Durban Holiday 2016 – Hillcrest
Just an hour from the airport. I am sitting at Oscar’s in Hillcrest with a Bunny Chow in front of me. This MUST be Durban!
Actually I had left home in the UK, courtesy of Virgin Atlantic and SAA, nearly 24 hours before. Almost worth it just for the bunny!
Durban in 2016, for us, though a holiday, was all about connecting with family and good friends. A downside of being African born and living in the UK is the distance from some of those close family and friends. So it wasn’t, at the start a holiday resort type of trip.
An up-market suburb of modern Durban, Hillcrest is situated around 40km from central Durban. Typically visitors would stay in Hillcrest for business access to Pinetown and the surrounding area. For us, Hillcrest was a good location for our needs for the first week.With family close by, and easy access to much of the Durban coastal area it was ideal.
We chose the White House Bed & Breakfast as a convenient place to stay. A big old house situated in a large, well treed garden forms the main B&B, but we managed to stay in the cottage some distance away. Great for meeting friends – we even arranged to have a friend stay over in the cottage.
Now Durban in October has an expectation of clear blue skies, sunny days and the odd thunderstorm. Durban in October 2016 delivered English weather style drizzle and cold winds, interspersed with occasional sunny patches. With a small shopping centre 10 minutes’ walk away, that garden proved a godsend as somewhere to chill out and eat good home-made lunches (See "Lunch in the Garden"). The range of reasonably priced "picnic" food available in local stores like Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay far surpasses anything we can get in England. Local Uber also offered a low cost route to local shopping malls
Twice we considered going to Durban. The first time there was a student riot going on. The second time, the weather won! In fact we never made it to the Durban CBD.
In fact, in retrospect, our week in Hillcrest was just about chilling out, seeing friends and family and eating quantities of excellent food. All in all a fantastic break!
Eating Out in Hillcrest
The local area offered some good choices:
- Oscar’s Cafe – good food (like Bunny Chow!) al fresco. After lunch we spent the afternoon sharing a couple of bottles of wine on their verandah. Nice one!
- Pallet Jack’s – an interesting concept making big use of recycled materials. It’s basically a hamburger and pizza joint, but with a huge kids playground indoors, by the restaurant area. Great for letting the kids have fun with a minimum of stress for the parents. Let us chat to friends without stressed out kids interrupting!
- Lupa Osteria resturant – Just excellent Italian food, what more can you say?
- The Mugg and Bean – The Mugg & Bean chain seems to be all pervasive in South Africa. Think quality salads (and other good food), bottomless coffee, ginger beer and lemonade. And they make a good long island tea!
- The Keg and Trout – The Keg pub / restaurant chain can be found all over South Africa. The local Keg and Trout offered the usual, well serviced pub with top class burger and seafood meals at a good price.
Cost-wise we found good restaurant meals costing about the same as a basic pub meal in England, i.e. cheap! Exchange rate was in the order of ZAR16.5 = GBP1.00.
Shongweni Farmers Market
We took a trip to the local Shongweni Farmers market on a Saturday. This is an impressive market, both in size and range of genuine farm products of one kind or another. Very refreshing to see a "proper" farmers market not dominated by low cost imports and manufactured goods. In fact we found a local brewery and enjoyed their home brewed cherry and ginger beer. Superb. We stayed ’til they kicked us out. To be fair everyone except the staff had gone! The market is situate in custom built premises in a beautiful spot. A very nice spot to just sit and enjoy the day. As we did.
To one side of the Shongweni Market is a spectacular gorge with a waterfall. Just to remind the viewer that the city is close there is a commuter railway line at the bottom of the gorge.
Would you stay in Hillcrest?
If you are not looking for the beach on your doorstep, for which you will pay more, then Hillcrest can be a good place to stay. If you have access to transport, Hillcrest will give you easy day trip access to Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and much of the countryside in between, including the north and south coastal areas with their many beaches.
We certainly found the little microcosm of the White House and the nearby shops, restaurants and pubs a great spot to simply relax. We did spend time with friends in Durban and on the north coast which were accessed easily. I’d go back there.