The Oyster Box is an award-winning 5 star boutique hotel with a dramatic setting overlooking the Indian Ocean that is not to be missed.
It’s (sadly) the final few days of our South African journey so we decided to pamper ourselves and return to Umhlanga, a resort town on the coast of South Africa, and stay at the famous Oyster Box Hotel.
The Oyster Box is situated on the Umhlanga beachfront, where the Indian Ocean froths and scuds against the coastal rocks and a red-and-white lighthouse that flickers at night to welcome ships sailing into Durban’s harbour. Its surrounding beaches, including Umdloti and La Lucia, are great for dolphin watching, surfing and diving. Downtown Durban is a 20-minute drive, while the airport is just 17 minutes away by car.
Colonial in style, the lobby features whirling palace staircases, marble floors, and the gentle whirring of ceiling fans. The public areas beyond are a rainbow of colour: red-and-white candy-striped textiles, arrangements of anthurium flowers, and Mediterranean tapestries woven with dusky threads.
The walls are richly coloured and feature socially provocative art by KwaZulu-Natal artists like Sibusiso Duma whose paintings, done in bold shapes and primary colours, include a mother playing football and a woman carrying a man on her back. Look out for pieces by Welcome Danka who depicts everyday scenes, from villagers gathering to watch television to friends braiding each other’s hair.
This is a busy and popular 5 star hotel, but the relaxed smiles of all of the staff are infectious, and they are always ready to help—especially with directions if you get lost in this surprisingly labyrinthine boutique hotel.
Facilities include two restaurants, a lounge for afternoon tea, three bars, one of which is a rooftop watering hole offering views of the lighthouse opposite, a cinema, two swimming pools, a spa and a gym.
The spa is quite something; Cathy and I spent four hours being pampered by many of the treatments in a couple’s spa experience. Facilities include a hammam, hydrotherapy bath, plunge pool, and infinity pool which overlooks the hotel’s gardens. The spa lounge is crammed with all sorts of treats, including carrot cake crowned with dollops of whipped cream and strawberries, and moist slabs of banana bread, scattered amongst the melon chunks and ginger water.
Entry-level rooms are small, with a large bed taking up much of the space, but they are delightfully decorated and usually colour coordinated; sky blue and buttercup yellow are among the choices. Expect heavily-embroidered floral textiles, vintage beds with twisted posts, fresh orchids, bowls of fruit, and complimentary macaroons from the kitchens. Rooms either have a view of the Indian Ocean or the hotel’s gardens. The spacious marble bathrooms have baths and separate rain showers
There are two main dining options: The Grill Restaurant offers traditional fine dining where main dishes include veal in sauce allemande. The curry buffet at The Ocean Terrace is a relaxed alternative that showcases Durban’s Indian cuisine. Think Singaporean fish vindaloo.
Don’t miss the Bunny Chow, a dish invented in Durban’s fast-food outlets of the forties — curry crackling with coriander, cloves and cardamom ladled into a hollowed-out piece of bread.
High Tea at the Oyster Box is nationally famous, and should be booked several months ahead. Breakfast is a buffet with all the trimmings—extra treats include oysters (of course), a waffle stand, and sparkling wine.
The Oyster Box is a member of the red carnation group, which may be known to a number of our readers for the exceedingly high standards of excellence. This hotel is no exception; the service is attentive without being intrusive, and guests are greeted by name.
I’m not certain what perfection looks like, but at the time of writing I’m sitting in the clock library, which is typically colonial with a wall full of a variety of old clocks. It’s tranquil and cool, and our stay here has been nothing short of flawless. I highly recommend, and look forward to our return; dare I say, I’ve found perfection.
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.