Looking for an affordable weekend break near Durban? These 11 self-catering cottages and beach houses were some of our favourites from 2015. They’re all under R400 per person per night (although you may have to take some friends along to get that rate) and come endorsed by our Getaway journos and contributors.
Please note that the prices below are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before travelling.
1. Mtentu Lodge, Wild Coast
Cost: From R700 per cabin per night (sleeps four). Catering is an additional R280 per adult, R120 for kids 8 to 12, and free for kids under 8. Self-catering no longer available. Specials run throughout the year.
Contact: Tel 0832340436, mtentulodge.co.za
The beautifully positioned Mtentu Lodge, just across the northern border of the Mkambati Nature Reserve, offers simple but comfortable cabins, as well as a restaurant and bar. Situated on the northern Pondoland coast, between the Msikaba and Mtentu rivers, the relatively small 7000-hectare Mkambati Nature Reserve is the closest you’ll come to a subtropical paradise in South Africa: virginal rivers tumble over waterfalls, deep gorges cut through rolling grasslands and pockets of dense swamp forest border beautiful secluded beaches.
2. Kudu Bushlodge, Somkhanda Game Reserve
Cost: R350 per person per night sharing (self-catering)
Kudu Bushlodge is a private camp situated on a prominent ridge in the reserve providing awesome panoramic views across the valley and hills beyond. The lodge is a mix of African décor and Lord of the Rings, with dark knobbled wood and wicker lampshades. There are three self-catering rondavels, which have a communal kitchen. The beauty of this camp is that, although it is set high, the views are only of the reserve and there are absolutely no lights visible at night.
3. Lions River Country Cottages, Midlands Meander
Cost: Cottages from R385 per person a night (minimum four people)
Contact: Tel 0824880209, lrcc.co.za
On the popular Midlands Meander, accommodation options vie for your attention every few hundred metres. Just off the main drag, however, on the hills above Lions River, is the unassuming and peaceful Lions River Country Cottages. Offering three cottages ‒ Rose, Lavender and Protea ‒ families, honeymooners and groups have a range of options. They are spaced far apart from each other and Protea has the best view. Watching first light burn off the mist from the patio is a perfect way to start the day. Breakfast is available, but must be booked with Tony and Ann in advance. They also offer a ‘buy-in’ service, where guests can email a shopping list three days in advance and arrive to find the fridge and cupboard stocked. WiFi is available in the main house.
4. Umkomazi Rocks Beach House, Umkomaas
Cost: From R3000 (sleeps up to eight, minimum seven nights), from R3500 (minimum three nights)
‘The quintessential barefoot beach house,’ is how Joburg-based owner Josh Triegart describes his conversion, but it’s definitely of the chic varietal. An interior designer who fell in love with the view from St Helier Road, Josh has transformed a simple, low-slung bungalow into a farm-style ranch, filled with eclectic furniture, animal skulls, and interesting art. The house is an L-shape that opens seamlessly to a wrap-around veranda and sea views, with a 14-metre lap pool as centrepiece. It’s a fairly democratic arrangement that would suit a group of friends, with all four en-suite bedrooms (three kings; you’ll have to pull lots for the queen) opening directly onto the veranda and the view. The house offers plenty of space, with a number of nooks to hive off if you’re not feeling sociable ‒ aside from the large indoor lounge-dining area and the deck around the pool, there is a very inviting outdoor lounge-dining area at the view end, completing the L-shape. Great kitchen; no TV; serviced after departure.
Also read: 5 of the best beachfront hotels in Durban
5. Highrocks Beach House, Umkomaas
Cost: From R2500 (sleeps up to 12 ‒ eight adults, four kids); serviced daily by live-in Sindy Mbele
The indoor public space comprises a fairly narrow open-plan kitchen-dining-lounge area opening onto the house’s focal point: a deep, semi-shaded stoep. Furnished with a long dining table, an L-shaped seating area and a couple of hammocks next to the small but deep (1.8-metre) plunge pool, the stoep is big enough to accommodate all guests. Adults are accommodated in four bedrooms (three en-suite and air-conditioned; the master suite has a bathtub next to the window to make the most of the view); kids are in a huge room with four bunk beds that double up as a children’s playroom; doors lead out to the garden with swings and a trampoline. Highrocks is close to the beach; and, dog lovers rejoice ‒ well-behaved four-legged children are welcome. Be warned that trains start rumbling past fairly early.
6. Clansthal Beach House, Clansthal
Cost: From R3500 (sleeps 12); serviced on request for R150 a day
‘Look directly ahead, about five kilometres offshore, that’s Aliwal reef; to the right is the Green Point break, one of the best surf spots in the world.’ Owner of Clansthal, John McCarthy ‒ a prior SA surf champ runner-up and successful ‘surfpreneur’ ‒ would know. He’s surfed the top spots in the world, ‘and nothing will drag me away from KZN in winter’. We are standing on the large veranda of his pet-friendly, family bolthole in the quaint village of Clansthal; next to us is a small pool; a broad staircase sweeps down to the large subtropical garden in which monkeys gambol; behind us is a comfortably furnished cottage. It’s large, with five bedrooms (two with double beds, two with double beds plus a single bed, and a room with a double bunk on the bottom and single on the top), and it’s a 150-metre stroll to the semi-private beach. Described by John as a ‘glitch in the matrix’, Clansthal Conservancy is part of the Aliwal Marine Protected Area, and is one of those untouched south-coast gems those in the know have kept fairly secret ‒ even the local Chief’s Cabin pub appears to have undergone no changes; similarly their prices ‒ from R12 for a beer makes for a very happy hour.
Also read: 13 of Durban’s best curry restaurants
7. The Fat Hamster, Pennington
Cost: R7500 (sleeps 24); serviced daily
This sprawling beach house ‒ another L-shape around a large pool ‒ has one of the best locations on this stretch of coast: right on the beach, in hugely sought-after Cherry Lane, Pennington, there is nothing between you and the rolling breakers but a well-secured garden gate. It’s a comfortable lived-in sort of home, with a huge garden (a pity so much of it is under brick), a big pool and lots of accommodation: there are 10 bedrooms (16 adults and eight kids in two bunk bedrooms sleeping four each). Both the indoor and outdoor dining tables ‒ the latter shaded by an enormous tree ‒ can seat everyone, so you can enjoy plenty of cross-generational bonding during long, lazy meals together. Owner George Sabatta is security conscious ‒ it’s well fenced and alarmed with CCTV cameras, and every opening is further secured with Trellidors that the live-in housekeeper John Goor will dutifully close up for you at night unless requested otherwise.
8. umBhobe Beach House, Kelso
Cost: From R1500 (sleeps six, minimum three nights during the week); from R1800 (minimum two nights over the weekend); serviced every second day
You’ll trundle down a bumpy track to Kelso beach, four kilometres north of Pennington, crossing over the railway line to access this tiny development, clustered under beachfront milkwoods. UmBhobe (Zulu for milkwood) is a compact three-bedroom log cabin built on stilts in the canopy; it sleeps six comfortably in two queen beds and the third room has twin beds. There are two additional mattresses for children, if needed. A few metres from the front door is a timber gate, shared by only a handful of homeowners, to what is effectively a private beach ‒ the only other access point to this stretch is from Happy Wanderers Holiday Resort (a 10-minute stroll north along the beach; Happy Wanderers has a superb beachfront location and serviceable restaurant-bar, but its accommodation is too run down). Being fairly remote, UmBhobe is unlikely to suit sociable teenagers (although there is WiFi and table tennis), but families with younger kids, or anyone looking for quality time in a quiet retreat will find it here: lounging on the sun deck, snorkelling in tidal pools, or taking walks on the deserted beach.
Also read: How to spend a day in Durban
9. Thandulula Luxury Safari Tents, Southport
Cost: From R325 per person, serviced daily
Thandulula Luxury Safari Tents is a non-beach affordable option (Southport beach is a 1.5km drive away). Built on raised wooden decks and beautifully maintained by Annatjie Dreyer, the property borders on a river and nature and is totally unspoilt. When the river mouth is closed, you can paddle to the sea. There are various types of small wildlife on the property as well as rich and diverse birdlife.
10. Fig Tree Lane Beach Cottage, Pennington
Cost: From R200 per person, minimum R500 per night (sleeps six)
Another Pennington option is Fig Tree Lane Beach Cottage, an old-fashioned bungalow with sea views and in walking distance to the beach. It is in a rustic setting with a large indigenous garden and the perfect place from which to explore unspoilt beaches, lovely rock pools and good fishing spots.
11. Wits End, Champagne Valley
Cost: From R330 per person in a family chalet (sleeps six)
Contact: Tel 0364681133, witsend.co.za
The Drakensberg effortlessly reminds you of its beauty as you wind your way along the R600 and pull onto the crunching gravel driveway of Wits End. The resort before you dips its toes into a large fly-fishing dam, while Cathkin Peak – and Champagne Castle peering shyly around her shoulder – forms a backdrop to nine self-catering chalets. Monk’s Cowl, which offers a range of hikes, is within a five-kilometre radius, as are numerous restaurants. On-site hikes take you past Mermaids Pools, depending on your route, forests and waterfalls. There is a trampoline, pool, playground and lapa and seven lovely donkeys that beg to be fed carrots. The chalets are within sight of each other, all with braai facilities and a covered veranda. For groups of more than 10, book chalets five and six. Number 11, in particular, feels like a family home. My personal favourite is number 10, which is a two-suite chalet – the most private, with a dam-facing stoep.
Also read: Affordable weekend getaways near Durban