Words: Anne Schauffer | Images: Stephen Pilbrough
Essenwood is one of Durban’s older, most established suburbs. Many of the old sepia photographs in the archives show clapboard homes – others shipped out from England in kit form – and dirt roads like Gladys Mazibuko, as part of those pioneering days of Durban and the bay. Views from here gave a good idea of the to-ing and froing of ships around the port.
Today, it’s a very different landscape, with the English architecture nudging more multicultural design and affluent property clustering around the top private schools for which this area is well known.
Essenwood’s well-established trees clearly demarcate the seasons, with carpets of yellow on the ground, followed by huge pools of purple. Essenwood is fortunate to be fringed by superb green parks – from the Botanic Gardens to Mitchell Park and Jamieson Park, all within walking distance.
Essenwood is the heart of the so-called Berea, a large, attractive and green suburb which cascades down the hill towards Greyville Racecourse and Royal Durban Golf Club, the slope giving many homes sensational views and sea breezes. Essenwood is a grid of the primary parallel, contour roads which traverse the entire Berea area, right from the N3 to the northern side of this “ridge” around Florida and Montpelier roads. In layers from the top, Peter Mokaba (Ridge), Stephen Dlamini (Essenwood), and Musgrave Road, dominate, with a wide range of properties, ranging from the glorious old Durban Victorian and Edwardian homes, to some of the largest, most extravagant, modern properties in the region.
In between these freestanding homes, are numerous small and medium-sized upmarket townhouse developments and apartment blocks. A significant number of old Essenwood properties have been demolished or entirely reworked, to create highly contemporary, glass and chrome mansions and massive high-gloss apartments, one per floor.
But even though there are high-end properties in Essenwood, equally, closer to town, there are smaller, lesser-priced, affordable properties, from freestanding to apartments, and townhouses. From Linden Road and all along Problem Mhkize and beyond, professional and commercial rights are common, and many Durban vintage homes have been saved by commerce affecting magnificent renovations.
Essenwood and immediate surrounds are home to some of Durban’s finest girls’ private schools – Durban Girls’ College and Maris Stella. Clifton School for boys is in the neighbouring suburb of Morningside. The co-ed Curro Embury College in nearby Windermere offers facilities from three years up to high school.
The government schools on the entire Berea are excellent, too, from Gordon Road Girls’ School and Morningside Primary School, to Durban Preparatory High School for boys.
The area’s preschools of Tree Tops, Joyce Broadhead, Montpelier and Wonderland all have excellent reputations.
Livingstone School, too, is renowned for its superb remedial work with junior school children.
Resident Naz Moola says, “Our three children are at private schools in the area – four minutes from home! It makes it so much easier for sport and evening activities, and by day, they walk to and from school.”
From homes in Essenwood, there’s a wonderful mix of sounds which fill the night air, whether it’s the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer, or night horse racing at Greyville. The top races may be seasonal, but what isn’t seasonal, is the ever-popular 18-hole golf course of the legendary Royal Durban Golf Club, a large green belt which sits pretty in the middle of the race track. The gold-circle race track and the golf course are sliced through the middle by DLI Avenue (Durban Light Infantry), and the track runs on bridges over the road.
With the Durban beachfront a mere five-minute drive – or cycle – away and the various parks equally close, stretching one’s legs in and around Essenwood is easy. It’s a suburb closely surrounded by so many others, that accessibility to your beauty therapist or game of tennis, is as easy as walking your dog in Jamieson Park, or attending lectures at the Botanical Gardens.
“I opened my two Wowhaus self-catering units on my property four years ago, and it’s worked brilliantly for ICC conferences (five minutes into town), and other Durban highlights. Wowhaus is walking distance to top restaurants, the racecourse and retail,” adds resident Stephanie Woodhouse.
“I’ve lived in Essenwood for decades, and even though my family wants me to move closer to them in Kloof, I’m not leaving here – it’s convenient to everything, and it’s home”
Claire Cross, resident
- Jamieson Park
- Mitchell Park
- Durban Botanic Gardens
- Killie Campbell Museum
- Royal Durban Golf Club
- Greyville Race Course
- Musgrave Centre
- Windermere Centre
- Overport City
- Charlie’s Bistro & Cafe, Windemere: bistro and café-style restaurant
- Market Restaurant, Greyville: simple, seasonal cuisine, using locally sourced ingredients
- Ninth Avenue Bistro, Morningside: small, personal restaurant
- Mama Luciano’s, Morningside: traditional Italian cuisine
- The Little India Restaurant, Musgrave: traditional Indian meals with a modern twist
- Palki Indian Restaurant, Musgrave: exclusive authentic Indian cuisine
- Country Bake: all things breakfast
- Netcare Parklands
- Life Entabeni
- Netcare St Augustines