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Things to Do and Places to See in Durban, South Africa

Updated on February 19, 2019
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David has written several articles on a variety of topics. He writes here about what to do in the city of Durban, South Africa.

Durban's Beach & City


About Durban

Durban is a city that lies on the east coast of South Africa and has a population of 3.5 million, including the towns that surround it. It is the biggest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. It has a large manufacturing sector, second to Johannesburg and is the most active port in South Africa.

The climate is subtropical and warm, summers are hot and humid while winter is relatively moderate and pleasant. Rains fall mostly in summer from November until April; occasionally there are tropical storms.

In the 1800's it was named after the governor of the Cape Colony, one Sir Benjamin d'Urban. The British started farming sugarcane in the 1860s and brought many labourers from India to work in the cane fields. It is believed that the area was first occupied by hunter-gatherers.

Durban is culturally diverse; Zulus are the biggest ethnic collective, there are many people of British descent living here and it has a large population of Indians.

Currently Durban is a popular tourist attraction as well as being commercially active through container shipping and other industrial activities.

The Golden Mile, started in the 1970s begins at South Beach and continues until the Suncoast Casino & Entertainment World. It hosts sunny beaches for swimming, surfing and other water sports as well as markets, a skateboarding park and various tourist attractions such as the uShaka Marine World.

The vegetation in and around Durban is mostly of a lush, tropical nature. Paw-paw and banana trees can be seen growing in gardens in the suburbs. The Botanical Gardens in Botanical Gardens Road near the suburb of Berea is a good place to visit for a stroll.

Durban Has Much to Offer - Summary Of Tourist Attractions

  • The Golden Mile
  • Zulu Rickshaws
  • City Tours Rickshaw Bus
  • New Durban Point Waterfront
  • uShaka Marine World
  • Suncoast Casino & Entertainment World
  • Wilson Wharf
  • Umhlanga Rocks
  • The Valley of 1000 Hills
  • The Sapphire Coast
  • The Green Hub
  • Gateway Theatre of Shopping
  • Pavilion Shopping Centre
  • The Markets of Warwick
  • Greyville Racecourse
  • The Botanical Gardens
  • Umgeni River Bird Park

Durban's Beachfront


Places To See, Things To Do

  • Rickshaws are famous carts that are pulled by colourfully dressed Zulus. In the early 1900s they were a form of transport but are now mostly used by holiday-makers at the beachfront who enjoy a ride in them. The men who operate them are enthusiastic, strong and full of energy.

  • The Rickshaw Bus is a double decker bus that does a 3 hour tour of the beachfront and city, showcasing various historical and other places of interest.

  • The King Shaka International Airport is 36 km (22 miles) north of the city centre and hosts both international and domestic flights. It is now Durban's main airport.

  • The Durban Point Waterfront, is where the uShaka Marine World is situated. It has a big aquarium, continuous entertainment and many other attractions. One can snorkel in the lagoon with the many species of fish and there is also shark cage diving. Scuba diving courses are available too.

  • Water sports in Durban include swimming, surfing, water polo, beach volleyball, harbour powerboat racing, jet skiing, yachting and scuba diving.

  • The Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World is at the northernmost end of Durban's Golden Mile - there are restaurants, a beach bar, movie houses and a semi-private beach here.

  • Wilson's Wharf. This is on the Victoria Embankment (also known as The Esplanade) between the Yacht Mole and the Sugar Terminal. It has a relaxing atmosphere with food, crafts, music, theatrical festivals, shows and a boating marina.

Inland & Coastal Areas

  • The Valley Of 1000 Hills. Not far from Durban, inland, lies this area of rolling hills and in the distance the majestic Drakensburg Mountains can be seen. It is a peaceful, rural area with cultural villages and game drives along the way. It has a crocodile & snake park too. The Umgeni Steam Railway Train, which is 100 years old runs through this area.
  • On some of the hills are suburbs and modern accommodation; there are also various tours available. The area is home to much traditional Zulu culture.

  • The Umhlanga Rocks Coastal Area. This is a holiday destination which lies 16 km north of Durban on the coast. The accommodation is excellent, there are nature reserves, beach resorts, shopping malls, restaurants & movie houses. Lots of outdoor activities such as deep sea fishing, golf, microlight flips and whale watching are to be found here. Vast sugarcane fields abound inland from the coast. In this area the tour operators are of a high quality.

  • The Sapphire Coast. Also known as The South Coast, it runs south of Durban for 40 km. It stretches from Athlone Park (North) to Clanstal (South) and has some beautiful forests and beaches. There are coastal villages along this route. Much wildlife can be viewed in this area where luxury accommodation is available; shopping complexes, restaurants and sports amenities are in plenty.

  • Ocean activities include swimming, surfing, fishing, scuba-diving and white water rafting. Aliwal Shoal is a reef off Umkomaas suitable for scuba diving - there are dive centres offering courses and equipment. The annual sardine run is a spectacular sight when thousands of sardines migrate up the coast.

  • The Green Hub. This is an eco-tourism & environmental education centre at the uMgeni River Estuary. It has much to offer in the way of tours, youth development, hiring of sports equipment and education packages.

Rural Zulu Village


Information Snippets

  • Durban has an International Conference Centre (ICC), which has been the leading centre for conferences in Africa for the past 5 years.

  • The Moses Mabhida Stadium where some of the 2010 Soccer World Cup matches were played, is located north of the central business district.

  • Cricket test matches and 1 day cricket games are played at the Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead.

  • The Dolphins are Durban's provincial cricket team.

  • Kings Park Stadium is where the Sharks Rugby Team is found. It is sometimes referred to as 'The Shark Tank.'

  • There are 2 daily newspapers in Durban, the Mercury and Daily News, as well as the Zulu newspapers Isolezwe (Independent Newspapers) and UmAfrica.

  • The Markets of Warwick is a large street market. It is situated on the perimeter of Durban's city centre. There are approximately 6000 street vendors who ply their wares here. This is where Warwick junction is which is the city's main public transport interchange.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 David Edward Lynch


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