Durban is one of South Africa’s major beach resorts and lies close to some of the country’s finest game reserves.
Blessed with a balmy year-round Indian Ocean climate, long golden-sand beaches, a wide array of leisure activities and accommodation options to suit all budgets, multicultural Durban is a perfect beach holiday and romantic getaways destination at any time.
Things to do and see
Relax on the aptly named Golden Mile, a 4km-long golden-sand beach that stretches along a beachfront lined with 5-star hotels, fine dining restaurants and vibrant bars.
Ride one of the iconic and colourful rickshaws along the seafront, go swimming and surfing in the patrolled areas or stroll along the beach to see what the locals are up to, which could be anything from Shembe-style baptisms and Hindu worshipping using clay votive lamps, to ancestral offerings conducted by Zulu sangomas (traditional healers). More about Durban beaches . . .
For an evocative insight into apartheid, visit the Kwa Muhle Museum, or experience Africa's largest marine-themed park, uShaka Marine World. Visit the Durban Art Gallery for arts and crafts, and see ethnological artefacts at The Campbell Collection, including traditional cooking utensils, ornaments, musical instruments and various beaded clothing such as the necklace of redcoat (British) buttons worn by Zulu warriors as a sign of bravery.
Discover the essence of this multicultural city on a walking tour of the Indian Quarter, where you can browse stalls stacked with aromatic spices and colourful sari fabrics while Zulu street hawkers offer baboon skulls and dried herbs for casting, or warding off, evil spells.
At nearby Umgeni River Bird Park, see more than 300 species from around the world housed in large walk-through aviaries; don’t miss the educational ‘Free Flight’ bird show featuring a parrot, blue crane and Cape vulture.
Elsewhere, track game on a choice of hiking trails through pristine bushland in the Umfolozi Game Reserve, home to the ‘big five’. Or try the coastal estuary and dune forests of the Mziki Trail in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers the chance to see elephants, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles and loggerhead turtles.
Guided hikes range from a few hours to four days in length. Spy more than 400 species of birds at three of South Africa’s best bird-watching locations – St Lucia and the Mkhuze and Ndumo reserves. Umfolozi Game Reserve is a 3-hour drive from Durban, Mkhuze is around 4 hours away and St Lucia Wetland Park and Ndumo are around a 5-hour drive.
Drive the famous ‘Battlefield Route’ in the northwest corner of KwaZulu-Natal: ponder numerous museums and memorials surrounded by rolling grasslands, including the heroic battle sites at Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift – immortalised in the film Zulu, starring Michael Caine.
The ‘Battlefield Route’ comprises 50 battlefields and 15 towns covering four wars. Isandlwana is a 3-hour drive from Durban, while Rorke's Drift is around a 4-hour drive.
Choose from a range of accommodation options including the Southern Sun North Beach hotel, which overlooks the Golden Mile, and the Beverly Hills Hotel, home to The Sugar Club, one of the city's best restaurants.
Best time to visit Durban?
The best time to visit Durban is from February to mid-May, when it's warm and sunny but not too humid. Summer temperatures average 24°C between September and April, reaching a high of 28°C. During winter, from May to August, temperatures average 17°C with a high of 23°C. Summer water temperatures on the east coast range between 21°C and 24°C. For more climate info: Durban Weather Guide
Location – Durban lies in Kwazulu-Natal at the centre of a 600km-long coastal region fringed by long uninterrupted stretches of golden sand indented with tranquil coves lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
Getting there – Durban receives direct international flights from Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with connecting flights from Australia. It also receives domestic flights from Cape Town, Johannesburg and other African cities. Durban’s King Shaka International Airport is located at La Mercy, 32km north of the city.
The new airport, built to coincide with the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, is named after the famous Zulu warrior king and sits in the heart of the Zulu lands.
By road, Durban is 588km from Johannesburg and around 1700km northeast of Cape Town; long distance coach services run regularly from Johannesburg.
By rail, Durban is linked by a frequent service to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town.