A large part of The Oyster Box Hotel’s great legacy is that it’s been around for as long as anyone can remember; from its nineteenth century beginnings to its glory in the present day, this is the story behind the legendary South African hotel.
The original cottage, The Oyster Lodge, was built as far back as 1863 as a navigational beacon. But it was in 1952 that the cottage and its grounds were sold to local resident Ken O’Connor and his sister Kay Hill. Next to the iconic lighthouse they opened a tea garden, which was later turned into a restaurant, before it finally became The Oyster Box Hotel in 1954.
An extensive two-year rebuild, which was completed in 2009, has since transformed the hotel into what it is today, while retaining its original charm with the original black and white terrazzo tiles, hand-painted friezes and familiar revolving front door.
The Oyster Box has long drawn celebrities and Royals through its doors, with Prince Harry and Prince William, and actor Sean Penn among them. And while The Oyster Box evokes fond memories for many of these guests, the hotel holds a very special place in the hearts of Stanley and Bea Tollman, who have been the owners since 2006, a dream they realised after visiting in 1952.
Stanley and Bea, who both lived in Johannesburg, found themselves in Durban for the weekend. At dinner, Stanley asked Bea if she’d like to try the Oysters. Despite being keen to try a delicacy she’d never eaten before, she promptly spat the first mouthful on the floor, which she now admits was ‘not very ladylike’. But that evening marked the beginning of a love-affair that has so far spanned 60 years.
Today, with the Tollmans at the helm, The Oyster Box buzzes with renewed vitality, encompassing 86 individually decorated rooms, suites and exquisite villas, as well as a magnificent split-level presidential suite.
In keeping with the hotel’s original colonial architecture, three chandeliers –from London’s Savoy Hotel – hang in the Palm Court, which, situated at the heart of the hotel, is flooded with natural light and the setting for The Oyster Box’s lavish high tea.
In fact, with a reputation not only for generous hospitality and passionate service, but also excellent cuisine, guests have a choice of six dining venues, from the casual Ocean Terrace – serving pizza, seafood and a curry buffet – to the legendary fine-dining Grill Room.
A more intimate dining experience can be had at the magnificent Chef’s Table in a sunken wine cellar, while the stylish Oyster and Lighthouse Bars are popular spots for chilled Champagne, oysters that have been freshly harvested from the hotel’s own oyster beds, enchanting sea views and live music. For in-house guests, there’s even the chance to catch a movie at the 24-seater, in-house cinema.
Finally, nestled in the lush sub-tropical gardens, you’ll find the multi award-winning spa. This oasis of tranquillity reflects the intricate tapestry of KwaZulu-Natal’s rich heritage, offering all of the amenities and treatments expected of a wellness facility of this calibre.
However you choose to spend your time at The Oyster Box Hotel, find your own place in this story and discover why so many people feel compelled to return.
Header image: The sign welcoming visitors into The Oyster Box Hotel © Red Carnation Hotels