Our Guide to Durban

Last updated: Jun 05, 2015

Durban is seen as one of the leading centres of tourism mostly due to its warm sub-tropical climate, endless beaches and ample tourist attractions.

Here are a few places of interest:

Take full advantage of the beautiful beaches here, known to most as the Golden Mile as the sand here is said to be golden. You'll enjoy warm water and stunning sunny weather. There are lots of activities to enjoy at the beach including horse riding, body boarding and surfing. Some stand-out beaches include Battery Beach, Addington Beach and North Beach.

Other water-based attractions include Oceanworx Dive Charters, operating in one of the finest dive spots in South Africa, this established company caters for all divers (experienced or not). Activities include Ocean Safaris, Scuba diving courses, baited shark dives and much more.

Try The Wave House - This international brand came to the Gateway Theatre of Shopping in 2001 and has been a major attraction since it started. About 2 million visitors flock here annually to try their hand at flowboarding - riding on artificial sheet waves - which are generated by high energy pumps. Riders of all levels are welcome.

Other activities and attractions here include performances from live bands, South Africa's biggest super tube and a skate park designed by Tony Hawk. There are also many bars and restaurants nearby.

Another must see is uShaka Marine World, which is based on the southern point of Durban's Golden Mile and is an entertainment venue housing Sea World, Wet 'n 'Wild World and uShaka Beach. Africa's biggest marine theme park boasts the biggest collection of sharks in the southern hemisphere, a seal stadium, a dolphinarium, and the 5th largest aquarium in the world, which is home to a vast variety of tropical fish, turtles and sting rays, as well as featuring two restaurants styled as a 1940's cargo ship wreck.

In addition there are enough freshwater rides to satisfy the kids and more adventurous visitors or you could take in some surfing lessons on the beach if you prefer. Shows at the dolphinarium feature dolphins, seals and penguins all displaying their natural talents.

If you are looking for something exciting and interesting to do then you should definitely visit a few of the following places:

PheZulu Crocodile and Snake Park, which is situated only 35 km's from central Durban, and has magnificent views of the world-famous Valley of a 1000 Hills. Visitors to the PheZulu Crocodile and Snake Park can go on a tour of the park where they will be introduced to a variety of different animals including a 3.2 metre Burmese python that weighs around 42 kilograms, and a 102 year old Nile crocodile called 'Junior'. After you've toured the park you can head to the Boma Restaurant for lunch.

The Japanese Gardens in Durban North offer a tranquil escape from city life with rustic bridges, waterfalls, well-maintained gardens with Japanese floras and a number of water-features.

The garden also has a huge amount of birdlife as well as waterfowl, who love to nibble on pieces of bread. It's a great place for a family picnic and it also offers a playground for the kids. The garden is well maintained and clean toilet facilities are situated nearby. It free to visit from 07h30 until 16h00.

Covering some 15 hectares, the Durban Botanic Gardens were founded in 1849 as a way to trial different commercial crops in the area. Over the years the gardens have developed and are now home to many African, Asian and American trees. The cycad collection is specifically noteworthy with the world's rarest original specimen of a plant to be found here - the cycad Encephalartos woodii.

With over 500 000 visitors, the gardens are a popular stop for those wanting to enjoy the beauty of the plant world. Top attractions in the gardens are the Orchid House which is best viewed in spring, the Garden for the Blind and the Tea Garden.

One of the most picturesque parts of South Africa, the Valley of a Thousand Hills offers breath-taking scenery and a chance to enjoy unspoilt nature and experience Zulu culture. The valley is so-named for the countless hills which follow the Umgeni River as it flows from the Drakensberg to the ocean. This popular destination is just 30 minutes from Durban, making it very accessible.

There is a great diversity of bird and wildlife in the valley, and a number of nature reserves and conservancies to visit. For an overview of the valley, the 1000 Hills Choo choo is a great outing. Trains run from Kloof Station (Stokers Arms) to and from Inchanga Station, on the last and first Sunday of each month (twice daily 08h45 and 12h30), along the edge of the picturesque Valley of a Thousand Hills.

Rated the best animal farm of its kind, Flag Animal Farm promises a fantastic outing for the entire family. The farm boasts an indoor playcentre with jungle gym, milking shows, pony rides, jumping castle, animal feeding (ducks, chickens, geese, birds, goats, sheep, cow's pigs and rabbits), picnic and braai spots and a beautiful tea garden. The Farm is located near Sheffield Beach.

Two fantastic outdoor markets to explore include the Essenwood Craft Market and The Litchi Orchard Market. The Essenwood Market is shaded under many lush evergreen trees and boasts a huge kiddie's play area and a scrumptious food court as well as lots of crafts stalls. The Litchi Orchard Market has top class food and drink, handmade arts and crafts and live music in the old and beautiful Litchi Orchard.

Visit Durban's colourful Indian Quarter. Also known as the Indian District, the Indian people who live here have largely kept their cultural identity. Visitors can experience a true Indian atmosphere while visiting the Victoria street market with over 180 stalls and the Oriental Bazaar with a variety of interesting shops offering tons of bargains. The Jumah Musjid Mosque is also an impressive sight to see.

The Catalina Theatre is a unique venue with panoramic views of the harbour at Wilsons Wharf. Here you are promised a theatrical journey of a lifetime as this theatre Is dedicated to bringing new and intriguing artistic works and artists into the public eye.

Enjoy some gaming at the impressive Suncoast Casino. There are over 1450 state of the art slot machines as well as a wide variety of table games including Blackjack, American Roulette and Poker.

This beachside gaming paradise can accommodate smokers and non-smokers as the casino has dedicated smoking sections and the Salon Prive has a private gaming room. There are many bars as well as restaurants in and around the casino to enjoy.

The impressive and unique Moses Mahiba Stadium creates a beautiful addition to the Durban skyline. The stadium's roof with its two arches are inspired by the South African National Flag.

If there isn't a game on visitors to the stadium can enjoy walks across one of the legs offering beautiful panoramic views of the city, or take the Skycar up the arches to the highest point in the stadium for amazing 360 degree views of Durban. For the more adventurous you can jump off one of the arches and do what it is called the 'big swing'.

Where to eat:

Durban has a great variety of superior first-class restaurants to enjoy, here are a few of the finest places in town:

Enjoy an exciting dining experience at Café 1999, situated in the heart of Berea. Here Chef Marcelle Roberts award winning contemporary Mediterranean cuisine is designed around sharing.

If you are looking for something with a kick then House of Curries is a must, their high-quality curries are traditional and authentic.

Pop in by Greedy Buddha if you're in the mood for Asian fusion tapas - a Spanish concept designed to provide small portions of food for sharing. Their delectable menu is inspired by popular dishes from South East Asian countries like China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam.

Free your mind, body and soul at Freedom Cafe. This stylish 'cafe-in-a-can' is intimate and boasts an extremely relaxed environment. It is fun, trendy and definitely unique. They serve a wide variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you're looking for something large, colourful and very Italian then Mamma Luciana's is the spot. Here you can expect to find a classic Italian trattoria and hearty Italian cuisine.

The modern and sophisticated 9th Avenue Bistro is located in the heart of Morningside. Here you will find fresh and creative cuisine made with superior quality ingredients. This award-winning restaurant is ranked among the top restaurants in the country.

Where to stay:

The Saint James on Venice Luxury Boutique Hotel is intimate, classic and elegant. It boasts an old world charm and is child friendly. It is located in the heart of Morningside and has 24 hour security.

Lapa Lighthouse B & B is an upmarket establishment with luxurious rooms set in a relaxing environment. Here you can enjoy a private lounge in the main mansion, sparkling pool and luscious garden.

The Grange Guest House in Durban North offers quality bed and breakfast accommodation and also have a self-catering option. It boasts a country feel and is situated near to the Golden Mile, shopping mall, uShaka Marina World, golf course and rugby stadium.

Coastlands On The Ridge is a grand 4-star hotel located in the popular Musgrave area and has breath-taking views of the Durban CBD and harbour. The hotel is modern and uniquely decorated. It also houses an international beauty spa where you can be pampered and experience true relaxation.