Hillcrest was formerly a sleepy village, governed by its own Town Board  on the outskirts of Durban that has now become a booming suburb incorporated into the eThekwiniMetropolitan Municipality. Hill Crest (as the town's name was variously spelt until 1969) was founded on a rise in the main road from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in 1895 as a farming or "weekend" village, then a good distance from what was the emerging port of Port Natal. The village was laid out as leasehold sites on a portion of the farm Albinia owned by William Gillitt, one of the main pioneer families of the area and after which the nearby suburb of Gillitts is named.
One of the other early families to set up in the area was the Acutts who had already established the well known in Durban estate agents firm of that name. In 1903 the first school in the village was established in a wood and iron cottage in Hospital Road leased to a Mrs McMillian, the principal of the first Highbury School, by Horace Acutt.
When the first Hillcrest Health Committee was established in 1943, the total all-race population was 1135 persons and only the Main Road was hardened. Nkutu Road was hardened with klinker in 1947 and this was followed in 1951 with the hardening of the first portion of Inanda Road. In 1962 blacktopping of selected roads in the central area began, followed by further roads in 1965. By 1971, when Town Board status was obtained, the total population had grown to 2799 persons.
The Hillcrest Waste Water Treatment Plant was finally established in the 1990s, then serving only the central commercial area of the village with phased extensions planned in time, with other areas continuing on septic tanks.
The town celebrated its centenary in 1995 and has since then seen an incredible increase in inhabitants migrating from more central areas in Durban
Hillcrest lost its independent Town Board status in 1996 and was made subject to administration by the Outer West Local Council - a substructure council of the then Durban Unicity. In 2000, the Outer West Local Council, along with other local councils, was disestablished and were replaced by the single eThekwini Municipality encompasing the entire Durban metropolitan area.
The suburb of Hillcrest experienced a building boom in the late 1990s and 2000s with the construction of many gated communities and shopping centres.