Things to do in Durban

Durban's beautiful subtropical climate means the city enjoys a relaxed outdoor lifestyle that makes it a great destination to visit at any time of the year. Renovations for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 revitalised tourist infrastructure, ensuring that there's always plenty to see and do in Durban.

The first place to start sightseeing in Durban is definitely the beach, with the city's famed Golden Mile stretching four miles (6km) from the neon-lit Suncoast Casino in the north to uShaka Marine World in the south. The Golden Mile is famous for its mild water temperatures, great surf spots, and beautiful settings.

There are plenty of beach bars and restaurants to choose from when enjoying a sundowner cocktail or local beer. The beaches are patrolled by colourful rickshaws, which visitors can hire for a royal trip down the promenade.

uShaka Marine World in South Beach is one of Durban's major tourist attractions, and its massive aquariums display fish and marine life from all over the world. Its Wet n' Wild Waterpark includes water rides ranging from gentle to extreme. Visitors can even go shark diving or snorkelling for an up close and personal experience with the creatures beneath the waves. It's a relatively short walk from the Golden Mile, and opens right onto the beach.

The Durban Botanic Gardens are centrally located in Greyville and are accessible by bus or taxi. They are beautifully maintained and have one of the best collections of plants in the world. They host regular Sunday afternoon concerts, and are a great place to take the kids for a relaxed picnic. The Gardens are popular for wedding pictures as well, and bridal parties can often be spotted there on Saturdays.

More adventurous travellers will want to take advantage of the plethora of water sports available in Durban, including surfing, swimming, and kiteboarding along the Golden Mile. Available too are snorkelling and scuba diving adventures among the shipwrecks at Aliwal Shoal or simple boat cruises in the harbour.

Those more comfortable on land can enjoy hikes through the Mangrove Swamp or spotting zebras, rhinos, hippos, and other game in the Kenneth Steinbank Reserve or Tala Valley. Most attractions in Durban are relatively safe, as long as travellers refrain from wearing expensive jewellery and clothing and showing expensive cameras. It is always best to stay in a group when walking around in urban areas, and visitors should never walk around after dark.

Francis Farewell Square photo

Francis Farewell Square

This historic square in the middle of Durban is the spot where the city originated as a tiny settlement of itinerant traders and hunters in the early 19th century. It is named for …

Francis Farewell Square

This historic square in the middle of Durban is the spot where the city originated as a tiny settlement of itinerant traders and hunters in the early 19th century. It is named for Henry Francis Flynn, one of the prominent inhabitants of the time. Around the square are some interesting sights, particularly the 1910 City Hall on the south side, which is an exact replica of the City Hall of Belfast, Ireland. On the first floor of the City Hall is the Natural Science Museum, which has an interesting insect section and an array of stuffed animals that delight children despite being somewhat old-fashioned. On the second floor is the renowned Durban Art Gallery.

uShaka Marine World photo

uShaka Marine World

uShaka Marine World is the largest marine theme park in Africa. The park is tastefully themed with African imagery and has five zones offering entertainment, dining, shops, water s…

uShaka Marine World

uShaka Marine World is the largest marine theme park in Africa. The park is tastefully themed with African imagery and has five zones offering entertainment, dining, shops, water slides, and access to uShaka Beach. Wet 'n Wild contains a number of water thrills, ranging from heart-stopping, adrenalin-pumping rides to lazy activities for the less adventurous. There is an aquarium with thousands of fish, reptiles, and aquatic mammals on display; a dolphinarium that performs regular musical shows; a penguin rookery; and underwater activities such as snorkelling and the 'shark walk'. The Village Walk features the Dangerous Creatures exhibit, which includes spiders, snakes, frogs, scorpions, and other poisonous creatures. uShaka is also involved in marine animal rescue and rehabilitation.

Website www.ushakamarineworld.co.za

KwaMuhle Museum photo

KwaMuhle Museum

The KwaMuhle Museum focuses on the history of race laws in KwaZulu-Natal, showing the experiences of local people through multimedia presentations. It is housed in a building that …

KwaMuhle Museum

The KwaMuhle Museum focuses on the history of race laws in KwaZulu-Natal, showing the experiences of local people through multimedia presentations. It is housed in a building that was once the Department of Native Affairs, from which the infamous labour system was administrated. KwaMuhle means 'place of the good one' in honour of a white man who ran the department, but did his best to fight the system from within. Though this museum provides a fascinating and very personal look at the diverse and difficult cultural history of the region, it is ultimately an old-fashioned museum that doesn't have much to offer small kids or those who demand a state-of-the-art interactive museum experience.

Juma Masjid Mosque photo

Juma Masjid Mosque

Construction of the Juma Masjid Mosque began in 1881, with renovations continuing until 1943. It is KwaZulu-Natal's first mosque, as well as one of the oldest and largest mosques i…

Juma Masjid Mosque

Construction of the Juma Masjid Mosque began in 1881, with renovations continuing until 1943. It is KwaZulu-Natal's first mosque, as well as one of the oldest and largest mosques in the Southern Hemisphere. Travellers will note that its golden-domed minarets dominate the central Indian district of downtown Durban, and that its muezzin can be heard from many parts of the city as it calls the faithful to prayer. Its architecture is a mix of classic Mughal Indian and colonial South African features, and there is space inside for up to 5,000 worshippers. Visitors are welcome on weekdays and Saturdays but the mosque is closed on Sundays.

Durban Botanic Gardens photo

Durban Botanic Gardens

Established in 1849, Durban's Botanical Gardens are the oldest surviving botanic garden on the African continent, and the city's oldest natural attraction. Located on Sydenham Hill…

Durban Botanic Gardens

Established in 1849, Durban's Botanical Gardens are the oldest surviving botanic garden on the African continent, and the city's oldest natural attraction. Located on Sydenham Hill Road (west of the Greyville Race Track), the gardens provide a relaxing spot to stroll among huge indigenous and exotic trees, and a stunning orchid house display. The gardens are also abuzz with birdlife and boast a lovely charity tea garden. Visitors can go for a picnic under the trees or by the pond, but should leave the sports equipment behind, as frisbee and ball games are not allowed. The gardens are a popular spot for wedding photos on Saturdays, and once a month they host a Sunday afternoon concert that attracts thousands of Durbanites.

Website www.durbanbotanicgardens.org.za

The BAT Centre photo

The BAT Centre

The BAT Centre is a haven for artists and musicians. Located on the Victoria Embankment beside the Durban harbour, its name is an acronym for Bartle Arts Trust, the organisation th…

The BAT Centre

The BAT Centre is a haven for artists and musicians. Located on the Victoria Embankment beside the Durban harbour, its name is an acronym for Bartle Arts Trust, the organisation that helped found the centre. BAT features a studio where traditional artists can work; a hall that hosts concerts, conventions and festivals; exhibition galleries; a music store and drum shop where handcrafted wooden drums are made; and a restaurant serving authentic African dishes from all over the continent. There are stunning views of the harbour from the restaurant deck, which hosts live jazz music on Sundays. Nearby is the Maritime Museum, which details the history of the harbour and houses a restored tugboat and other interesting exhibits.

Website www.batcentre.co.za

Zululand Battlefields photo

Zululand Battlefields

Zululand is the ancestral home of the Zulu people and was the site of many bloody battles between the British, the Zulus and the Afrikaners during the 19th century. The area is bes…

Zululand Battlefields

Zululand is the ancestral home of the Zulu people and was the site of many bloody battles between the British, the Zulus and the Afrikaners during the 19th century. The area is best explored as a self-drive adventure, though many tours are available from Durban. Almost every town in this part of northern KwaZulu-Natal has a story to tell or an event to commemorate. Tourism offices throughout the region provide maps and guides to help visitors make the most of the culture, history, scenery and wildlife. The landscape varies from plains and rolling hills, to river valleys and lush forests, and it once encompassed the legendary king Shaka Zulu's kingdom.

Website www.battlefieldsroute.co.za/tours/zululand-tours/


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iSimangaliso / St Lucia Wetland Park photo

iSimangaliso / St Lucia Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the largest and most exciting in a string of game parks and nature reserves in KwaZulu-Natal's far north. Still known to many by its former name, St Lu…

iSimangaliso / St Lucia Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the largest and most exciting in a string of game parks and nature reserves in KwaZulu-Natal's far north. Still known to many by its former name, St Lucia Wetland Park, it is dominated by the fascinating St Lucia estuary and lake system, and includes eight distinct ecosystems, which vary from dry thorn scrub to tropical forest. Some of the world's highest dunes border them. The park also encloses three major lake systems, beautiful beaches, tropical reefs, Africa's largest estuarine system, and most of South Africa's remaining swamp forests. This is the only place in the world where hippos, crocodiles and sharks co-habit the same lagoon. The Wetland Park was declared South Africa's first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Website www.isimangaliso.com

Midlands Meander photo

Midlands Meander

The popular Midlands Meander arts and crafts route winds through the Midlands, along the R103 road. It takes in a plethora of participating attractions dotted across the countrysid…

Midlands Meander

The popular Midlands Meander arts and crafts route winds through the Midlands, along the R103 road. It takes in a plethora of participating attractions dotted across the countryside, ranging from herb farms to antique shops. The Meander covers about 50 miles (80km) between the towns of Pietermaritzburg and Mooi River, and showcases the lovely Midlands landscapes as much as anything else. A really fun and artistic way to explore this beautiful region, the Midlands Meander is a must for those who enjoy quaint teahouses and creativity. The Meander includes adventure activities, historic landmarks, restaurants and eateries, conference and wedding facilities and the shops and studios of something like 150 talented local artists and craftsmen.

Website www.midlandsmeander.co.za

Drakensberg Mountains photo

Drakensberg Mountains

The jagged peaks of the Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains) tower over KwaZulu Natal's eastern border, providing a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The Drakensberg is the highest mount…

Drakensberg Mountains

The jagged peaks of the Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains) tower over KwaZulu Natal's eastern border, providing a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The Drakensberg is the highest mountain range in southern Africa and abounds with hiking trails, climbing routes, 4x4 trails, pony treks and adventure pursuits, all accessible from numerous resorts in the lower reaches. Some of the more popular resorts are Champagne Castle, Cathkin Peak, and Cathedral Peak, while Giant's Castle and its game reserve are famed for the more than 500 rock paintings left behind by the San people on cave walls. Eagles soar around the peaks in the Royal Natal National Park in the north, where the dramatic scenery includes the Amphitheatre, a five-mile long (8km) curved basalt wall.

Website www.drakensberg.kzn.org.za

KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board photo

KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board

For something fun and educational, parents should take their kids to the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. Located just nine miles (15km) north of Durban, it offers visitors the chance t…

KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board

For something fun and educational, parents should take their kids to the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. Located just nine miles (15km) north of Durban, it offers visitors the chance to learn about the marine life found off the coast of Durban's Golden Mile. The Sharks Board maintains the coastlines shark safety gear and also does research into sharks and runs a public education programme. There are almost daily presentations and shark dissections at the complex. Kids will love visiting the display hall to view the variety of lifelike replicas of sharks, fish and rays, including that of a 1966-pound (892kg) great white shark. The dissections can be disturbing for sensitive kids but they are fascinating and very educational.

Website www.shark.co.za


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Mini Town photo

Mini Town

Located on Durban's beachfront, this knee-high miniature replica of Durban makes a great outing for families and kids of all ages. It features moving models of planes and trains, a…

Mini Town

Located on Durban's beachfront, this knee-high miniature replica of Durban makes a great outing for families and kids of all ages. It features moving models of planes and trains, a circus complete with animals, a movable bridge that makes way for passing ships, several of Durban's landmark buildings, and a tug boat that makes its way around its very own miniature dock. All models and buildings have been created on a 1:24 scale. Mini Town was established more than 30 years ago and, although it is very well maintained, it has retained a charming, old-fashioned appeal.


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Moses Mabhida Stadium photo

Moses Mabhida Stadium

The Moses Mabhida Stadium was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is one of South Africa's most picturesque stadiums. With its iconic 'arch of triumph', the waves of the Indian O…

Moses Mabhida Stadium

The Moses Mabhida Stadium was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is one of South Africa's most picturesque stadiums. With its iconic 'arch of triumph', the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing in the background, and an amazing view of Durban's Beachfront, the stadium is an epic place to take in a sports game. However, it also offers some other attractions that will delight tourists. Among other things, adventurers will be able to enjoy the rush of the Big Swing, the world's only stadium swing and the largest swing of its kind in the world. After an adrenalin-pumping jump from the stadium's arch, 348 feet (106m) above the pitch, people will swing out over the pitch and 80,000 seats below.

Website www.mosesmabhidastadium.co.za

Tala Game Reserve photo

Tala Game Reserve

Located just a 45-minute drive inland from Durban, Tala Private Game Reserve is a relaxed wildlife sanctuary where visitors can view zebra, hippo, rhino, giraffe, kudu, antelope, a…

Tala Game Reserve

Located just a 45-minute drive inland from Durban, Tala Private Game Reserve is a relaxed wildlife sanctuary where visitors can view zebra, hippo, rhino, giraffe, kudu, antelope, and other wildlife. The park is home to more than 350 bird species and is a delight for bird-watchers. Surrounded on all sides by farmland, visitors won't find predators such as lions or cheetahs in Tala, but the reserve is a great day trip for those who prefer not to head to the bigger parks such as Umfolozi or Kruger. Game drives and bush walks are available with experienced guides and should be booked in advance. The restaurant is excellent, offering buffet-style meals with African flair, and the various luxury accommodations are perfect for romantic getaways.

Website www.tala.co.za


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Umgeni River Bird Park photo

Umgeni River Bird Park

Tucked away near an industrial section of Durban North and the Umgeni River, the Umgeni River Bird Park houses an ever-growing bird population. Over 200 species of birds live as re…

Umgeni River Bird Park

Tucked away near an industrial section of Durban North and the Umgeni River, the Umgeni River Bird Park houses an ever-growing bird population. Over 200 species of birds live as residents along the shady winding paths. The park is situated in a lush tropical garden in what used to be an old quarry site, and was opened in 1984 after extensive landscaping. The park's free-flight bird show, which runs from Tuesday to Sunday at 11am and 2pm, has been entertaining families and school groups for over a decade. It features vultures, owls, cranes, and other impressive fowl.

Website www.umgeniriverbirdpark.co.za

The Golden Mile photo

The Golden Mile

Durban's most popular attraction is the length of beach stretching across one end of the city centre. Known as the Golden Mile, the beach starts in the north at Blue Lagoon and eve…

The Golden Mile

Durban's most popular attraction is the length of beach stretching across one end of the city centre. Known as the Golden Mile, the beach starts in the north at Blue Lagoon and eventually stops at uShaka Marine World in South Beach. There are various picnic and fishing hotspots, as well as the Suncoast Casino and Mini Town on North Beach. Along the way, it will travel past the skatepark, surfing museum, and restaurants in the Bay of Plenty. Dotted with elaborate kiddie pools and set against a backdrop of high-rise hotels and holiday flats, the Golden Mile is indeed the epicentre of Durban tourism. A wide, flat promenade runs nearly the entire way.


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Richards Bay photo

Richards Bay

Richards Bay is one of South Africa's biggest ports. Situated on the 12 square mile (30 sq km) lagoon of the Mhlatuze River, it began as a makeshift harbour during the South Africa…

Richards Bay

Richards Bay is one of South Africa's biggest ports. Situated on the 12 square mile (30 sq km) lagoon of the Mhlatuze River, it began as a makeshift harbour during the South African War of 1879 and is named after its founder, Sir Frederick Richards. The specialised ships that call are a must-see for maritime buffs. The town is a bustling business centre that features every modern facility and offers plenty of recreational facilities for visitors. Tourism in Richards Bay is thriving and it's fast becoming a popular north coast holiday destination. Visitors will find spectacular scenery, pristine golden beaches and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Tourists can also enjoy plenty of adventurous activities such as fishing, kite-surfing, yachting, and kayaking.

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