48 hours in Durban

By Glynis Horning

Photography by Chris van Lennep/123rf

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Updated May 2018

With its sun-kissed beaches and cosy curry dens, Durban is as warm and comfortable as an old holiday T-shirt – the one that says ‘Life is a Beach’. But dig a little deeper and an edgy side emerges, from cool new jazz lounges to artisanal distilleries. Why wait to take leave to sample them? Your perfect (and perfectly easy) weekend break starts here.


Afternoon – Make your escape

Pack up a hat, flip-flops, sunblock and a toothbrush, and slip away. The British Airways flight leaves Cape Town International at 17:30; while at OR Tambo International you can board a 16:15 or 17:35 flight and smell the sea in under an hour. Or from 29th October 2018 catch the direct flight at 15:45 non-stop from London Heathrow to Durban’s International Airport, King Shaka International Airport.

No trip to Durban is complete without a swim in the warm Indian Ocean. Start your day with a quick dip at North Beach, then breakfast on Cajun scrambled eggs on the sand at Circus Circus Beach Café

Hop into your hire car and head to your hotel. Protea Hotel Edward is an Art Deco gem and conveniently situated right on Durban’s famed Golden Mile. Once you’ve checked in, head for the Lighthouse Bar at the Oyster Box and sip apple mint Cosmopolitans while the sun stains the sky behind the iconic lighthouse.

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  • All that jazz: chill ‘til late at The Chairman, the city’s coolest jazz lounge
  • Order Market’s fillet of beef, marinated, flame-grilled and served on sautéed mushrooms and baby potatoes

    Melting pot

    The cuisine in Durban has eclectic influences from French, Dutch, Malaysian and Indian food – plus Durban is known for having some of the best street food in South Africa.£614 pp

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  • Durban’s Phansi Museum houses one of the largest collections of African arts and crafts worldwide


08:00 – Hit the beach

No trip to Durban is complete without a swim in the warm Indian Ocean. Start your day with a quick dip at North Beach, followed by a breakfast of Cajun scrambled eggs (with chopped avocado and sweet peppers) on a lounger on the sand at Circus Circus Beach Café.

09:00 – Get moving

Hire wheels at The Skate Store at the North Beach Skatepark and cycle or skate the short distance (about five minutes) to Moses Mabhida Stadium. From here, ride the Skycar for sensational beach and city views before the crowds come to ride the Big Rush Big Swing – aka the world’s tallest swing. Then take a spin along the beautifully paved Golden Mile promenade making for uShaka Marine World. Stop along the way at Afro’s Chicken Shack in a sunshine yellow shipping container at Addington Beach for the best burger and tjips in town.

11:00 – Make a splash

Burn off your burger at uShaka’s revamped Wet ’n’ Wild (the Body Tornado slide is a real scream), or swing out on the new Chimp & Zee adventure trail, with ziplines and aerial obstacle courses. If that’s all a bit high-octane for you, you can just chill on the uShaka Beach – fabulous and (best of all) free.

13:00 – Get arty

Make a beeline for the buzzing Glenwood neighbourhood, and the Community Art Centre at Phansi Museum, which boasts a spectacular collection of Zulu arts and crafts, from medicine gourds to glass beads, cleverly displayed and vividly explained by guides – but it’s imperative to book (call +27 (0)31 206 2889). Next, head for the KZNSA Gallery for great contemporary art. Scout the revamped gallery shop for home-grown pieces, from Musa Zincume’s Afro Bravo bags made from sweet wrappers, to Hlengi Dube’s beaded olive spoons and bracelets.

  • Savour the sunset with a sundowner at the Lighthouse Bar at The Oyster Box Hotel © Dook

    On the rocks

    Taking the red-and-white colour scheme from the iconic lighthouse that overlooks the terrace, the Oyster Box Hotel overlooking Umhlanga beach channels 1950s glamour.

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14:30 – (Bunny) chow time

Amble down Helen Joseph (Davenport) Road and lunch at the latest arrival on the busy restaurant scene: Roxi Wardman’s Spoonful Eatery. The pink-haired winner of MasterChef SA 2014 serves gourmet comfort food with a twist – order a bacon and egg Bunny (a hollowed bun stuffed with bacon, egg, mushrooms, caramelised onions, cheddar and home-made chakalaka) or the Elvis: banana bread French toast with peanut butter, crispy bacon, toasted peanuts, dark chocolate shavings and crème fraîche.

17:00 – Sundowner time

Cross the Berea to the quiet courtyard of Market Restaurant and relax under the leopard trees beside the fountain with a tall glass of Poison City Brewing’s Bird lager. Market’s owner Andre Schubert and Graeme Bird’s craft beer was first brewed in a friend’s beach house. Stay for dinner and order the warm hoisin plum shredded duck salad with citrus segments, or dive into the flame-grilled fillet or white truffle spaghetti carbonara.

21:00 – Jazz it up

Head for the Point Waterfront – more specifically The Chairman. The city’s coolest bar and jazz lounge was created by KwaMashu-born architect Ndabo Langa in the ruined shell of a 100-year-old building. It serves hot live sounds (so have your dancing shoes ready) and snack platters of traditional Zulu delicacies such as goat with dumplings. Order a Kind of Blue cocktail (with Johnny Walker Blue, of course), and get in the groove.


09:00 – Brunch bunch

Make for Durban’s buzzing new Station Drive precinct off Umgeni Road, where factory buildings have been converted for mixed creative use, with a scrumptiously eclectic mix of tenants. They don’t come more delicious than at its Morning Trade artisanal food market, held every Sunday morning. It’s a celebration of the city’s best fresh produce and food, from Athos Euripidou’s souvlaki (skewered lamb in pita with chilli and tahini) to Debbie Rich’s crunchy salad-stuffed vegan, gluten-free wraps in cones of compressed root veggies.

10:30 – Retail therapy

Explore the Con Amore décor warehouse next door, with award-winning fashion designer Terrence Bray’s ‘walk in wardrobe’ boutique, then head for Andrew Early’s design studio, filled with fine bowls and benches. Continue to Savior Brand, for hand-tooled leather smartphone cases and wallets produced on the premises, then head upstairs to Distillery031. The city’s first craft distillery produces limited-edition artisanal spirits – vodka, cachaça, gin, spiced rum and absinthe – served with the likes of mac ‘n’ cheese balls and zucchini crisps.

12:00 – Gardening leave

Join the rest of Durban relaxing in the Victorian splendor of the Durban Botanic Gardens. Picnic beside the lake on your market finds, feed the ducks, read the Sunday papers, then take one of the recently launched guided golf-cart tours of its more remarkable botanical specimens – like the cannonball tree with lethal fruit.

15:00 – Homeward bound

The last British Airways flight to Johannesburg leaves at 17:55, and the last to Cape Town is at 14:20. Or you could opt for a Sunday flight to Johannesburg, Cape Town or (from 30 October 2018) the direct non-stop flight to London takes off at 07:35, getting you back at the reasonable hour of 18:45. The latter would give you an afternoon to sunbath on Umhlanga beach, then indulge in some retail therapy at Gateway Theatre of Shopping. End by toasting Durban and the weekend with a perfect peach Bellini at the Beverly Hills’ Hotel Elements Café Bar overlooking the sea.

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