The Oyster Box Hotel: History, Heritage, Heart & Home In Perfect Balance

Owners and founders of The Travel Corporation, Bea and Stanley Tollman went on their first date at the Oyster Box Hotel in Durban in 1952. On that day Stanley vowed to one day buy it for his future bride. In 2006 he did just that, and together, they turned it into one of Africa’s finest hotels and was voted No. 1 Top Hotel in South Africa under TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Read to understand why the hotel is a perfect balance of history, heritage, heart (service) and home away from home. 

The Oyster Box Hotel – Back From The Beginning

The original cottage called ‘The Oyster Lodge’ was built on the grounds in 1863.  Made of Burmese Teak, corrugated iron and reinforced concrete, the structure was originally used as a navigational beacon. In 1952, the Cottage and overgrown grounds were sold to Ken O’Connor and his sister, Kay O’Connor.  They started a tea garden, which became a restaurant, and then The Oyster Box Hotel, which opened in March 1954, on the site next to the lighthouse.

In 2006 the property came up for sale. The then owner, Wayne Reed, particularly wanted the Oyster Box to pass on to a family who would continue the hospitality, traditions and values for which the hotel was synonymous. Stanley and Bea Tollman (the Founder and President of Red Carnation Hotels) purchased the property.

Although very run down at the time, with a number of changes and architectural interventions having been made in the 1950s. it was The Tollman’s vision to restore and develop the legendary Oyster Box Hotel to its original glory.  The greatest challenge was to restore the property in a way that was authentic to the period in which it was built and simultaneously bring it into the 21st century.  The hotel we see today is a fitting tribute to their vision.

The Oyster Box Hotel – Carefully & Beautifully Refurbished 

Building began in October 2007 and was completed in September 2009. While a number of the original landmarks remain intact in the new structure, the hotel was, for the most part, re-built. The grand, revolving door at the entrance originally from the Royal Hotel in Durban, the familiar wrought-iron balustrade and original, inlaid hand-painted tiles and friezes, collected by Kay Hill on her regular travels to Europe, can still be seen. The recognizable black and white checkerboard floor have been re-instated throughout.

The-double volume, Palm Court, with skylights allowing the natural light to flood into the courtyard area, is at the ‘heart’ of the hotel, with The Ocean Terrace and Grill Room restaurants leading on either side. An entirely new floor level was added to create additional banqueting space, conference, business and meeting facilities and the impressive Lighthouse Bar overlooking the iconic red and white lighthouse and the Indian Ocean. 

In all the ways that reflect and celebrate the legend of The Oyster Box, the experience of the contemporary Oyster Box is one that holds the grand hotel’s history, heritage, heart and ‘home’ in perfect balance.

The Oyster Box Hotel – A Destination Graced By Famous Guests

Set on the shores of Umhlanga, surrounded by secluded, tropical gardens and enriched with the sounds of nature, the hotel is an ideal place to return to wellness at The Oyster Box.

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. Famous personalities that have stayed or visited the hotel include the British royals, Prince Harry and Prince William, Charlize Theron, Javier Badem and Khloe Kardashian.

Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene hosted their wedding reception at the hotel in 2011 and booked the Presidential Suite, spread over two levels and with its own private lift. The suite has two lavish marble bathrooms – one offering unsurpassed sea views for luxury and tranquility beyond compare.

And of course, there is the magnificent private rim-flow swimming pool, a tastefully tailored private lounge, a gracious dining room with seating for 8 guests with a private bar and a well-equipped kitchen for intimate in-suite dining.

The Oyster Box Hotel – Exquisite Dining Experience

Overlooking the iconic Umhlanga lighthouse and the Indian Ocean and oozing with all the charm of a bygone era, the 86-room Oyster Box is the epitome of modern elegance and comfort. Considered a national treasure, The Oyster Box is South Africa’s most cherished hotel, and is renowned for its generous hospitality, attentive service and exceptional cuisine. 

The hotel’s numerous restaurants and bars offer something for everyone. From The Ocean Terrace, serving fresh pizza, the finest seafood and an authentic curry buffet, to the fine dining Grill Room and Wine Cellar. The Palm Court serves a traditional High Tea daily with live piano accompaniment,

while The Lighthouse Bar is the hottest spot in town for landowners. The chic Oyster, Salmon & Sushi Bar is one of the hotel’s most popular meeting places and brings the oceans’ bounty straight to the diner’s plate.

There is an insta-friendly plunge pool, and guests can enjoy a hammam and sensation shower at the spa. 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.

Equipped with six treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy bath, grooming lounge, plunge pool, gym, healthy buffet and tranquility lounge, The Spa offers the latest in health and wellness treatments. Other facilities include two swimming pools set in tropical gardens, a private library and a 24-seater movie theatre.

The hotel has its very own beehives that produce the hotel’s honey and contribute to the sustainability and biodiversity of the region.

The Oyster Box Hotel – Activities For The Whole Family

The Oyster Box provides a host of activities and facilities to suit the entire family’s needs (pets included) and make each and everyone feel right at home.

With two swimming pools, beautiful gardens brimming with bird-life and monkeys, as well as direct access to miles of protected swimming beaches and beach-side walking paths, families can take full advantage of The Oyster Box’s exceptional location and service.

A host of child-friendly touches are offered to families on check-in. Subject to room category and availability, children under 12 stay free and receive a Backpack filled with a selection of essential holiday items such as fishing nets, beach balls and colouring-books. In addition, each child is given a wristband which entitles them to a host of complimentary goodies during their stay, including a soft-drink, toffee-apple, milk-shake, ice-cream and candy-floss.

A special child-friendly turn-down is placed on each pillow at bed-time and there are milk and biscuits, as well as complimentary popcorn, sweets and soft drinks and access to the extensive DVD library for in-room viewing or the 24-seater, in-house movie theatre. Children-focused menus are available in the restaurants.

For excursions and tours, the hotel’s Concierge will be able to assist with arrangements and make suggestions for kid-oriented outings and special places of interest. On request, car seats are provided for transfers to sights and shopping centres. For mom and dad, a babysitting service is offered by the hotel so that they can enjoy some ‘adult time’ together.

The Oyster Box Hotel – Other Interesting Mentions

The Oyster Box is South Africa’s only hotel featured in the homegrown version of Monopoly, Monopoly Mzansi. The hotel has a long-standing resident and local celebrity, Skabenga, a characterful cat that has won the hearts of hotel staff and guests alike. Skabenga thoroughly enjoys the spoils that come with being the ‘Main Cat’ on the block! He loves regular treats of Catnip, has a favourite couch and chair and chosen spots around the hotel, which he retreats to, when not taking ‘inspection’ strolls around the property. He has a book about him and he has his own Facebook Page 

Time spent at The Oyster Box leaves you with magical memories to last a lifetime. Book your stay today!

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