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TThe Royal Natal Yacht Club (RNYC) in Durban is the perfect place to sip on a gin and tonic as you watch the yachts in the harbour, revelling in KwaZulu-Natal’s balmy subtropical weather. Once known as the Durban Regatta Club, this esteemed yacht club is a recognised mainstay of the Durban social scene.
The RNYC is situated at the Yacht Mole in Durban harbour and dates back to early colonial days in Port Natal, when the gentlemanly pursuit of yachting was high on the social and sporting agenda – the earliest mentions of yachting in Durban (as the Port Natal settlement was renamed in 1835) crop up in diaries from the 1840s. Much of the history of early Durban can be linked to this club, and the early regattas were always popular occasions.
The club’s fascinating history began in 1858, when the Durban Regatta Club was formed to host Durban’s first official sailing regatta – making it the oldest yacht club in Africa (and the fifth-oldest in the southern hemisphere). In 1863, it became the Natal Yacht Club and in 1891, much to the delight of the many British emigrants who had settled in the port city, it was officially granted a royal charter (the eighth club in the world to be so designated) and declared the Royal Natal Yacht Club.
These days, the RNYC is an active yacht club with racing on offer. Wednesday evenings in summer are good for sundowner sailing, while dinghy racing takes place on Saturday afternoons – and Sundays are for keelboat racing.
The club is open to the general public, not members only, and guests can enjoy the grandeur of yachting with a modern twist, as the clubhouse is available for a delicious meal or drinks at the end of the day. The Britannia Room is situated on the upper level of the club with incredible views over the Durban Marina. Sunday carvery lunches here are legendary, and the kitchen is known to serve a good Indian curry.
The Lower Deck is where diners can enjoy relaxed meetings, breakfasts or lunches, and it opens onto the lawns, where visitors enjoy alfresco dining on the grass overlooking Durban's harbour.
There is also a swimming pool and a jungle gym for the children.
There are regular regattas, and the sight of yachts in full sail out on the Indian Ocean or coming into the harbour is certainly something to behold.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Royal Natal Yacht Club
Yacht Mole, Durban Harbour
Telephone: +27 (0)31 301 5425
How to get here
From the M4, take the offramp onto Margaret Mncadi Avenue (previously named Victoria Embankment). At the third set of traffic lights follow the signage to the Yacht Mole.
Best time to visit
Breakfast starts at 7am on the Lower Deck. The Brittania Room opens from 11 am. Durban weather is temperate all year round, except in the depths of summer (late November to mid-March), when it can get very hot and humid.
Around the area
The famous Roma Revolving Restaurant, at the top of John Ross House, is just a few hundred metres down Margaret Mncadi Avenue from the Yacht Mole entrance. It makes a great spot for dinner after a day at the Royal Natal Yacht Club, if you really want to understand the geography of Durban.
Roma serves an Italian menu that hasn’t changed – or declined in popularity – since the 1970s, while diners are entertained by the room making a slow pirouette throughout their meal, allowing them to take in the full 360⁰ panorama of the downtown CBD and Durban North, the extensive Berea Ridge, the harbour, the Bluff and the Point, and the Indian Ocean seafront.
Tours to do
Take a cruise round Durban harbour. Various operators offer boat trips and sundowner cruises.
Where to stay
Durban is a great holiday destination, and there is a lot of accommodation available. You might want to stay at the famous Royal Hotel, a block up from the yacht basin.
What to eat
The Sunday carvery in the Britannia Room is a must. Or treat yourself to breakfast on the Lower Deck. The Royal Natal Yacht Club also boasts the best fish and chips in town.