Ask anybody who has stayed at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks, about their stay and you will be regaled with tales and stories to fill volumes. Each one…almost to the person …will want to share their experiences and memories…of which there are many, with adjectives like ‘romantic, beautiful, elegant and stylish’, spicing their tales.
A large part of the legacy of The Oyster Box is that it’s been around for as long as anybody can remember. The original cottage called ‘The Oyster Lodge’ was built on the grounds in 1863. Made of Burmese Teak, corrugated iron and re-inforced concrete, it was originally used as navigational beacon.
In 1952, the cottage and overgrown grounds were sold to local residents Ken O’Connor and Kay O’Connor (Hill), his sister. They started a tea garden, which became a restaurant and then The Oyster Box Hotel, in March 1954, on the site next to the iconic 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 had become famous.
Stanley and Bea Tollman (the Founder and President of Red Carnation Hotels) purchased the property in 2007 and although very run down, it was their vision to restore the legendary hotel to its original glory. The greatest challenge being 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 dream.
While a number of the original landmarks remain intact in the new structure - the grand, revolving door at the entrance, the reception and foyer with its black and white terrazzo tiles, the familiar wrought-iron balustrade and original, inlaid hand-painted tiles and friezes, collected by Kay Hill on her regular travels to Spain & Portugal. - the hotel has, for the most part, been re-built, with all its charm and elegance still intact.
Having re-opened on 1 October 2009, The Oyster Box of today buzzes with a renewed energy and vitality. In all the ways that reflect and celebrate the legend of The Oyster Box, the experience of the ‘new’ Oyster Box is one that holds the grand hotel’s history, heritage, heart and ‘home’ in perfect balance.