9 Reasons to Discover Durban, South Africa
Put this beachfront gem on your don't-miss list.
With its sunny beaches and fascinating Afro-Indian culture, Durban is becoming a don’t-miss stop in South Africa. Take an hour flight from Johannesburg or a two-hour trip from Cape Town to explore this historic city in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
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Experience Indian Culture
More Indians reside in Durban than any other country outside India itself. Early immigrants worked on sugar cane farms in current-day KwaZulu-Natal, and many women still wear sarees, the national dress of India, and Indian cuisine is popular. Try a samosa (a savory fried pastry filled with spiced vegetables or meat) or bunny chow (a hollow, half-loaf of bread with curry).
Cruise the Golden Mile
Durban's Golden Mile, a 3.7 mile stretch of sandy beach, invites surfers and swimmers to enjoy the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Vendors sell assorted crafts along the shore, and you can find many beautiful swimming pools along the esplanade. Hop into a rickshaw and ride along the beach; later, dine and dance at a beachside restaurant, trendy club or luxury hotel.
See Marine Life and More
At the end of the Golden Mile, look for uShaka Marine World, a 40-acre theme park. There are five main sections to explore: a snorkeling lagoon, an interactive animal show area, a shark cage diving area, a water park with slides and a reptile exhibit. Save time to pick up a snack or shop for ethnic clothing, surfing gear or souvenirs at Village Walk.
Shop and Dine from Daylight to Dark
Look for fine dining, shopping and entertainment along Durban’s Florida Road, considered one of the city's top spots for nightlife. Sidewalk cafes open in the early morning hours, and locals and tourists browse the galleries, boutique shops, and eateries until they close late in the evening. But don't leave yet. That's when the trendy bars and clubs start buzzing.
Have Fun at a Festival
From Sept. 26-Oct. 1, 2017, Durban will present its second annual Essence Festival. It’s a sister event to the long-time New Orleans Essence Festival, complete with international celebrities and performing artists, renowned speakers, South African chefs and others.
Discover Zulu Culture
Take in a Zulu experience to learn more about the culture of South Africa’s largest ethnic group (some 10 million Zulus live here). At Shakaland and PheZulu Safari Park, both located in the magnificient Valley of a 1000 Hills, you can walk through beehive huts (replicas of Zulu homesteads), sip traditional beer, watch tribal dances and participate in traditional ceremonies. Journey about 40 miles west of Durban to see Isithumba Adventure Park, an authentic, rural Zulu village. While you’re there, join a tour and experience more Zulu customs, go horseback riding, or see the sights on a 4x4 excursion.
Dive into History
Follow the Inanda Heritage Route, where you can take a deep dive into some of the city’s most important historical sites. You’ll find Mahatma Gandhi’s house and International Printing Press and Museum in his Phoenix Settlement, a communal living society. Stop by Ohlange Institute to see the place where Nelson Mandela cast his vote for democracy. Continue to beautiful Inanda Dam to make a day of it.
Play at Moses Mabhida Stadium
Like London’s Big Ben or the Parthenon in Greece, Moses Mabhida Stadium, with its distinctive arch, is an iconic landmark. This 85,00-seat stadium hosted the 2010 World Cup and is a venue for the Essence Festival Durban and many sporting events. Try one of its six signature activities, which include the Adventure Walk, a 500-step climb to the top of the arch, and the Big Rush - Big Swing, a 722-foot free fall adventure. If you’re not that daring, enjoy a Segway Gliding Tour or ride the stadium SkyCar for breathtaking views.
Durban Area Extras
Make Durban your jumping-off point for exploring the incredible scenery, wildlife, wetlands and mountains in Greater KwaZulu-Natal, roughly 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours away. Or take a guided walk or self-guided driving tour at Hluhluwe Game Reserve, where Zulu Kings once hunted and established the first conservation laws. In St. Lucia, sign up for a bush or beach safari or a hippo and croc cruise. Not into camping? Stay at a charming B&B, hotel or lodge.
Where to Find Street Food
Canecutters. Order some award-winning bunny chow and a traditional Indian dish.
Surfriders. Come for breakfast, burgers, pizza, milkshakes and more. It’s located on the Durban Promenade.
Where to Dine Out
The Chefs Table prepares its menu with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. You’ll enjoy watching the “culinary theater,” as chefs work in the open kitchen.
Zorka Social Lounge. This classy lounge with a touch of funk serves South African cuisine.
At Conscious Café at the Castle on Main, vegans and vegetarians can order homemade, alternative meals.
Where to Stay
The Oyster Box, a 5-star luxury boutique hotel and spa in nearby Umhlanga, overlooks the Indian Ocean. The hotel features a 24-seat cinema with complimentary snacks; a Grill Room for fine dining; and a spa with a Turkish hammam (a variation on the Roman bath).
Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharanim is a Durban complex that offers 734 ensuite rooms and sits on Durban beachfront. Three heated swimming pools, a boutique spa and a variety of eateries, bars and lounges keeps guests busy.
Book a stay in one of four restored Victorian homes at the Quarters Hotel.