The Colourful South African Gateway City of Durban

Landmarks & Icons

Golden Mile in Durban, South Africa

If I were asked to say which two South Africa destinations are the most popular with travellers to that country, I would have to say Cape Town and Kruger National Park. So why mention this in an article about Durban? Well, the answer is simply that Durban makes a perfect stopover en route from one to the other. It is also very accessible from other points in South Africa.

Durban is a very important tourist centre because of its warm subtropical climate and excellent sandy beaches. Located in the state of KwaZulu-Natal, it is also the gateway to several national parks and historic sites in Zululand and the Drakensberg Mountains.

Drakensburg Mountains, South Africa
Drakensburg Mountains

Let’s not stop there. Durban is an ethnically diverse city with a cultural richness. It has a large number of people of British descent and, to the best of my knowledge, is home to the largest concentration of people of Indian descent, outside of India. Check out the marketplaces selling spices such as Victoria Street Market and you will see the Asian influences. Spread out over more than 170 stalls, the vendors here offer a range of both African and Oriental products.

Durban’s Beaches

A popular stretch of beachfront, the Golden Mile runs along the centre of the city. The wide stretch of golden sands, separated by various piers, provides excellent opportunities for both sunbathers and swimmers to enjoy the subtropical sunshine and warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Most of the Mile’s beaches are protected year-round by lifeguards and shark nets. It is also a popular surfer’s haven. The South Beach end is a safe place for beginner surfers.

As you walk along the front, you will see a mix of residential apartments and hotels with some remnants of Durban’s Art Deco architecture still in evidence. There is also a good selection of restaurants and nightclubs.

Mention should also be made of the resort village of Umhlanga Rocks, located on one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere. It is situated 16 kilometres/ 10 miles north of Durban and offers excellent accommodation, from luxury hotels to lodges and B&B’s. This golden beach stretches another 200 kilometres/120 miles further north.

Lighthouse at Umhlanga Beach in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Lighthouse at Umhlanga Beach

Durban Entertainment

uShaka Marine World is a 16 hectare/40 acre theme park which is comprised of four sections: uShaka Sea World, uShaka Wet ‘n Wild, uShaka Beach, and uShaka Village Walk. Located on a strip of land between the beachfront and the harbour, uShaka Sea World is the fifth largest aquarium in the world. The underground aquarium is designed around five shipwrecks. You will find several restaurants at the “Phantom Ship”, which is also serves as the entrance to the underground aquarium. uShaka Sea World is home to various shark species, large rays including eagle rays, and local moray species including honeycomb morays and geometric morays. There are also dolphin and seal shows and penguin, shark, and ray feeding at various times during the day.

Dolphin Show at uShaka Marine World, Durban, South Africa
Dolphin show at uShaka Marine World

The Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World is on Durban’s Golden Mile. Built in Art Deco style, it illuminates the sky with its 6 kilometres/3.5 miles of neon lighting. It is the largest casino in South Africa. Imagine, the casino has 1330 slot machines and 50 gaming tables. It also has a private beach, one of the best in the country. There are 8 movie houses and it is home to the 18m Supernova screen, the largest cinema screen in the province.

Cultural Pursuits

If culturally inclined, you can spend time at the Durban Art Gallery, located under the City Hall’s impressive dome. It’s a small gallery but has an interesting collection of South African works including paintings, mixed media, and ceramics. It also has temporary and rotating exhibitions.

The Durban Natural Science Museum is also at City Hall and has an impressive display of stuffed birds and insects plus African animals. Check out the reconstructed dodo and the life-size dinosaur model.

City Hall of Durban, South Africa
Durban’s City Hall

Durban for Nature Lovers

Burman Bush is a nature reserve situated 8 kilometres/5 miles north of Durban. It is a small coastal forest and contains three walking trails that wind through the forest and allow visitors to view the various flora and fauna. A viewing platform at the outer walk’s northern extremity allows sweeping views of the region. The reserve has the city’s largest population of blue duiker, grey duiker, banded and slender mongoose, porcupines, and troops of vervet monkeys. Its birdlife includes green wood hoopoes, fork-tailed and square-tailed drongos, red-capped robin-chats, yellow-breasted apalises, and paradise flycatchers.

The Durban Botanic Garden, Durban’s oldest public institution and Africa’s oldest surviving botanical garden, is renowned for its indigenous and exotic plant collections from the subtropics as well as many other stunning flowers and more than 80 magnificent heritage trees. A variety of birds, butterflies, and tiny reed frogs compliment the flora. The Orchid House has a spectacular collection of orchids, each with distinctive and vividly colourful blooms.

The Valley of 1000 Hills is a tranquil and very scenic area situated inland just a 30 minute drive from Durban. The highlights of 1000 Hills attractions include Phezulu Safari Park, which offers game drives, the Cultural Village, and  Reptile Park, just to mention a few. Then there is the Umgeni Stream Railway train which is a 100-year-old choo-choo that you can take on a day trip through the bustling villages of 1000 Hills.

Common Gray Duiker, South Africa
Gray duiker

Sports Anyone?

There are at least 5 golf courses in Durban itself and 3 in Umhlanga. This includes the Durban Country Club, which was voted one of the World’s Top 100 Golf Courses by Golf Magazine, USA. Here you can enjoy gorgeous views out over the Indian Ocean after your round of golf.

Suggested Itinerary:
9-Day Rovos Rail Safari – Pretoria to Pretoria

Rugby is an extremely popular national pastime in South Africa, and the team in Durban is known as the Natal Sharks. Being a rugby fan myself, I have enjoyed watching a game in the relaxed atmosphere of the stadium, where six packs of beer being brought in by spectators is commonplace.

The amazing Comrades Marathon runs from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and vice versa on alternate years. It is the world’s oldest and largest ultra-marathon, being 90 kilometres/56 miles in length. (A regular marathon is only 42.2 kilometres/26.2 miles long.)

Blooming Tree in Wylie Park, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Blooming tree in Wylie Park, Pietermaritzburg

So, if you can feel the warmth and sense the exotic flavour of Durban, why not take a few days and enjoy some time in a very attractive but different South African city.

For more information on a Durban vacation, visit us at www.goway.com.

Suggested Day Trip:
Durban: City Half Day Tour

Suggested Itinerary:
3-Day Umhlanga – Durban
4-Day Oyster Box: Stay of Distinction