is great to hear 🙂 Add it to the list!!
Isabella and Katie
This brings back some happy memories. One of my friends got married at Tala Game Reserve so I spent a week in SA before the wedding – I stayed near the beach in Umhlanga and did loads of sightseeing in and around Durban, before having a few nights in Tala. A great wedding and a great place to visit.
Thank you for sharing, Alison! That sounds like such a lovely experience that you had. What a lovely place for your friend to choose to have a wedding, too!
Isabella and Katie