Food and Drink in Durban
Durban has the highest expat population of Indians in the world, and their food is a testament to this. Durban's signature dish is the bunny chow, a hollowed out white bread loaf filled with spicy curry. If you can't handle the heat, ask for a mild version, and restaurants will be happy to adjust the chili.
House of Curries, a local institution, is found on Florida Road, a wide street lined with bars and restaurants. It's a casual eatery that belies the quality of its mini-Bunny Chows, served with three sides. There is also a Chip Chow, which are fries smothered in curry and cheese. (275 Florida Road, Berea, 4001, South Africa; +27 31 303 6076; open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight)
The Grill Room at the Oyster Box hotel is a fine dining restaurant. The food is rich but high quality. Before or after your meal, be sure to spend time on the balcony of the bar in sunken cane chairs that overlook the beach and bright red lighthouse. Also try the oysters, sourced daily from their own oyster farm. (2 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga, 4320; +27 31 514 5000; dinner served daily from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.)
The Pot and Kettle is the place to go if you're heading to the Valley of 1,000 Hills. There you'll find comfort fare that's uniquely South African -- which includes a penchant for combining banana and bacon in toasted sandwiches and even salads. (168 Old Main Road, Hillcrest, 3660, South Africa; +27 31 777 1312; open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Best Cocktail in Durban
Sundowners -- alcoholic drinks imbibed as the sun sets -- are a religion in South Africa. While there is no specific South African cocktail per se, anything that contains the creamy liquor Amarula offers an authentic taste of the country.
Beaches in Durban
Best for Families: South Beach is part of Durban's Golden Mile and is an ideal place to set up for a day of family beach fun. It's patrolled by lifeguards.
Best for Surfers: Dairy Beach, which is the closest stretch of sand to the cruise port, is highly regarded by wave riders. It's so good, in fact, that it hosts surfing competitions.
Don't Miss in Durban
Victoria Street Market is found on Victoria Street in Durban's city center, and you'll recognize it early as it aspires to appear like a Maharajah's palace. While not exactly palatial, it's as good for shopping as it is for people-watching. It's the place where the Indian, Zulu and Chinese communities come to buy and sell culturally specific wares. There's a fresh produce market, a spice market and a craft market, called the "dry" market. There, you'll find artwork, jewelry, spices and oriental furniture. Bargaining is actively encouraged. (151 Victoria Street; +27 31 306 4021; open every day with a 6 a.m. start weekdays and an 8 a.m. start weekends)
PheZulu Safari Park is a little farther out of Durban -- about a 30-minute drive outside the city -- but it's worth it for the authentic Zulu tribe experience. It begins with a dance and story performance in traditional costume. What sets the experience apart, however, is the view. Found in the Valley of 1,000 Hills, the park is one of the most scenic places in South Africa. (Phezulu, Outer West Durban; +27 31 777 1000; open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday)
uShaka Marine World is one of South Africa's most awarded theme parks. Located on the coast, the park encompasses a large outdoor shopping mall, waterslide park and aquarium complete with sharks. The sharks are one of the main draws, as visitors can swim with them or stay dry and dine with them in a restaurant next to their tank. (1 King Shaka Avenue; +2731 328 8000; open daily)
The Valley of 1,000 Hills is an ideal drive to take away from Durban. Rent a car, or take a shore excursion to this region, which boasts some of the most striking landscapes in South Africa. It's not the dusty bush or plains you'd expect, but rather multiple hills that look to number a thousand from every angle. It makes for a manageable and striking road trip.
The Drakensberg mountain range is farther away than the valley of 1,000 hills, around two hours' drive from Durban, and you'll pass the 1,000 hills region on your way. It's suitable for passengers staying in Durban overnight, as it will require a full-day tour. The Drakensberg mountain range is stunning in its own right, but it also boasts examples of ancient rock art created by San bushmen. The Drakensberg is ideal for a daytrip hike or cycle.
Umhlanga Rocks are about 20 minutes outside of Durban city, and they're well worth the visit. A civilized beachside spot, it has a village feel with pubs and restaurants that spill onto the streets and boutique shops. The highlight is a stunning stretch of beach capped off with a lipstick-red and white lighthouse.