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Five areas to visit in KwaZulu-Natal

Often referred to as the “Garden Province”, KwaZulu-Natal, or KZN, is the kind of place that just makes you feel happy. From having two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (iSimangaliso Wetland Park and uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park – well known for its San rock paintings), a coastline dotted with charming small towns and gorgeous beaches, an incredible tropical climate, a rich history, an incredible sense of cultural diversity and more, it’s a truly special place and one worth exploring. Whether you’re an avid surfer, hiking junkie or you just love a dose of urban flavour, this is the province that has something for everyone – so it’s no wonder travellers tend to want to return again and again. What follows is a list of some of its best spots (apart from its most popular city, Durban) so if you’re headed this way any time soon, be sure to add some of these (ok, all!) to your list…


Drakensberg

Stretching for over 1000km, the Drakensberg region offers dramatically beautiful settings, largely thanks to its spectacular mountain range and breath-taking vistas. Not only is it home to some of the country’s highest peaks, but it’s also an adventurer’s playground with endless valleys, plateaus and mountain passes creating some of the best hiking and cycling routes, as well as horse trails. Waterfalls, rock pools, streams, caves, and of course, crisp mountain air, round out this true natural gem. Whether you’re taking in the amazing views on a canopy tour, abseiling down a rock face, going on a wild ride while white river rafting, or just simply breathing in that fresh air, a visit to the Drakensberg will leave you feeling reinvigorated and relaxed.

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South Coast

Making its way from the holiday mecca of Amanzimtoti just outside Durban, all the way to Port Edward, the delightful strip of coastline that is the South Coast offers golden beaches, rocky coves, sub-tropical forests, lagoons, grassy slopes and of course, warm Indian Ocean waters. On top of all that as well as its addictive “perpetually summertime” mode (eating ice-cream while on a seafront promenade stroll is a common winter pastime), there are also plenty of nature reserves to be discovered, hiking trails to be enjoyed and some excellent greens to be played – so there really is a range of activities to choose from and keep you busy. The many river inlets, lagoons and estuaries also make for lovely snorkelling spots, while supreme diving destinations (like Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks) are also readily available for those wanting to explore the ocean depths. Bird enthusiasts will be glad to know that birdlife is also abundant here, making it a great choice for bird-watching. And then there are the Blue Flag beaches! From Hibberdene to Ramsgate and San Lameer, each one is better than the next. You can even catch the annual winter phenomenon that is the Sardine Run which sees shoals of thousands of fish, dolphins and other marine creatures make their way from the Eastern Cape coastline to the South Coast – it’s a real spectacle.

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Click here to discover the South Coast's cultural heritage experiences.


Midlands

Lying between Pietermaritzburg and the Drakensberg, the beautiful region of Midlands provides a welcome country respite for all who visit its peaceful farmlands. You can expect a slew of charming towns, a lovely arts and crafts route and picturesque scenery featuring an abundance of water and greenery that includes dams, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, as well as hills, forests and pastures. It has become a haven for artists from weavers to potters, painters and ceramicists, so if you’re keen on satisfying that artsy fix, we highly recommend spending some time here. The well-known Midlands Meander is made up of over 150 galleries, restaurants, cheese farms, cafés, shops and more along an 80km stretch so there’s lots to experience along this self-drive route. You can also get out into nature by visiting the nearby Howick Falls, the Albert Falls Dam Nature Reserve with its picnic spots, birding and fishing opportunities, and nature trails, the Loteni Nature Reserve (great trout fishing) or the Kamberg Nature Reserve (framed by the Drakensberg Mountains so you can only imagine the views!)

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Battlefields

Not only are the knotty rock formations and sweeping hills dotted throughout the rolling plains and valleys of the Battlefields region extremely picturesque, but they are also steeped in historical significance that helped shape both South African and British history. Many a battle took place here – hence the name – with the most famous ones having taken place at Isandlawana and Rorke’s Drift. Tours of the region are available or you’re easily able to explore it on self-drives. However you choose to explore, you’re bound to be left fascinated and moved by the stories that bring such character and meaning to this part of KwaZulu-Natal.

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Elephant Coast

Starting at Lake St Lucia in the south and running all the way to Kosi Bay, the Zululand Coast is a wild and wonderful stretch that blends together a variety of ecosystems, untouched scenery, unique experiences and a healthy dose of adventure. Garnering its name from the large herd of indigenous African elephants that have lived in the region’s sand forests for centuries, it’s a magical place that is a great year-round holiday destination largely thanks to its incredibly warm climate. The best times though are between November and February, prime turtle tracking time, or between June and November if it’s the whales you’d love to see the most. Sand dunes mesh with coastal forests, swamps, coral reefs, mangroves, woodlands, grasslands, rocky shores and wetlands to create an exciting and diverse world waiting to be explored in a number of ways. Try your hand at snorkelling or paddling, but if those aren’t for you, there’s also game viewing, birding, hiking, diving and horse-riding to enjoy. Some highlights include:

  • Cape Vidal: amazing beaches for deep-sea fishing or whale-watching.
  • Kosi Bay: unspoilt and lake-rich; enjoy an array of water-based activities as well as wildlife encounters.
  • Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve (the oldest game park in Africa and home to the Big 5) and the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park: supreme game and bird viewing.
  • Sodwana Bay nature Reserve: scuba diving mecca.

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If the ever-popular Durban is part of your itinerary, take a look at our accommodation options here. And if you’re a lover of surfing/diving , then you’ll want to read our blog The best of Durban’s surf and dive spots.

Wherever the wind is going to blow you in KZN, we can help you find the perfect places to stay and can even help you plot the best route. Get in touch with our reservations team so they can assist and answer any questions you may have.