Known for its spectacular Golden Mile of sandy beaches and laid-back, friendly atmosphere, Durban has an easy tropical charm that makes it one of South Africa's best destinations for a beach holiday. Perfect for divers, snorkelers, surfers and anyone who wants to relax and soak up some sun, this buzzing, cosmopolitan city is also a great place to shop, dine and even head out on safari to local wildlife reserves.
Much of the action in Durban is centred on the waterfront, with colourful restaurants, cafés and markets catering to a diverse beach-going crowd. Book a hotel along the Golden Mile strip and you'll be right in the heart of the activity, as well as within easy reach of the warm sand and surf. Start your visit with a stroll along the promenade to admire the views of South Africa's busiest harbour, and spot local landmarks such as the state-of-the-art Moses Mabhida Stadium, which was specially built for the 2010 World Cup.
Next, pay a visit to the uShaka Marine World, where you can get up close to sharks, dolphins, seals and other marine life, as well as take a spin on a variety of water rides. Next, the Natal Sharks Board is a research institute with exhibitions on these fascinating creatures of the deep – plus it offers the opportunity to accompany researchers on their boat expeditions to check shark safety nets off the coast.
Those interested in local history and culture should make time to explore the fascinating Zulu and Natal artefacts and artwork on display in the Campbell Collections and learn about the sugar trade at the Sugar Terminal on Maydon Wharf. The Old Courthouse Museum, meanwhile, provides a glimpse into early colonial life in a handsome 19th-century building.
Art lovers should check out the impressive collection of South African art at the Art Gallery in the neo-baroque City Hall, while families will enjoy a trip to the Natural Science Museum to see a wide array of stuffed birds, insects and other animals.
If you're keen to see African wildlife in a more natural setting, head to local reserves such as the Umgeni River Bird Park and Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve to see local fauna in lush landscapes. Another popular attraction for nature lovers is the Durban Botanical Garden, which is filled with vibrant blooms and rare trees – it provides an ideal setting for outdoor musical concerts.
Those in search of unique souvenirs can browse the stalls at a variety of local African and Asian-inspired markets, or alternately head to upmarket shopping centres such as the Gateway Theatre of Shopping for big-name brands and family-friendly entertainment. And when the sun goes down, there's still plenty to see and do, with a diverse dining scene, plenty of bars, clubs, casinos and other activities.
Ready for a beach break in scenic South Africa? Choose from a selection of Durban hotels by Marriott and get ready to soak up the sun.