South Africa


I had seen so many pictures and heard so many stories about the iconic Oyster Box Hotel in Durban that I obviously really wanted to stay there with the family.

The view of the lighthouse and Umhlanga beachfront over the pool deck is enough to get anyone’s eyes a little misty with travel desire. As soon we stepped through the front doors of the Oyster Box Hotel, we felt relaxed and as if we’re right at home. You know, minus the vintage 1930’s furniture, gaudy gold fixtures, infinity pool, spiral staircases, marble statues and a few other minor things that we do not have in our home.

The Oyster Box is set on the shores of Umhlanga, surrounded by secluded, tropical gardens and enriched with the sounds of nature. A large part of The Oyster Box Hotel’s great legacy is that it’s been around for as long as anyone can remember; from its nineteenth-century beginnings to its glory in the present day.

Overlooking the iconic Umhlanga lighthouse and the Indian Ocean and oozing with all the charm of a bygone era, the 86-room Oyster Box is the epitome of modern elegance and comfort. Considered a national treasure, The Oyster Box is South Africa’s most cherished hotel, and is renowned for its generous hospitality, attentive service and exceptional cuisine.

The hotel is decorated beautifully over the top with artefacts gathered by the owner from travels around the world. It has a grand marble staircase in the entrance hall and palm trees in the inner courtyard which immediately makes you feel like you stepped back in time. The full moon beamed in over the patio in the evening and I could instantly visualise people dancing the waltz under the stars in that exact space many years ago. Romantic is only part of the story.

The part that I loved the most about this hotel and the part that makes it so special is that despite it being a posh five-star spot and the most iconic hotel in Durban, it feels warm and inviting to anyone who visits. Anyone is welcome, whether to have a cup of tea or sip a cocktail and you can pretty much enjoy the amazing view from all the public areas.

In terms of food, apart from their a la carte menu, three of their spectacular buffets crossed my path. High Tea was lavish and served in the Palm Court; you will want to take your time over this. The breakfast is everything you can imagine and more. Fresh Oysters and bubbly, smoked salmon and Parma ham, cinnamon buns and every kind of egg cooked to order. Another occasion where you will want to settle in for the long haul and choose a table on the patio for the sea views. The famous curry buffet is vast and you will be spoiled for choice with the range of curries and all imaginable accoutrements. We gave it our best shot but I sadly defeated. Tucking into too many samosas’ to start was a rookie error for this level of eating professionalism, but they were just too irresistible. Alexander and hubby managed to try a couple of the curry’s though!

I didn’t get to visit, but nestled in the lush sub-tropical gardens, you’ll find the Oyster Box’s multi-award-winning spa. This oasis of tranquillity reflects the intricate tapestry of KwaZulu-Natal’s rich heritage, offering all of the amenities and treatments expected of a wellness facility of this calibre. Equipped with six treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy bath, grooming lounge, plunge pool, gym, healthy buffet and tranquility lounge, the spa offers the latest in health and wellness treatments. Other facilities include two swimming pools set in tropical gardens, a private library (we asked permission for Alexander to visit as he’s obsessed with books / libraries) and a private 24-seater cinema, which is available to all in-house guests. A monthly schedule offers screenings five times a day (10am, 2pm, 6pm, 8pm and 10pm), but a wide selection of movies is available for guests to make their own choice. We were very lucky and were the only guests one evening so we got the cinema to our own and got to pick our own film! 

The cinema is decorated with vintage movie posters and comes equipped with state-of-the-art Dolby Surround Sound. We loved the lush leather seats as well as complimentary popcorn and candy and felt like we escaped into a world of celluloid fantasy.

The Oyster Box definitely provides a host of activities and facilities to suit the entire family’s needs (pets included although we left Angel at home) and go the extra mile to make each and everyone feel right at home.

With two swimming pools, beautiful gardens brimming with bird-life and monkeys (we loved watching them!), as well as direct access to miles of protected swimming beaches and beach-side walking paths, we definitely took full advantage of The Oyster Box’s exceptional location and service.

A host of child-friendly touches were offered to our family on check-in. Subject to room category and availability, children under 12 stay free and Alexander received a backpack filled with a selection of essential holiday items such as a fishing net, a beach ball, a bucket and spade and a colouring-book. In addition, he was given a wristband which entitled him to a host of complimentary goodies during our stay, including a soft-drink, toffee-apple, milk-shake, ice-cream and candy-floss. Alexander loved this special treatment.

A special child-friendly turn-down was placed on our pillows at bed-time and there were milk and biscuits, as well as complimentary popcorn, sweets and soft drinks and access to the extensive DVD library for in-room viewing.

For excursions and tours, the hotel’s Concierge suggested plenty of children-oriented outings and special places of interest, but we haven’t left the hotel once as we had such a good time and were extremely lucky with the weather.

Other interesting things to mention about the hotel: The Oyster Box is South Africa’s only hotel featured in the homegrown version of Monopoly, Monopoly Mzansi. The hotel has a long-standing resident and local celebrity, Skabenga, a characterful cat that has won the hearts of hotel staff and guests alike. Skabenga thoroughly enjoys the spoils that come with being the ‘Main Cat’ on the block! He loves regular treats of Catnip, has a favourite couch and chair and chosen spots around the hotel, which he retreats to, when not taking ‘inspection’ strolls around the property. He has a book about him and he has his own Facebook Page.

Taking a break from a cold and rainy Pretoria to travel to Durban late April is really a good idea. Note to self this needs to be repeated every year. The temperature hovers around the mid 20ies and swimming is de rigueur. It was an utterly magnificent treat and The Oyster Box left us with magical memories to last a lifetime. Book your stay today!

(Tip! We booked last minute through their website and received 50% off.)

The Oyster Box by night.

Living the life. Oysters and bubbles for breakfast.

Poolside, with a deliciously cheesy burger and a cocktail in hand. I can get used to this.

As you can see, enjoying the pool!

I promise, it wasn’t all about food this week…

Shaking up our evening, a cocktail in the Oyster Bar.

Alexander working on his tan.

The view is just amazing!