"Growing to appreciate Durbs-By-The-Sea" Top 5 Page for this destination Durban by CatherineReichardt

Durban Travel Guide: 421 reviews and 853 photos

I can't say that I know Durban well, but I'm getting to know it better.

What was then the Natal (now KwaZulu Natal) coast was THE place for South Africans to go on family holidays up to the 1980s, and there was a mass exodus of families from the Highveld to the beaches in and around Durban in mid December each year. South Africans Of A Certain Age will remember Jeremy Taylor's classic 'Ballad of the Southern Suburbs' (1961), where kids implore:
"Ag pleez Deddy won't you take us off to Durban
It's only eight hours in the Chevro-lay
There's spans of sea an' sand an' sun
And fish in the aquari-yum
That's a lekker place for a holi-day "

By the time I came to South Africa in the late 1980s, the popularity of Durban as a family tourist destination was already somewhat on the decline. Encouraged by better road links, reduced airfares due to competition on internal air routes (and compounded by the ongoing violence between the African National Congress - ANC- and Inkatha Freedom Party in the Natal Midlands during the late 1980s and 1990s) white South African families in particular discovered the delights of the Cape, and Cape Town started to eclipse Durban as the destination of choice for the long summer holidays.

I had always favoured Cape Town over Durban because I prefer the Western Cape's more dramatic landscape and find the oppressive heat and humidity of the Durban summer to be suffocating. However, over the last couple of years, I have had to travel to Durbs on business a couple of times a month, and I confess that the place is growing on me.

Durbs has a laid back - some might maintain, almost horizontal - way of life, and is interesting because it is the only major South African city where the culture is tangibly influenced by the Indian population. It's not as fast paced as Johannesburg and not as self-consciously pretentious as Cape Town, and its distinct character is coloured by the fact that it has never quite shrugged off the vestiges of the colonial era, when Natal was known as the 'Last Outpost'.

I don't think that I would ever like to live in Durban, but I can feel myself increasingly recognising the good things that it has to offer. I have long since appreciated the finer points of Natal Sharks rugby and have even learned to negotiate a bunny chow, that utterly unique icon of Durban Indian/South African fusion food. Who knows what I might come to appreciate next? (oh, and by the way, these days, it's less than 6 hours, assuming that you stick to the speed limit and aren't driving a Chevvy!)

To find information on other attractions in the broader KZN region, follow these links:

My Eshowe page
My Richards Bay page
My Pietermaritzburg page

There's also some more generic stuff on my South Africa page, which is particularly focused on planning your trip.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Unashamedly casual and unpretentious
  • Cons:Badly signposted street name changes + hellish humidity in summer = a evil combination
  • In a nutshell:If there's a gear beyond first, Durbanites have yet to find it ...
  • Last visit to Durban: Apr 2010
  • Intro Updated May 22, 2012
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Reviews (48)

Comments (8)

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jul 27, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    Wow, there is so many fabulous things to see. I so enjoyed all the lovely photography too! Excellent page!

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Jul 9, 2012 at 2:57 AM

    A very interesting read. I look forward to returning to this page when you have completed the tips currently in progress.
    Not sure I could cope with the heat you describe but there's much to enjoy here. I loved the story of Dick King (SA's answer to Paul Revere?) and the wonderful Art Deco Cenotaph, but I think the high point (both figuratively and literally) of any visit for me would be Gino's Bar ;-)
    I also thoroughly enjoyed your rugby tip, and indeed "Invictus", but for me football (NEVER soccer!!) will always be the number one spectator sport. Maybe I can try to convert you next time you're in England?!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    May 17, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    I always enjoy reading your insightful pages, and this one is no exception. Just to mention one of the many points, I had never realized there were so many people of Portuguese descent in South Africa, nor that they had come in several waves of immigration.

  • giampiero6's Profile Photo
    Aug 5, 2011 at 2:47 AM

    I have to try the delights of bunny chow!

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    Feb 16, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    That new airport was needed. Good to see it running smooth.

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Nov 30, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    That is certainly one of the more eccentric sand sculptures I have seen on a beach. "Main entrance to Birkenau concentration lager" - Oswiecim Things to Do Tip by Raimix is an urban competition.

  • diosh's Profile Photo
    Oct 15, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    Strange about the loos!

  • pollon's Profile Photo
    May 22, 2010 at 2:17 AM

    Witty and comprehensive descriptions = a great combination ;-)

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