Blyde River Canyon

Durban, the city of beautiful beaches, a diverse range of cultures and delicious Bunny Chows.

Durban often gets overlooked  and skipped by travelers in favour of the bigger major cities of Cape Town and Johannessburg. Although these cities are amazing and have much to see and do, we can’t forget about their coastal, laid back, little brother city that is Durban.

Kwa-Zulu Natal, the province that Durban is situated in, has an abundance of beautiful wildlife species living in some of South Africa’s most stunning landscapes and natural parks such as the Drakensburg Mountains, Isimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park to name a few.

But this post is all about Durban, so lets talk about it. Durban itself is a cultural melting pot of different cultures, races and foods. It’s main draw factor is it’s coastal lifestyle with its year round tropical, sunny weather and warm waters. This may come as a surprise to some but there is actually quite a lot to do in Durban, if you know where to look.

This is the Durban, the city I call home!!!

Things to do in Durban…

All of the Things to Do in Durban that I have written about in this post are in this map I have curated showcasing all the worthwile things to do and places to see in South Africa.

1. Cycle The Golden Mile

 The Golden Mile is one of the main tourist attractions in the Durban area. It stretches from Ushaka Beach (Where Ushaka Marine World is) all the way to Suncoast Casino, but the promenade goes on further all the way to Blue Lagoon if you are feeling fit, over 6km distance in total.

The wide stretch of golden sands, artificially separated by various piers, provides opportunities for sun-worshippers and swimmers to enjoy the sub-tropical sunshine and warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Most of the Mile’s beaches are protected year-round by lifeguards and shark nets. The Mile is also a well-known surfer’s haven.

To best experience the mile, you can cycle, skate or walk the length of it. Sunny Saturday mornings are my favourite time to visit, as that’s when you can experience ‘the energy of Durban’ at its best. You got surfers, runners, skaters, walkers, musicians and sun bathers all doing their thing and all contributing to the all round good vibes.

Most of Durban’s tourist attractions sit along this beautiful stretch of walkspace. You got Ushaka Marine World, Bay of Plenty with it’s Skatepark and Minitown, Suncoast Casino, Moses Mabhida Stadium, the Surfing Museum and a ton of beautiful beaches to swim in and restaurants to eat at.

This is hands down my favourite place to be in Durban!

Durban Golden Mile

2. Ushaka Marine World

uShaka Marine World is a 16-hectare theme park along the Durban beachfront. It comprises 8 attractions: UShaka Sea World, UShaka Wet ‘n Wild, UShaka Sea Animal Encounters Island, UShaka Beach, UShaka Village Walk, UShaka Kids World, UShaka Dangerous Creatures and Chimp & Zee. UShaka Sea World is the fifth largest aquarium in the world. uShaka Wet ‘n Wild water park has the highest slide in Africa.

Enjoy fun at Sea World, have a memorable meal at any one of the many restaurants (including the amazing Cargo Hold Shark Restaurant, situated in the themed shipwreck with a window into a shark tank), go shopping in over 11,250m² of retail space featuring clothing boutiques, outdoor gear, arts and crafts as well as indigenous and tourist-focused goods, information and services.

Located in the centre of uShaka Marine World you can experience the salt water aquarium with indoor and outdoor displays and exhibits, a 1200 seater dolphin stadium where you’ll be entertained by the world-famous Dolphins, the seal stadium and penguin rookery. In addition, Sea World offers edutainment tours behind the scenes and special interactive activities such as snorkelling through reefs and grottos and scuba dives.

Then there is Wet ‘n Wild World. A fresh water entertainment wonderland, Wet ‘n Wild World offers exhilarating fun and safe entertainment for the whole family. It features separate swimming pools for kids and adults, a relaxing river ride(rightly coined The Lazy River) and high speed chutes for the adrenaline junkies. My go to is a ride called ‘The Black Mamba’ a roller-coaster enclosed ride that sends you speeding round the curves at a gut-wrenching four metres per second in the dark. It makes for a thrilling experience and you’ll definitely come back for more. Another favourite is The Rush, the highest slide in Africa. This 18 meter drop is guaranteed to get the adrenalin pumping and your heart skipping a beat. Cross your legs, lean back and pray! P.S Wedgie alert

Overall if this is your first time visiting Durban, Ushaka Marine World is a must!!

Ushaka Marine World

3. Have a Picnic at Moses Mabhida Stadium

Probably the most dominating and most aesthetic feature of the Durban skyline is the Moses Mabhida Stadium, a soccer stadium built for the international 2010 Fifa World Cup with a simply ginormous, and I really do mean ginormous arch feature. The Stadium holds 55000 seats (expendable to 75000).

Moses Mabhida Stadium used to offer adventure activities such as the SkyCar ride to the top of the arch or walking 500 steps to the sky platform on the Adventure Walk, all Access Tours, Segway Tours and the world’s only stadium bungee-jump Big Swing could be found here (I’ve done it myself and it was a truly awesome experience). Last I heard, is that all these activities shut down over the Covid lockdown. I am not sure whether they are still open to the public so you may have to contact the stadium directly to find out.

The Stadium has a beautiful park round the back of it, that has jungle gyms for the kids, smooth marble pavement (perfect for longboarding) and plenty of green space to have a picnic. There is also a cafe there as well.

Moses Mahbida Staduim

4.Shop Local Crafts at Shongweni Farmers Market

Browsing through the endless food and crafts stores at Shongweni Market is a very good way to spend a Saturday morning in Durban. Every Saturday (and the last Sunday of every month) local traders sell everything from fresh produce, deli, food, crafts and art. The market has an ambience like no other, which is complimented by the local talented musicians who perform every week on two stages.

The market is a space for the whole family to enjoy and spend time together (pets included!), kids can run free and also take part in some of the activities such as The Shongweni Express Train rides, pony rides, merry-go-rounds, jungle gyms. If you would like to take a walk on the wild side they have a short nature trail. Adults are welcome to join together in The Standing Room in the main hall where they serve their very own craft beer and gin.

Shongweni Farmers Market

5.  Take a Stroll Down Florida Road

The buzz in Florida Road, Durban, starts in the early morning when the sidewalk cafes form the meeting point for friends, colleagues and shoppers alike. The energy continues throughout the day and well into the night, when the street’s clubs and bars come to life, earning Florida Road its reputation as one of Durban’s top night spots.

Feel the electric street vibe and unique, historic architecture on Florida Road as you explore a range of restaurants, galleries, boutiques, studios and bars. Florida Road has definitely earned its reputation as one of the city’s trendiest streets, where people gather to shop, eat, drink, meet and enjoy Durban’s seemingly endless summer.

Stretching from Sandile Thusi Road to Innes Road, there are dozens of carefully preserved historic buildings, including typical Edwardian structures that are more than 100 years old.

Florida Road

6. Walk to the Umhlanga Rocks Lighthouse

Umhlanga is an upmarket area of Durban, popular as weekend getaways for couples and families. It has a beautiful beach with a promenade that wraps around the many hotels that face the ocean. There is a 69 year old lighthouse that stands 21m tall. Just a 5 minute walk away is The Whalebone Pier, a pier that looks like the rib cage of a whale. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes in this area and Sibuya Casino and Gateway, Theatre of Shopping, are just a few minutes drive away.

Umhlanga Rocks

7. Shop Till You Drop at Gateway- Theatre of Shopping

Gateway – Theatre of Shopping not only prides itself on its sheer scale (being one of the largest shopping complexes in the Southern hemisphere), but also on its copious variety of world-class retail stores, eateries, events, entertainment and leisure facilities. From fine dining and elite fashion stores, to waffle bars, arcades and waterslides, it seems fair to say that this destination has it all. It also has an IMAX theatre for the ultimate cinema viewing experience.

Gateway - Theatre of Shopping

8. Umgeni Bird Park

If you want to see some pretty birds, this is your place

The Umgeni River Bird Park was designed and built by Dr Alan Abrey. It is situated in an old quarry site which used to contain water and was visited by Alan as a young boy growing up in Durban. When looking for a bird park site, he remembered it as a perfect option. After a year of extensive land filling, landscaping and aviary construction, the Umgeni River Bird Park was opened in April 1984 by the then mayor of Durban, Councillor Sybil Hotz.

The park is situated in 3.5 hectares of lush tropical landscaping and houses an ever-increasing collection of more than 800 birds from 200 species. Some species are the only representatives of their kind in Africa whilst others are commonly kept as pets.

The park offers bird shows from Tuesday to Sunday at 11am and 2pm, weather permitting.

9. Valley Of Thousand Hills

The Valley of 1000 Hills is named after the many hills, cliffs and valleys that rise up from the banks of the Umgeni River as it flows from the distant Drakensberg Mountains to the Indian Ocean. The valley has been home to the Zulu people for centuries, with many continuing to practice and live their unique traditional lifestyle. The hybrid European and Zulu culture is what makes it a desirable place to visit.

Experience both traditional and modern world renown Zulu culture, from customs to beliefs within urban to peri-urban, and rural to semi-rural settings.

World class B & B’s and boutique hotels offer the most needed relaxation for travelers, most of which are located within drivable and walkable distances to a number of upmarket shopping centers and local restaurants for both delicious food and live shows.

Guided or self-guided tours are on offer for hiking, canoeing, fishing, rock climbing, horse riding, quad and mountain biking.

Take home a little gift of the 1000 Hills when you visit the local craft markets and support local weavers and bead manufacturers.

Annual events such as the Comrades Marathon, the Amashova Durban Classic and Duzi Canoe Marathon all wind their way through this picturesque area drawing visitors from across the globe.

Valley of 1000 Hills

10. Victoria Street Market

The Victoria Street Market is rather like stepping into another world, with its blend of all things Indian and African. Spices and incense rent the air in which more than 200 stalls display their wares.

Indian music plays and mingles in with the chatter of stallholders and excited bargain hunters, pouring over brass ornaments, African carvings, finely crafted Jewellery and aromatic spices.

The Seafood and Meat Market offers a variety of the freshest and tastiest meat products; from succulent seafood to an interesting assortment of poultry and red meat products including Angelfish, Crabs, Prawns, Crayfish, Calamari, Trotters, Sheep heads, brains, goat meat., cornish hens, offal and roosters.

The Victoria Street Market is situated in central Durban amongst many other historically significant structures including The Juma Masjid Mosque, The Emmanuel Cathedral, The Early Morning Market and the Ghandi Library. These sites played significant roles in the struggle that formed the foundation of South Africa’s democracy

Victoria Street Market

11. Natal Maritime Museum

As one of South Africa’s busiest shipping ports, Durban’s maritime history is deeply ingrained in its culture and way of life. At the heart of this history is the Port Natal Maritime Museum, a place where visitors can explore the fascinating past of the port and the sea.

Located at the Bay end of Samora Machel Street, next to the BAT Centre, the museum offers a unique opportunity to experience maritime culture through a range of exhibits, including weather and navigational equipment, small boats, and three large retired ships. These include an old coal-fired engine from the early 1900s, a steam tugboat, and a navy minesweeper.

Natal Maritime Museum

12. Go Godzilla Mode at Minitown

One of the most unique things to do in Durban is to check out Minitown, a 1:24 Scale Model of a South African City. It is located in the Bay of Plenty next to the Durban Skatepark and is a very cool spot to go and check out at least once. The city is not a replica of Durban but there are many buildings in there that are unique Durban buildings, most of them sponsored by local businesses. And at only R40 a person it is super affordable outing for the family. Check it out

Mini Town

13. Learn about some Durban History at the Kwa Muhle Museum

Apartheid was a South African political regime that was based on discrimination, and was in effect from 1948 to 1994. It was a painful time for South Africa and its people, but it also played a major role in moulding the multifaceted face of freedom that this country now enjoys. The KwaMuhle Museum in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, is dedicated to looking at the apartheid system with an open mind, honouring those that fought against it and exploring its effects on modern society in a positive and optimistic light.

“Kwa muhle” is a Zulu term that means “the place of the good one” and was named in reference to its first manager, Mr Marwick. This man helped no fewer than 7 000 Zulu people to escape Gauteng (then called the Transvaal) during the Anglo-Boer War. He was thus instrumental in saving the lives of thousands of native South Africans in a time when their blood was sought by settlers and farmers.

The Kwa Muhle Museum was originally the offices of the Native Administration Department, a central cog in the machinery of apartheid and the center of Durban’s harsh system of labour control. It is a fitting irony that the museum now displays reconstructions of the oppressive environments experienced by the black population of South Africa under apartheid, offering a window into the harsh realities of the period.

It is one of only four major local history museums in Durban. The other museums under this umbrella are the Old House Museum, Old Court House Museum and the Port Natal Maritime Museum. Visiting each of these institutions will certainly give visitors a well rounded idea of past and present South Africa, and will impart important lessons on how to go about shaping the future.

The Durban Art Gallery and the eThekwini City Hall are both situated close to the museum, and are a fabulous addition to your cultural and historical experience of this bustling, modern city. In addition, city tours are available, giving visitors the opportunity to learn more about the coastal city and its national and international identity.

Entrance to the museum is free, and visitors are advised to set aside a few hours to explore the many exhibits and treasures that are concealed within the walls of this establishment. It is only closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Kwa Muhle

14. Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve

Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve is a 76 hectare reserve with the largest population of mangrove trees in the Durban area. The area is used as a Nature Conservation Education Centre. The black mangrove, the red mangrove, and the white mangrove may be seen.

An elevated boardwalk has been laid out as a trail around Beachwood, so even when the tide is in, it is possible to explore the reserve.
On the shoreline, there are sand dunes where creeping plants and pioneer scrub are to be found. There is some birdlife, including the Mangrove Kingfisher, Curlew and Water Dikkop. The Natal Nightjar may sometimes be heard. 

You can also expect to encounter the strange mudskippers – fish that use their pectoral fins to either skim over the water or to propel themselves across the mud. There are also thousands of fiddler crabs with their single large claw and an assortment of molluscs. There are three trails in the reserve, taking the visitors to the bird hide and to the swamp, where waders come to feed.

The Beachwood Mangroves Reserve is only open to the public every 3rd Saturday of every month from 08h00 to 13h00. Outside these dates, it is by appointment only. The Reserve is just off Riverside Road in Durban North

Read Also | 8 of the Best Day Hikes in Durban, South Africa

Beachwood Mangroves

15. Umgeni Steam Train

If you’re running out of steam on your holiday, take it easy looking out a train window while still taking in the country, it’s countryside and it’s history on one of South Africa’s oldest steam trains. Steam puffs as a journey runs on railway lines built in the early 1800’s serving as one of South Africa’s oldest functioning tracks.

Be pulled by a 1912 locomotive while seated in a carriage built in 1908 up some of the steepest railway gradients in South Africa (1:20 -1:50) through one of the oldest running tunnels, Drummond Tunnel (1880) to overlook the Valley of a 1000 Hills with its captivating landscape stretching as far back into history as steam can carry you.

Suitable for lone rangers and social set-ups choo-choo your way alone or with the family or a group of friends. Standard excursions explore KwaZulu Natal landscapes on the rails between Kloof and Inchanga.

Kloof’s Stokers Arms Station refreshes locomotive travellers with an ice-cold pub beer at the authentic station restaurant.

The Colonial station of Inchanga has a buzzing Inchanga Craft Market where rail travellers can buy handmade crafts and home-made food. Special excursions take in the scenery of Baynesfiled, Crammond / Bon Accord, Nottingham, Wartburg and Pietermaritzburg on rail.

Annual festivals and fairs, the Comrades Marathon and Carols by Candlelight also stoke up the engine and grease the wheels for a ride to cherish. The Umgeni Railway is the Non Profit Organisation Home of the locomotives that could… and still can.

Umgeni Steam Train

16. An Evening of Fun at the Suncoast Casino

Suncoast Casino, Hotels and Entertainment is an entertainment complex situated at the northern end of Durban’s Golden Mile, adjacent to the Kings Park Sporting Precinct. Besides the casino, the complex houses many restaurants, a beach bar, cinemas and its own semi-private beach, which was rated as one of the top 3 beaches in South Africa. The design of the complex is aimed to complement the vast art deco heritage that is found across Durban. Suncoast houses the largest Casino complex in South Africa

Suncoast Casino

17. Durban Botanic Gardens

Developed in 1849, the Durban Botanic Gardens is the oldest surviving botanical garden in Africa and Durban’s first public institution. Visitors can enjoy picnics surrounded by collections of indigenous and exotic plants including cycads, orchids, bromeliads, and palms. The Garden also has a unique selection of trees from all over the world as well as 80 heritage trees which, in many cases, are over 100 years old.

The Durban Botanic Gardens is host to a number of social events, including the popular Old Mutual Music at the Lake events, Victorian-style tea parties, and the annual indigenous plant fair in September.

Entrance is Free!

Durban Botanic Gardens

18. Mitchells Park Zoo

Mitchell Park Zoo, also known as Mitchell Park or Mitchell’s Park, is situated in the Morningside suburb of Durban. Holding claim to being the only zoo in Durban, Mitchell Park was initially established as an ostrich farm in 1910. After an unprofitable start, other animals were introduced and it became home to many large animals; most notably an Indian Elephant called Nellie, who was given to the zoo by the Maharajah of Mysore in 1928. She could blow a mouth organ and crack coconuts with her feet.

Today the Zoo holds various smaller animals such as blue duiker, small South American Monkeys, raccoons and various birds. The largest animals in the zoo today are Aldabra giant tortoises.

The zoo also includes a children’s playground, a walk-through aviary, and the Blue Zoo tea garden, as well as a large lawn area for picnics. It is adjacent to Jameson Park, which was once a pineapple plantation and now displays some 200 species of roses.

Mitchell Park Zoo

19. Kwa-Zulu Natal Society of Arts(KZNSA)

Founded in 1902, the KZNSA is KwaZulu-Natal’s foremost contemporary gallery, hosting artists of national and international stature, and reflecting the vibrant creative heart of the province. It is a not-for-profit, public benefit organisation committed to the promotion of contemporary arts and linked to an extensive network of national institutions that also promote and catalyse cultural change.

Fundamentally, KZNSA is an inclusive society where the public, fellow educators, students and artists gather to share their common interests in the unique and intimate space of the gallery. In addition to exhibitions, some of which are curated by South African artists who debuted at the gallery and have gone on to achieve international acclaim, there are artist-led educational initiatives, an annual gallery member fair, as well as retail partnership opportunities.

KZNSA

 20. Southern Rock Climbing Center

Maybe I’m a little biased here because Southern Rock is such a special place for me personally and a lot of my friends in the climbing space but this climbing gym situated in New Germany, is the perfect place to go for an fun and action-packed outing with family and friends.

Southern Rock serves as the central hub for the local climbing community in Durban,  a close-knit and welcoming group of people always down for some adventures, both climbing and non-climbing related. Local climbers congregate here in the evenings and climb together in a safe, encouraging and positive atmosphere, and then hit the local crags on the weekend for some amazing outdoor climbing.

Southern Rock is a climbing gym that will keep you and your friends and family entertained for hours. And they are open 7 days a week!!!

Southern Rock Climbing Center

21. Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve

The 253 hectare Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is regarded as one of the finest coastal / riverine forest and bush clump / grassland mosaic areas remaining in the greater Durban area.

The land was a bequest from a man named Kenneth Stainbank, hence the name, and aside from the wonderful plant life, you also get to see zebra, bushbuck, reedbuck, impala, blue, red and grey duiker, vervet monkeys, mongoose, bushbabies and dassies or rock hyrax. There are even night drives that one can arrange.

Over and above the 13 kilometres of nature walks there is also a 10 kilometre mountain bike trail, regarded as moderately challenging – in other words, a good weekend ride that won’t see you exhausted, and Durban’s mountain bikers enjoy the reserve as a refuge.

Kenneth Steinbank Nature Reserve

22. Natural Science Museum

The Durban Natural Science Museum was founded on July 23, 1887, and has been open to the public for over 120 years. Its mission is to acquire and disseminate knowledge about the Earth, its history, and life on Earth, both past and present. To achieve this, the museum has dynamic and innovative research and education programs that focus on biodiversity conservation and ecology.

One of the museum’s standout features is its realistic dioramas or habitat groups, which depict different ecosystems and the animals that live in them. These dioramas are a great way to learn about wildlife and their habitats in a realistic setting. In addition to the dioramas, the museum has a life-size T. rex model, a near-complete Dodo skeleton, and an authentic Egyptian mummy named Peten Amen, among other exhibits.

The museum is open to the public 363 days a year, and admission is free. Visitors can explore the Hall of Earth Sciences Gallery, which features exhibits on the origins of Africa and the geology of the region. The museum also has an extensive collection of stuffed insects, birds, fish, and reptiles that provide evidence of their existence on Earth.

Durban Natural Science Museum

23. Hillcrest Paintball

Hillcrest Paintball, located in Botha’s Hill part of the greater upper highway area. Comprising of a variety of paintball fields making this Durban’s finest paintball venue.

With 5 game scenarios and 2 paintball arena’s your visit to Hillcrest Paintball is bound to get you adrenaline pumping and heart racing! No matter what event you are planning Hillcrest Paintball has everything you may need and should you find you would like to purchase equipment you can pop into the shop for a wide selection of paintball equipment and accessories.

Paintball

24. Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park

Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Trails is one of the best mountain bike trails to experience in SA.

Chris Harburn decided to cut additional paths on land he had purchased called Stockville Quarry in 2007, and Giba Gorge Adventure Park was born. Subsequently, these were the humble beginnings of what is now known as Giba Gorge Adventure Park.

Since its inception, the Giba Gorge mountain bike trail has grown in popularity plus momentum, thanks to the continuing assistance from friends and outdoor enthusiasts. The active Giba community deserves credit for maintaining the park’s high standards.

Giba Gorge MTB Park caters for all kinds of riders, which works well with the current diversification of South African mountain biking. In addition, a UCI-level BMX track hosts events and offers kids a safe, fun riding zone.

Giba Gorge Mountain BIke Center

25. Phezulu Safari Park

Phezulu Safari Park is an exciting tourism venue, situated in Botha’s Hill, only 35 km’s from central Durban. PheZulu Safari Park is a highly recommended KwaZulu Natal game lodge providing a wildlife experience for discerning tourists visiting Valley of 1000 Hills.

At Phezulu village, the world famous Gasa clan has over the last 30 years, allowed visitors to Phezulu the opportunity to savour the taste and feel the rhythm of Africa. Visitors are taken into traditional beehive shaped thatched huts, where the various artefacts, beliefs and rituals are explained.

During your stay you can enjoy a game drive where you can see zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, blesbok and a variety of bird and plant species. There is also a crocodile and snake park that you can visit during your stay.

Phezulu Safari Park

26. Listen to Live Jazz at the BAT Center

The BAT Centre is a community arts development and cultural entertainment centre located within the Small Craft Harbour off Durban’s Victoria Embankment. It consists of a variety of facilities ranging from a number of intimate art galleries, to a small conference centre, a performance hall, dance studio, art and music studios, a restaurant, bar and outside deck, and a number of shops selling local contemporary and traditional art, mostly from KwaZulu-Natal. Jazz events are a regular occurance almost every Sunday afternoon.

When I visited the BAT Centre I was inspired by the various artists passion for the arts. I was very fortunate to get a private tour of the art exhibition that was being shown(which changes once a month) as well as a behind the scenes look into one of the artists personal studio and I loved to see creativity and art explored in such a positive way.

BAT Center

27. Go for a Hike in KransKloof Gorge Nature Reserve

The Krantzkloof Nature Reserve a beautiful reserve where visitors can enjoy sightings of the abundant wildlife which includes Zebra, bushbuck, vervet monkey among others. As well as over 200 recorded species of birdlife and a variety of indigenous flora, the reserve also has picnic site, waterfall, walking and hiking trails and a small conference centre.

Krantzkloof Nature reserve offers spectacular views across the well forested gorge cut by the Molweni River. Most of the Krantzkloof Nature reserve’s 532 hectares is covered by dense forest and vegetation.

The reserve’s best known attraction is the well developed picnic area adjacent to the dam at the head of Kloof Falls.

This Gorge is also a popular spot for climbing.

Kloof Gorge

So as you can see there is plenty of cool things to do in Durban. This is an evolving list so it may change over the years as new activities are added and some taken away. 

What is your Favourite place in Durban and what are your favourite activities to do in this beautiful city?  Did I miss anything? Lets hear your thoughts in the comments 

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