Durban, South Africa’s second largest coastal city, is known for its Golden Mile beaches and its jogging, surfing, cycling, scuba diving, bodyboarding, dolphin viewing, jet-skiing, shark cage-diving, canoeing, boat cruising, sunbathing lifestyle.
As Lonely Planet so aptly puts it: ‘Durban is a window into life aquatic‘.
Yet Durban is no longer the poorer cousin. It co-hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup, COP17 in 2011, and in 2022 will be the first African city to host the Commonwealth Games. The city already hosts the annual Comrades Marathon, Dusi Canoe Marathon, Amashova Cycle Race, Midmar Mile and Durban Handicap July.
That Durban inspires visitors with its beaches is a no-brainer. But there are plenty of other tourist routes to explore the city and its surrounds – Rivertown, the Docklands, nature reserves, its markets, gardens, historical monuments, mosques and temples.
Here are 7 routes Durban – great ways to explore the city of beaches…
Set in the heart of Durban’s central city, this tour explores the grit and grime of the markets around Victoria Street. This is backstage Durban at its best. Nine markets coincide at the Victoria Street Market, just beyond Durban’s business district.
The tour is an assault of the senses – spices mix with soups, grilling meat, the squawk of chickens, the delight of brightly coloured garments, hats, beads and the noise of countless CD vendors each outdoing the other when it comes to blaring music through portable stereos on Music Bridge Market.
The Herb Market, up on the abandoned motorway off-ramp, and the Impepho and Lime Market, are highlights of this loud and informal market sector of Durban. This is a great tour for any visitor to the city.
2. Walking route
City walks are a world-wide trend with cities like New York marketing themselves as the most ‘walked’ city in the world. Now there are phone apps like gpsmycity and, locally, voicemap.me making walks accessible to all. Known also as ‘urban ambling’, walking tours have taken Durban by storm. Now visitors can explore parts of the city, on foot, not featured in the average tourist brochure.
BESET Durban and Dala are two organisations providing walks with a difference. Beset fly in the face of the perception that there is nothing to do in Durban, and works to engage with the city in a way that is an experience, not a walk.
Aimed mainly at getting Durbanites out of malls and their houses and onto the streets, the walks appreciate architecture and the built environment to create an awareness of the city.
Dala too comes from an architectural perspective, providing an investigative journey into Durban’s spaces. Both are worth doing.
An historical account of the Midlands of KZN, this route is a fantastic insight into the battles fought in the in-lands of KwaZulu Natal between Boer and Brit, and Brit and Zulu army– the Battle of Blood River, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift are but three of the famous battles fought.
But be warned: this route is not a simple one-day affair. Pick up KZN Tourism’s Battlefields Route brochure, or refer to www.battlefields.kzn.org.za for more information. The battlefields can occupy days at a time.
The advice is to choose an era, war or campaign and then visit the applicable sites, for a deeper appreciation of this period in history.
The Inanda Valley holds a whole history waiting to be discovered; of a history not only important to Durban but to the whole country.
The route centres around Mahatma Gandhi’s settlement in Phoenix is where he developed his philosophy of passive resistance whilst working as a lawyer in South Africa, and the Ohlange Institute, founded by another remarkable man, and friend of Gandhi’s – John Dube – who was both the ANC’s first president and a man with utopian principles and ideals.
See also the Inanda Seminary and the Shembe Church’s Ebuhleni village, the Inanda Dam and various local initiatives. For further information contact Durban Tourism.
This extensive route heads from Durban’s beaches up through the forests of the north and south coasts and on into the reaches of the Drakensberg Mountains and the Lowveld.
The different habitats and the extensive bird list (550 species) that includes rare endemics like the Cape parrot, Drakensberg rock-jumper, blue swallow, bearded vulture and all three crane species make this a wonderful opportunity for twitchers and bird fanatics.
Craft beer has a niche of its own in the valleys and hills of KZN. From lagers, ales and stouts to beers and pilsners with a difference, beer from local brew masters will have you hopping from Durban to the Midlands.
Durban, sadly, has but one microbrewery, That Brewing Company, a ‘brewpub-restaurant’ on Station Road in amongst the other Rivertown trendies (coffee roastery and artists).
Other breweries include Zulu Blonde, Quills, Robsons, Bardwell, Lions River, Notties Draught, the Toti Brewing Company, Basset, Odyssey, Old Main Brewery and more. Get hold of a copy of Holger Meier’s Beer Book for a comprehensive guide to KwaZulu-Natal’s , and the rest of the country’s, beers.
The Valley of 1000 Hills pretty much regards itself as the ‘gateway’ to the Midlands and is worth a drive in its own right, if not for its beauty, then for its attractions.
It’s only 30 minutes’ drive from Durban and is home to its own selection of artists and crafters working on anything from wood to clay, leather goods, and glass beads.
Studios and galleries are open to visitors, otherwise the Arts and Crafts Village is a good alternative.