Something special lies just beyond the understated entrance of The Oyster Box hotel in South Africa. Located just north of Durban, in the suburb of Umhlanga, this boutique luxury hotel is home to an incredible collection of African art. It's a family-owned property with a rich history and oceanfront views of a picture-perfect iconic red and white lighthouse - the best of which are reserved exclusively for visitors and guests.
Rooms are either courtyard or ocean facing and all smell like fresh fragrant flowers. It's hard not to exclaim with delight when you first set eyes on the view of that iconic lighthouse from the balcony of the King Sea Facing room. The crashing waves of the Indian Ocean down behind it are wonderful to fall asleep to.
Bathrooms have both tubs and rain showers, dual sinks, and soft cotton robes.
The decor is light and airy, feminine but not overly so.
Skabenga, the hotel's resident feline, has become somewhat of a fixture. A stray with a penchant for table scraps, he simply wandered in one day and never left. He's often found snoozing in the plush chairs in the lobby or sitting smack dab in the middle of the hotel entryway.
You're reminded just how tropical this coastline is when you see monkeys peek out among the wooden planks of the patio awning while you dine on breakfast.
The hotel's Ocean Terrace restaurant serves all meals of the day, though, it is most well-known is its all-you-can eat curry buffet for dinner. There are at least 12 different varieties to choose from, so be sure to leave room to try a little bit of them all.
In the adjacent Palm Court, beneath vintage chandeliers salvaged from the late Savoy Hotel in London, the hotel holds the most delectable afternoon high tea. Giant glass jars filled with sweets (in addition to a whole spread of tea and cakes) are set out daily across the enormous buffet table. It's a decadent way to spend an afternoon.
The main bar, the Oyster Bar, is reminiscent of the Long Bar at Raffles in Singapore, birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail. The Oyster Box has their own take on the iconic drink: the Umhlanga Sling - a mix of local cane muddled with fresh pineapple, mint, and topped with crushed ice and mango juice. It's the perfect bar to tuck into for an afternoon coffee or a nightcap.
If you're celebrating a very special occasion, you'll want to book the private Wine Cellar Dining Room. The Oyster Bar has a plexiglass floor looking down onto the dining area, which is rather unique.
Close by, The Sugar Club at the Beverly Hills Hotel is another excellent choice for drinking and fine dining.
Between the pool and the beach, there is hardly any reason to leave The Oyster Box during your stay. The movie theater (more glass bowls of "help yourself" candy) is a great spot to spend a rainy afternoon.
The spa is in a separate building, a short walk from the rooms and directly across from the private suites. From the warm foot bath to the firm but gentle full-body massage, I can tell you first-hand that I left feeling blissed out for several days to come.
My favorite room on the property was the library, full of old books and historical memorabelia.
The hotel's collection of African art is also impressive.
Off property, it's easy to dine at a handful of nearby restaurants and draw money from an ATM at the nearby Umhlanga Village shopping centre, just short walk up the hill from the property. There's even a Woolworths, which is perfect for things like forgotten toiletries.
Further afield, popular tourist attractions include Durban's beachfront and diverse Victoria Street Market, the Sun Coast Casino, the historic Natal Midlands, and the Drakensberg Mountains.
Families looking to recharge and couples looking for a romantic getaway. This hotel is a secret hideaway for celebrities and musicians in search of anonymity and quiet time while filming and visiting South Africa.
Fly into Durban International Airport and drive (or Uber) from the airport to Umhlanga, the suburb located just north of the city of Durban. The best way to get off the property during your stay is by taxi or by rental car.
I was welcomed to The Oyster Box Hotel as their guest. My opinions are my own.