Midlands travel guide
The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is a gentle expanse of England-style hills and meadows, sandwiched between the Drakensberg and the South Coast. The Midlands Meander is a huge drawcard, a fascinating route that takes you to see creative ateliers producing quality arts and crafts in picturesque villages and towns. The people of the Midlands Meander are some of the most hospitable in the country. For a weekend of wandering at your own pace, fly into Durban or Pietermaritzburg airports and drive into the countryside. Explore restaurants, markets, craft beer, art and handmade treasures. The climate is crisp, with an autumn that produces red and gold leaves. Abundant greenery results from all the water – rivers run into glassy lakes and waterfalls. There’s plenty of action in the Midlands too, if you’re feeling sporty.
On the Midlands Meander:
- Karkloof Canopy Tours – Take a swooping zipline through the treetops for great views of the Karkloof Valley and waterfall.
- Nottingham Road – Don’t miss the microbrewery called the Nottingham Road Brewery. With funky names like Pickled Pig Porter and Tiddly Toad Lager, its brews just have to be tasted. This charming town is also a good base for activities ranging from adventure sports to historical sites, wildlife, arts and crafts. Plus it has a jam-packed events calendar that draws crowds at various times throughout the year.
- Nelson Mandela Capture Site – also outside Howick, this site contains a brilliant sculpture. The artist Marco Cianfanelli, used 50 steel columns to form a giant portrait of Nelson Mandela. The nearby museum tells more about the great man’s capture at this very spot.
- Curry's Post – Once this town was a staging post between Durban, the Kimberley diamond fields and the Johannesburg gold fields. Historical figures such as Barney Barnato, Cecil John Rhodes, Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill passed through here. Today it makes a great base for driving the Meander, as well as fishing, golfing, watersports on the Midmar Dam, quad biking and hiking.
- Howick Falls – Just outside the town of Howick the uMngeni River makes a spectacular 90m plunge down a precipice on its way to the Indian Ocean. In the gorge below the Falls is the WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) Reserve where you may well spot a giraffe, zebra or springbok. While in Howick stop by at some of the antique stores and arts and crafts markets in the town.
- Zulu Mphophomeni Township Experience – Here’s a great chance to experience township life at this friendly community on the outskirts of Howick. Meet a sangoma … maybe the bones will reveal all.
- Mooi River - "Pretty River” in Afrikaans, Mooi River was so named by early settlers to the region. While a number of minor skirmishes took place at Mooi River during the second Boer War, today it entices holiday makers to go boating, fly fishing, camping and picnicking all along the river. There are a number of stud farms in the Mooi River region, offering tours for those interested in horses.
For something a little bit different:
- Buddhist Retreat Centre – members of all faiths and worldviews come to this place of peace in Ixopo to balance body and mind. In 2014, CNN named the BRC one of the world's ten best meditation retreats. Choose from weekend or longer courses, often with teachers and monks visiting from abroad. You may rush in but you’ll float out.
- Pietermaritzburg – Starting point of the Comrades Marathon, Pietermaritzburg is the second largest city in KwaZulu Natal (after Durban). Take your pick of sights and experiences, from the wonderful Tatham art gallery, graceful architecture such as the old railway station and City Hall, to hiking trails through the many gardens and reserves.
- Wartburg – An interesting reminder of the German immigration to this country, the village of Wartburg is a 'little piece of Germany'. Surrounding hamlets include Harburg, Kirchdorf, New Hanover, Lillienthal, Schroeders and Hermannsburg.