Gay Durban: Sun drenched on the Indian Ocean

Generations of South Africans grew up vacationing in this sun-drenched city on the Indian Ocean the farthest large city on earth from San Francisco, but also one of the most eerily Californian. Durbs by the sea is warm, sunny and sporty, and the dozens of beaches within an easy drive offer something for everyone, from big-wave surfing, scuba and kayaking to cruising and nude sunbathing. The largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere is here, as is the worlds largest ultra run, the fabled 57-mile Comrades Marathon from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.

A vibrant scene centers around Florida and Windermere roads in Durbans Morningside district, about three miles inland, with gay- and gay-friendly venues abounding in the cozy Edwardian streets. But locals advise caution when venturing into other districts. Crime and blight have tarnished downtown Durbans gleam in recent years, particularly the area behind its Golden Mile beach, and vacationers domestic and foreign now head to the northern coastal suburb of Uhmlanga Rocks and, beyond it, the upscale village of Umhloti Beach. The Dolphin Coast, yet further north but still within an hours drive, is less well known and offers some great hotel and dining values.

Though theres no uber-gay beach on the order of Cape Towns Clifton 3rd or Sandy Bay, the waters much warmer, so you can actually swim. Sharks and other critters are kept away from posted areas by municipally maintained netting 500 meters offshore the KwaZulu Natal Sharks Board, which maintains the nets, is a tourist destination in itself, and you can sail out with the crew to inspect the days toothy catch.

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