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Durban travel guide
Durban is about beaches, the promenade, markets, and palm trees. It’s a mix of colonial, Indian and Zulu cultures. The sea is so warm here that surfers go out in boardshorts: no need for wetsuits. Durbs is the main city of KZN but still manageable to explore in a couple of days. It’s a choice winter destination as the weather and beaches remain outstanding for swimming, surfing and all watersports.
Spot the vibrant Indian influence in the markets and the tasty cuisine. To sample classic Durban street food, go for a Bunny Chow – half a loaf of bread scooped out and filled with scrumptious curry. Afterwards, to work it off, cycle or rollerblade along the beachfront’s Golden Mile promenade, lined with big hotels, pools, and cafes.
Further away from the beach, the ridge overlooking the city is known as the Berea. Here the air is cooler and the suburbs have colonial mansions, leafy streets and funky coffee shops. Westville and other suburbs are further inland from here. North of town is the popular resort of Umhlanga which has a busy nightlife. Durban’s other favourite hubs for shopping, eating and partying are Florida Road, Hillcrest and Durban North, where two roads feature a host of restaurants, bars and ‘holes in the wall’. Curries, sushi, Portuguese, Mexican, seafood – you name it, you’ll find it on either Mackeurtan Avenue or Swapo Road.
Fun places in central Durbs:
- uShaka Marine World – For a fantastic water-filled day out, this is the spot. The aquarium is up there with the best, you can see live dolphin, penguin and seal shows, and there’s also a huge entertainment and adventure centre with waterslides, shops and restaurants.
- Moses Mabhida Stadium – take the Sky Car ride to the top of the stadium arch for awesome views. Or test your mettle by doing the Big Rush Big Swing, the world’s tallest swing that zooms you in a 220m arc into the centre of the stadium.
- Victoria Street Market – Soak up the bright colours, zesty fragrances and cacophony of sound at this combo African-Indian market. Almost 200 stalls trade under ornate colonades, selling spices, saris, scarves, baskets and woven dolls, plus a fish market and Chinese goods. To continue the feeling of being in India, wander around Dr Yusuf Dadoo Street, where the little lanes have buildings with Indian-style touches and many material shops are still found.
- Markets of Warwick – Extend your market experience by taking a walking tour of this massive collection of over 6000 stalls, an initiative of informal local traders. The starting point is Victoria Street Market, continuing to a previously neglected area called Warwick Junction, which has come back to life. Here the market is divided into separate themed markets, selling authentic African items such as beads, herbs and roots, Zulu clothing, fruit and veg, live poultry, shoes, jewellery, African art and more.
- Durban Botanical Gardens – on the Berea, the Gardens are easy to get to from the city centre and well worth doing. You can simply stroll among the peaceful pathways shaded by tropical trees, but you’ll be pleased you made time to see the Orchid House, the herbarium and the rare cycads. Children will enjoy the sunken garden, the lake and the garden of the senses. There’s also a lovely Japanese garden.
A short drive from the centre you’ll find:
- Umgeni River Bird Park – Just ten minutes’ drive from the city is an old quarry that has been beautifully landscaped to hold a collection of over 800 colourful birds. The highlight of a visit here is the awesome free-flight bird show.
- Krantzkloof Nature Reserve – about 25 km out of Durban is this forested reserve containing the meeting point of two river gorges. Come here for spectacular waterfalls, loads of wildlife and quite a few hiking trails leading to a fabulous picnic area.
- Florida Road – a long stretch of trendiness in the suburb of Morningside, Florida road is packed with restaurants, vintage shops, boutiques, galleries, bars and nightclubs.
- pheZulu Safari park – 35km from Durban, the drive to the park takes you through the magnificent Valley of a Thousand Hills. At pheZulu, you will be welcomed into a world of traditional Zulu dancing, food and cultural shows. A crocodile and snake park keeps the vibe exotic.
- Umhlanga – Party with the stylish holiday crowd at this upmarket resort, popular for its excellent swimming beaches, shops, bars and restaurants.