Spread out along a seemingly endless stretch of sun kissed white sandy beach, Durban is a modern and vibrant city way up on the east coast of South Africa. Sitting in the moderately small KwaZulu-Natal, a province blessed with a stunning coastline, striking mountain ranges and a wealth of history, the city benefits from a constantly mild climate, making it a mecca for holiday goers.
Founded by British settlers, and formerly known as Port Natal, the city is now home to South Africa’s largest Indian community, paving the way for its unique atmosphere and culture. The focal point of town is Marine Parade, running parallel with the southern end of The Golden Mile. Lining the parade and scattered amongst the surrounding streets are a feast of bars, restaurants and sleeping options. At the southern tip of the beachfront, The Point is home to an intriguing collection of abandoned warehouses and art deco architecture. Stretching north from The Point, and for a good 6kms to Blue Lagoon, the beaches warm waters are ideal for surfing and the like.
A wander around the rest of the city will be met with a thriving Eastern sense, a consequence of the strong Indian community, who first landed as labourers in the sugar cane fields. Spice markets, fascinating temples, mosques and sounds from the subcontinent provide a fitting contrast to the traditional African roots and music. Nevertheless, crime, mainly pick pocketing, has been known on more than one occasion, therefore, it is important to walk with caution, especially after dark.
Being one of the major and most popular cities within the country, there are ample transport links, both in and out. The airport, about 15km outside of the city, is an important link between the rest of the South Africa. The main bus station, behind Durban train station, sees departures, with most major companies, for Cape Town, c22 hours, Johannesburg, 9 hours and Port Elizabeth, 15 hours. On Umgeni Road is the big and somewhat intimidating train station. Also unsafe at times, however you will find services to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Kimberley. Another option are minibus taxis, serving a number of destinations from the streets behind the train station.
Durban, a captivating city of immense diversity, within a region of undeniable beauty, never fails to impress. From its breathtaking coastline to the rocky headland, traditional Zulu culture to the sights and smells of India, this subtropical paradise is South Africa’s most cultural diverse place and a joy to discover.
Things to do in
The Golden Mile - If hanging out on the beach and attempting any number of imaginable water sports is your thing then Durban’s 6km string of beachfront is definitely for you. The stretch of white sandy beachfront runs from Blue Lagoon, to the north, down to uShaka Marine World at The Point. The area can often become overcrowded, however the sun kisses the sand, the waters are warm and nets keep the sharks at bay.
Indian Areas - Because of the large Indian population and culture, a number of places of interest have sprung up over the years. Stop by the Victoria Indian Street Market, at the west end of Victoria Street, and experience the fascinating blend of all things African and Indian, with stalls selling crafts, merchandise, foods and an array of spices. Other places of interest include the Juma Mosque, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest, and the Alayam Hindu Temple, the oldest and biggest in South Africa.
Durban Museums - A city with a diverse culture and heritage, stories of both yesteryear and today are retold in the many excellent museums. Worth a visit are the Local History Museum, KwaMuhle Museum, Phansi Museum and Time Warp Surf Museum.
Ugmeni River Bird Park- On the banks of the Ugmeni River, and only 10 minutes north of the city, is this captivating park of green vegetation, impressive waterfalls and wealth of birdlife, comprising macaws, cockatoos, flamingos and some of the world’s rarest species.
Durban Festivals - Throughout the calendar year there are an abundance of cultural festivals to suit all tastes. Particular favourites include the Durban International Film Festival, held in July/August, the Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience, in September, and an array of colourful Hindu Festivals.
Durban Nightlife - Durban is a good place to let the hair down and enjoy the odd beer of glass of wine. There are plenty of places to choose from by the beachfront, with Cool Runnings reggae bar on Milne Street, Joe Cools pool bar, and the English style Cockney Pride Pub being fashionable hangouts. The BAT Centre, on Victoria Embankment, is a lively venue catering for all musical tastes.
Budget Hotels Durban
Banana Backpackers - Big, friendly and well kept hostel, 1km from the beach. Tel (27) (31) 3684062.
Tekweni Backpackers - Popular hostel in an old colonial house in the Morningside suburb. Good bus service to and from town. Tel (27) (31) 3031433.
Nomads Backpackers - Nice hostel with knowledgeable staff. Tel (27) (31) 2029709.
Midrange Hotels Durban
Parade Hotel - Classic looking, family run and affordable beachfront hotel. Tel (27) (31) 3374565.
Tudor House Hotel - Away from the beach, but excellent value and spotless rooms. Tel (27) (31) 3377328.
Luxury Hotels Durban
The Riverside Hotel - A place to splurge, with spa, 2 restaurants, cocktail bar and incredible scenery. Tel (27) (31) 5630600.
Royal Hotel - Durban’s finest, epitomising luxury and sophistication in the heart of the city. Tel (27) (31) 3336000.