I'll start with an honest opinion here: Durban is easily South Africa's best city by the sea! (Sorry Cape Town).
I'm not saying this because it's my home town and I'm completely biased, but because it genuinely is a wonderful city, and it's by the sea.
Durban has everything you could want from a destination or a hometown - It's big, modern, has pretty good infrastructure (by South African standards, at least), wonderful weather year-round, and a coastline that goes on for hundreds of miles.
If you're interested in finding out more about the specific highlights of Durban, such as uShaka Marine World & Gateway Mall, I've written on them in my Attractions section below.
Durban isn't just an attraction by itself though - it's also a portal to both the North Coast (if you're heading up to Umhlanga, St Lucia & Sodwana), and the South Coast (featuring locations such as Margate & Port Edward), all of which are popular holiday destinations.
Our last visit to Durban was April 2022; kindly hosted by Valerie and family, we spent a great day at uShaka and later on the beach, after a wonderful lunch at Siggi's German restaurant. I wish we'd had an extra day or two at least, as one day is nowhere near enough to enjoy everything Durban has to offer.
While the above all seems super rosy, Durban has had it's share of conflict and tragedy in the recent past.
The riots of 2021 caused widespread chaos, not just in Durban but all through Kwa-Zulu Natal, resulting in food shortages and a complete breakdown in municipal order. Communities were left to fend for themselves, though in true South African style, this is exactly what they did!
Small communities came together to provide support and security for each other, reducing the impact of what could have been an even more catastropic series of events.
The tragedy of the 2022 floods must also be mentioned, the effects of which are still being felt as I write this. After record rainfall (Climate change, anyone?), floods and mudslides engulfed Durban and the surrounding areas.
Houses, apartment buildings, roads and bridges were swept away (or simply sank into the earth, in some cases), and hundreds have lost their lives.
We left Durban the day before the floods hit, and we count ourselves lucky not to have been affected, but thoughts go out to all those in Durban affected directly or indirectly by this disaster.
uShaka Marine World
uShaka Marine world is a brilliant day out for the whole family. featuring a Water park, Aquarium and an Underwater experience center, it caters to a variety of wants/needs.
The Water Park features about a dozen slides of varying 'excitement' - there are plenty of slides for younger, less experienced swimmers, and several for older kids/adults wanting serious thrills.
There are also a couple of splash pools, and as it's on the coast, the water is pretty warm (even in April, on a colder day, as we experienced!)
Sea World Aquarium, touted as the largest Aquarium in Africa, is also worth seeing if you have the time - featuring Dolphin shows, a penguin colony, HUGE coral tank, and several unique species of fish and sharks, it's a captivating experience for all ages.
The Village Walk mall is a great spot if you're looking for curio's or gifts to take home for friends; There are plentiful shops featuring local arts and crafts (and more generic tat), and several eateries as well.
The final attraction at uShaka is Sea Animals Encounters Island - I haven't visited this yet, so not able to write a personal opinion, but it gets good reviews online.
The park is Situated on Durban's Golden Mile, and is easily accessible by car with secure on-site parking.
Gateway Mall is first and foremost an outstanding shopping experience - featuring 430 shops, ranging from local produce to international chains, an Cinema and IMAX, and as full a selection of dining options as you could imagine, it's one of the largest shopping centers in the Southern hemisphere.
Outside of retail though, it's also pretty action packed, featuring a go-kart circuit on the roof level, an indoor climbing wall, trampoline park and regular holiday activities (to name but a few!).
So, while you might not come to Durban specifically to visit Gateway Theatre of Shopping, it's an excellent rainy day outing that'll keep the whole family busy!
Siggi's German Restaurant
Siggi's is one of many hundreds of restaurants in and around Durban, and in fairness, it's about 45 minutes drive North of Durban, in Ballito. But it's a special place.
Special why, you ask? Well, not only does it serve awesome, authentic German food, it was started up by my Uncle and his business partner (both going by the name of Chris, funnily enough), so I guess there's a sense of pride in what they've achieved.
It's the first place I ever tried snails (yuck, in fairness), and their eisbein is absolutely to die for (though it's so rich, you may feel like dying after you've eaten it all!)
Obviously they also have excellent German beer and, as the restaurant is located just off the beach, you've got a great chance to walk off the excess calories you've ingested after your meal!
We visited it again in April 2022, and while my Uncle Chris may have moved on, it's still serving up grub that is well worth travelling for!
Beaches - all of them!
Durban has any number of beaches, and they are all long, white, and (barring some plastic pollution) pristine.
If you want to experience the best beaches though, you got to get out of town.
We tend to head up the north coast; By the time you hit Ballito, the beaches are almost deserted. It's great if you want to get away from the hubbub for a day.
Durban's Funworld can be found on the Golden Mile, right in the heart of the city's coastline.