Exploring the Durban Beachfront
by Felicia Smit
I have been living in Durban for close to ten years. When I first moved here it was like moving to paradise. I still love the City. There are areas that could do with some improvement, but there is no denying it is beautiful.
Let’s start with the main attraction to Durban. The Indian Ocean. Sparkling, warm and gorgeous. When you visit Durban, you look East and you will see the wonder that is the Indian Ocean. Be the first to see the sunrise every morning. Winter almost does not exist on the Golden Mile. There are people out jogging and cycling on any morning of any day, regardless of the season. You will find people swimming in the shore break waves every day of the week. Rickshaws stand with their colorful carts, waiting to take you on a ride along the promenade. You will witness the indigenous Shembe performing their baptisms in the ocean early every morning. Sandcastle builders will build a castle for you with your name and if you are that way inclined, will spell your love for your better half out in an elaborate sand castle. As you walk along the promenade you will see majestic hotels lining the beachfront. I doubt you will be able to resist walking down this beach front without dipping your toes in the gloriously warm sea water. Surfers know this stretch of beach well. This at a fraction of the cost of a similar hotel in most tropical places in the world.
The food that makes Durban famous
There can be no doubt that the food offered in Durban is one of a kind. Sure you can get the run of the mill franchise foods, but you have not experienced Durban until you have tasted the local street food. Number one on the list is a Bunny Chow. You can get this on the beachfront at Blue Lagoon. This is the ultimate Durban classic. A loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with the most aromatic curry you have ever experienced. Prepare to be mesmerized by the flavors of this simple dish. On the Golden Mile, you will have loads of options for food. There are five-star restaurants, fast food outlets, franchises and independent restaurants. Something for everyone. Get a bunny chow and go sit on the pier and watch the surfers navigate the city bowls. Life is good!
For the real carnivores amongst us, you can join in the festivities of a real Shisa Nyama, which translates to a barbeque. But with an indigenous twist. Think chicken pieces spiced with local flavor and then grilled on an open flame until perfectly cooked. Combine that with some traditional beer and pap and you are set for a world-class party.
Some of the hotels along the Golden Mile also offers a quality High Tea, with flavored teas and sweet and savory treats worthy of royalty. This brings the diversity of this stunning city into perspective once again.
The Durban culture
There are many different cultures that integrate into Durban. The most prominent is the Zulus, they are a proud tribe who make out the vast majority of Durban. When visiting South Africa, you are sure to hear of the Great Zulu King called Shaka Zulu. They have many customs and traditions which they practice throughout the Kwa-Zulu Natal province. When you meet a Zulu person, you will receive a warm welcome to their province. Greet them by saying Sawubona! The second largest Indian population outside of India will also be found in Durban. The Indian Community has had a great influence on the province and they are responsible for the signature dish, the Bunny Chow. There is also a large community of people of British descent, as Durban was formally a British Colony. British colonialists have left their mark all over Durban. Durban City Town Hall and all of the structures around it bears testament to the British influence. The Durban Museum of Natural History is located in this vicinity and is worth the visit.
Where to stay
There are so many options to choose from in Durban. You can choose between 5-star hotels, self-catering, camping, or a vast amount of Airbnb options. It is about what you want and your budget allows. There are beautiful hotels right on the beach in all price ranges. If you prefer to stay outside of the City, there are loads of options both north and south of the City. If you prefer to explore the province on your own you can hire a campervan and tour the province at your leisure. On the Golden Mile, you are spoiled for choice though, there are world class 5 star hotels waiting for you to check in.
What to do on the Golden Mile
There is something for everyone on the Golden Mile. Every Saturday there is a Parkrun which is 5km. It is easy enough for moms to do with their strollers and for the more advanced runners, it is a good time trial. Suncoast Casino is right on the beach with all its amenities. Then there are a handful of independent restaurants catering for every kind of taste. MiniTown is very popular, it is a scaled down version of Durban. Kids absolutely love it. I have also seen a few adults enjoying this more than the kids. Ushaka Marine World is also a very popular destination. Ushaka is the biggest aquarium in the region, with open-air aquariums and loads of activities. You can dive with the sharks and walk on the aquarium floor with giant stingrays. Ushaka also has a water park with the tallest slide in Africa, for the brave ones. A short walk from the Promenade will take you to a 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium, the Moses Mabhida stadium. At this stadium, you will be able to go on a Segway tour, climb to the top of the stadium arch, and swing across the soccer pitch. Some weekends there are also markets on the grass, selling locally made goods. You can hire a bicycle and cycle from the Moses Mabhida stadium to Ushaka. Swimming in the Indian Ocean and lazing around on the beach has to be your number one priority though.
Durban is a place of wonder, it is often overlooked as a South African destination because of the popularity of Cape Town. If you are looking for a tropical holiday in Africa, Durban is the place to be.