Where To Stay in DurbanWhile there is no shortage of good hotels along Durban's Golden Mile beach front (it's a bit like a slice of African Miami), there are only a few that will truly get you into the vibe of Durban. Many of them are, dare we say, in the Holiday Inn mould (there's also a Hilton conference hotel up-town). And while there's nothing wrong with a solid Holiday Inn (there are three good ones here), they don't exactly emphasize a sense of place. Here are some that do...
Probably the most understated of all the Golden Mile beach-front hotels, this one does not boast all the luxuries of a five-star establishment, if does offer oodles of class and charm. It's also situated right on Durban's main North Beach frontage so think position (repeat, position). It's a fairly low-rise hotel, reflecting Durban halcyon empire period, and offers good value-for-money, B&B only. Think comfortable and cosy rather than fancy or chic. The Waterfront Restaurant and Terrace is a good place to take a casual meal and to watch the passing parade. The 'corniche' here is called the Marine Parade and not unlike the real Corniche of Alexandria, Durban's twin city in Egypt. Request a sea-facing room.
Prices: From about R700 to R1,200 a person sharing, B&B
Contact: Tel: +27 (0)21-419-1553 or 405-5670
Web Site: The Balmoral
While it's true the flagship five-star hotel in central Durban is The Royal in the main down-town, the preferred place for the discerning has always been this old North Beach stalwart. The Edward has played host to Princes and Presidents, Field Marshals, millionaires and movie stars since 1911, despite weighing in at only four stars. Gracious inside and out, it is renowned for its decor and service, all very old school.
Prices: R1,700 for a sea-facing double room, B&B
Web Site: The Edward
If you are looking for a standard Holiday Inn-style beach-front hotel, the best is this Southern Sun Garden Court property (in fact formerly a Holiday Inn), a solid 4-star high-rise. You'll easily recognize its wave-like curving facade. Rooms all come standard with either king or double queen-size beds and views eastwards to Australia (I would not recommend the south-facing wing). Accommodation is either with breakfast or full board. Inside dining options include a casual steakhouse/seafood buffet, and somewhat more formal Indian and Japanese rooms.
Prices: Around R1,400 for a suite, B&B
Web Site: Southern Sun Elangeni
The Quays on Timeball
This apartment hotel (i.e. no dining facilities) is situated on a canal off Durban Harbour's new Point Waterfront. It backs onto Timeball Square, giving it a suitable nautical association. (A timeball tower was used in old maritime days for ships to get a precise visual time reading to set their clocks -- vital for navigating in the days of sail). This place is all about location and style, which is very modern. The waterfront retains much of its original industrial character. It's got a very "now" vibe. It's ideally suited to families or groups, with three- and two-bedroom apartments.
Prices: From R1,400 a day for a two-bedroom harbour view, to R2,600 for a three-bedroom sea facing
Contact: Tel =27 (0)31-903-8818 or 903-7717
Web Site: The Quays on Timeball