9 things to do in Durban

Posted by Janine Avery on 27 July 2012

On a solo trip to Durban I tried to explore everything the city has to offer. When my boyfriend was flown up to Durban for a sporting event I took the opportunity as a mini break for myself. Here are a few activities that I really enjoyed, even by myself.

1. Gateway Shopping Mall

Yes I am a female, and yes I do stereotypically LOVE to shop. I headed down to Gateway Shopping Mall on my first day where I spent a good few hours trolling the mall in the hopes of some good finds. As I was starving I decided to grab a bite to eat at Kauai, not very inventive I know, but the take away joint overlooks the wave house (if you’re looking for authentic Durban cuisine, try a bunny chow). This is Gateway’s standing wave and the surfers provided some great entertainment, not to mention some eye candy!

Gateway is situation in Umhlanga Ridge, just off the N2 South Bound on the way to the new King Shaka Airport.


2. Durban Botanical Gardens


After a morning patrolling the mall I needed to relax, so I headed down to the Durban Botanical Gardens. Coming from Cape Town I was delighted that these gardens had no entrance fee, although donation boxes do encourage donations that go towards the upkeep of the gardens. I spent some time reading my book and basking in the glorious Durban winter sun. I felt very safe in the gardens and was joined by families, individuals and couples of all races and ages enjoying the beautiful flowers. The Durban gardens are host to a myriad tropical trees and plants and are completely different to those found in the Kirstenbosch gardens in Cape Town. Separated into various sections, the gardens also are very educational; my favourite part was the stunning orchard house which was decorated with bridges, waterfalls and a river.

Durban Botanical Gardens

If you didn’t know they were there you could easily miss them. Situated just on the outskirts of town, tall buildings and industrial areas simply give way to this natural beauty.

For the exact address and to find out more about this beautiful place visit www.dbg.bluebug.co.za.


3. Natal Zoological Gardens and Lion Park

A friend recommended I go here and I probably wouldn’t have chosen it myself and probably won’t go back. It is quite far out of Durban itself and closer to Pietermaritzburg so could make a nice stop if you were travelling between the two. The Lion Park features an easy 4×4 trail through a small reserve before you reach an enclosure where the lions are kept. I saw some elephants and Kudu on the trail, but all in all it was nothing overly exciting. The zoo is very nice and the animals look well cared for. They have a variety of animals but the signs are a bit outdated and there is no restaurant or anything to sit and eat. This is an OK place to take tourists who have never seen lions and elephants but I wouldn’t recommend it for locals or those looking for an actual Safari experience.

R100 gets you entry for one vehicle into the lion park (regardless of how many people are in the vehicle) while an entry fee of R50 per adult and R20 per child will gain you access into the zoo. The zoo and the Lion Park are situated right next door to each other on Exit 65 on the N3 to Pietermaritzburg. www.natalzoo.co.za.


4. Durban Harbour

Durban Harbour is home to Café Fish restaurant and Royal Natal Yacht Club where a light lunch or afternoon tea can be enjoyed while looking out at the yachts. For those wanting to go out to sea there are some charter companies offering rides and I would recommend choosing a Saturday when there is some sort of sailing regatta or event going on as the yachting can be watched and the vibe is great.

Wilson’s Wharf just down from the harbour offers up some more restaurant choices: www.wilsonswharf.co.za or alternatively try one of these top five romantic restaurants in Durban.


5. The Pavilion Shopping Centre

The Pavilion Shopping Centre offers three levels of shopping galore (I admit, I went shopping again). Although most of the stores are the same as those seen in any big mall the sheer size of each store is enormous. I highly recommend even visiting the chain stores as they hold a huge variety of goods when compared to their other franchises. There are also a number of Indian spice shops for making the perfect curry and the Indian clothing shops that offer up a wealth of shiny, sparkly garments that you just won’t find anywhere else in the country.

The Pavilion, or as local’s call it; ‘Pav’ is situated just off the N3 at Westville. What I love about this centre is that parking is free (unless you park in the covered parking) – a luxury that is becoming a rare find with big malls.


6. Umgeni River Bird Park

Firstly the area surrounding the bird park and the Umgeni River is simply just stunning and I wish I had spent more time here. The mangrove trees flank the river and play host to their own variety of bird life. The Umgeni River Bird Park is set in an old quarry and is complete with waterfalls, a variety of tree and plant life and of course the birds. A free-flight bird show is held twice a day and can be enjoyed by families or by individuals. The highlight of the show was a wild fish eagle that decided he wanted to join in and gave a fantastic call just above my head.

R30 gets a single adult entry into the park which is situated on riverside road, off the M4 at Durban’s stunning north beaches.


7. The Moses Mabhida Stadium

Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban was built for the soccer world cup ands is truly magnificent and plays host to a range of activities. Guests can either walk or take the SkyCar to the top platform whereby you get a panoramic view of Durban. The stadium also offers a bridge swinging experience to the more adventurous. Apart from the variety of stores that are built into the stadium, on a Saturday there is also a local arts and crafts market that is absolutely wonderful for breakfast.

A trip in the SkyCar to the top of the stadium costs just R55 per adult, while the walk will cost R90 and the Bridge Swing R595.


8. uShaka Marine World and the beach

Although very beautiful, I find uShaka Marine World a place best enjoyed with young children. The variety of water rides and the aquarium are very enjoyable for young families but not so much for individuals. However the variety of restaurants is stunning, as is the small beach just in front of uShaka. I thoroughly enjoyed tanning on the beach, followed by some cocktails and seafood at Moyo and the Undersea Club.

A combo ticket for Ushaka that allows you into the water park area and the aquarium will set you back R165 per adult or R125 per child. However to laze on the beach or patrol the shops on offer is free (just pay for your parking).


9. The Valley of 1000 Hills

The Valley of 1000 Hills is a picturesque area set just outside of Durban. The stunning view can be enjoyed at a variety of local restaurants while a host of craft shops offer traditional Zulu jewellery, paintings, clothing and artefacts at reasonable prices. PheZulu Safari Park offers a crocodile and snake park as well as guided tours through the game reserve and is a good bet for tourists and small children. Their restaurant offers an interesting selection of local meats.

If you get on the N3 towards Pietermaritzburg and near Hillcrest you will see the signs to the valley of a thousand hills. Just keep following the tourist boards and you will end up at PheZulu Safari Park. For more info regarding the attractions at PheZulu view their website: www.phezulusafaripark.co.za


Personally I love being a tourist in my own country and while I love to explore hidden gems, sometimes the mainstream attractions are just want I need to put me back in touch with Africa. Durban provides the perfect winter break for Capetonians and even though I travelled during the school holidays I did not find any of the beaches or restaurants overcrowded like they are in the summer months.


Looking for a place to stay in Durban? Check out Getaway Accommodation.

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