Essence Festival Durban: The Best Places to Stay

Photo by Ian Trower/John Warburton-Lee Photography
The best hotels in Durban are the old ones. From city centre all the way north, the shore is dotted with old glamorous hotels that set the Durban skyline apart.

Durban is not a sprawling city. From the quiet Western suburbs to its central areas to Umhlanga up north takes only about fourty minutes to drive across the city. Between those three areas you can’t really stay too out-of-the-way. The best hotels in Durban are the old ones. From city centre all the way north, the shore is dotted with old glamorous hotels that set the Durban skyline apart. BnBs and Guest houses are a popular choice for accommodation across the country. If they look clean and comfortable on their website they generally always are, and offer a tasty home cooked fry up as an included breakfast.

Be careful when booking private accommodation online, especially when booking independently of an accredited rental agent. Try not to hand over credit card details until you arrive or to pay in full up front.

Gateway Hotels
Staying in a district built around a mall means you’re never at a loss for options to eat, cabs and any supplies you may have forgotten to pack. The Palm Boulevard at Gateway Mall, Umhlanga is a buzzing stretch of eateries and take-aways. All Gateway hotels are within walking distance of the Umhlanga beach and its adjecent village populated with bars, restaurents, gyms and yoga studios. 

Three Cities Urban Park Hotel & Spa 60 Meridian Drive, Umhlanga.
The Gateway Hotel Centenary Boulevard and Twilight Drive, Umhlanga. 
Three Cities Royal Palm Hotel Gateway 8 Palm Boulevard, Gateway.

Summerhill Estate Guesthouse
Twenty minutes west of central Durban, in the leafy suburb of Cowies Hill is Summerhill Guesthouse. Dinner at Summerhill’s restaurant is so popular that booking is essential, even for those staying at the guesthouse. The 17 rooms on the property are named after legendary performers such as Gcina Mhlope and Jimmy Dludlu who have played shows at the restaurant. With wine tastings and live shows hosted regularly at Summerhill, a stay there will mean an unforgettable taste of South African culture.

Summerhill Estate Guesthouse 9 Belvedale Road, Cowies Hill. 

Tekweni Backpackers
A backpackers strictly for those who love a party and communal living, Tekweni embodies the vibe of the Florida Road party district right around the corner. The bar, pool and braai aare never quiet and solo travellers wion’t struggle to find a fun party crew to join. Even if you’re not booked into one of their sharing or private rooms, drop by Tekweni to hang out and drink with backpackers from all over the world. 

Tekweni 169 Ninth Avenue, Morningside. 

Olwandle Guest House
South African guest houses are a great way to experience the warm local hospitality in an intimate setting. Often more affordable than hotel rates, the price does not at all  mean a compromise on comfort. Olwandle Guest House contains only 9 bedrooms and a terrace for braaing (barbequing). 

Olwande Guest House 6 Glenashley Avenue, Glenashley. 

The Concierge Boutique Bungalows
The Concierge Boutique Bungalows are nestled amongst the narrow lanes and low verandah cottages in Greyville Village. The area is an architecturial heritage site and each of the eight boutique bungalows is a listed building with an original 1920s façade. The interiors are modern and luxurious, with a distinctive quirky style. They say their outdoor showers feel like jungle rain.

Freedom Café, the restaurant attached to the hotel is where Durban’s creative, freelancer types hang out for lunch and afterwork drinks.

The Concierge Boutique Bungalows 37-43 St Mary’s Avenue, Greyville. 

Luxury Apartments
AirBnb and other online rental agencies feature pleny of seaside apartments for rental in Durban. The Pearls of Umhlanga and The Sails in Point are two luxury buildings with holiday apartments for rent. South and North Beach in between are full of apartments at every price point. Be careful when booking accommodation online, and don’t hand over credit card details or payments directly to individuals not affiliated with a rental agency or whose bank details are in their own name instead of the rental agency.

The Pearls 12 Lagoon Drive, Umhlanga. 
The Sails 14 Timeball Boulevard, Point. 
The Spinnaker 180 Mahatma Gandhi Road. 

Southern Sun Maharani & Elangeni Hotel
The 450-room Southern Sun Maharani & Elangeni Hotel dominate the Durban skyline. Fun fact, it was the first hotel with an outside elevator in Africa and used to accept black guests during apartheid. Basically, this hotel holds many fond memories for many South African families. One of its four restaurants, Daruma, is one of the best in the country. If the ocean across the road is looking too rough, one of four pools should suffice.

Southern Sun Maharani & Elangeni Hotel 63 Snell Parade, Durban. 

Beverly Hills Hotel
Since the Beverly Hills Hotel opened its doors as Durban’s first five star hotel in the 1950s, its hosted a number of prominent guests including heads of state, Cliff Richard and Snoop Dogg. It’s 88 seafront facing rooms are the height of luxury and the Sugar Club hotel restaurant is an award-winning fine-dining establishment with an award-winning winelist. A few steps in one direction is Umhlanga beach and in the hotel’s backyard is the pumping Umhlanga Village with shops, banks, restaurants and gyms.

Beverly Hills Hotel 54 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga Rocks. 

The Durban Manor Hotel
The Durban Manor’s sweeping staircases, fireplaces and ornate mouldings hark back to its opulent colonial hey day. Still well kept and quiet, the hotel is now more of an option for those who want to live in closer proximity with locals outside of the tourist areas.

The Margaret Mncadi Embankment infront of the hotel is a palm tree-lined avenue, with a  yacht marina on the other side and the harbour visible in the distance but the area still has a rather gritty side. It’s on the edge of the CBD, street children hang out in its parks and its many students are outside at all hours. All of the elements add to the charm of a prime stretch of city property that is still available to ordinary people who live in it.

Durban Manor Hotel 1 Durban Club Place. 

Happy Hippo Backpackers
A quieter budget travelling option than Tekweni, Happy Hippo Common is across the street from uShaka Marine waterpark. The common areas including a kitchen, dining area and lounge are roomy and sweetly decorated. The rooftop bar upstairs has a pool table and often hosts parties and special events. With secure, free parking and a hip location new urban regeneration precinct of Point, Happy Hippo will please travellers after a simple, quality experience.

Happy Hippo Backpackers 222 Mahatma Gandhi Road. 

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