Durban isn't slick or sophisticated, but 320 days of sunshine a year entices visitors and locals alike to the vast stretches of beautiful beach that hug the coastline. The close proximity to the beach has given the province's largest city a laid-back vibe that makes it a perfect holiday destination and the ideal springboard from which to visit the diverse beauty of the rest of the province of
As one of the few natural harbors on Africa's east coast, Durban developed as a port city after the first European settlers landed in 1824 with the intention of establishing a trading post. It's the busiest port in South Africa as it exports large volumes of sugar and is home to the country's largest import and export facility for the motor industry. The port also has a passenger terminal for cruise liners that mostly operate between November and May.
The city's "Golden Mile" (an area much larger than the name implies) consists of high-rise hotels flanked by a popular promenade and beaches, and the colonial-inspired suburbs of Berea and Morningside that overlook the city offer boutique hotels and packed restaurants.
Residential and upmarket commercial development has seen coastal spots like Umhlanga to the north earn cult status with tourists, and collections of small villages along both the north and south coasts have access to pristine beaches. Add to the mix two World Heritage Sites (Drakensberg and St. Lucia Wetland Park), and KwaZulu-Natal itself embodies South Africa's mantra: the world in one country. More importantly, it's truly representative of South Africa's rainbow nation.
KwaZulu-Natal (commonly referred to as KZN) is a premier vacation area for South Africans, despite being a comparatively small province (which, perhaps surprisingly, has the country's largest province population at more than 10 million people). It's all but impossible to resist the subtropical climate and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. In fact, the entire 480-km (300-mi) coastline, from the Wild Coast in the south to the Mozambique border in the north, is essentially one long beach, attracting hordes of swimmers, surfers, and anglers.
KwaZulu-Natal's two-part moniker is just one of the many changes introduced since the 1994 democratic elections. Previously the province was known simply as Natal (Portuguese for "Christmas"), a name bestowed by explorer Vasco da Gama, who sighted the coastline on Christmas Day, 1497. KwaZulu, "the place of the Zulu," was one of the nominally independent homelands created by the Nationalist government (1948–94), but with the arrival of democratic South Africa the two were merged to form KwaZulu-Natal. The province is now defined as the Kingdom of the Zulu, and the local Zulu population (about 2.2 million) is characterized by warm hospitality and friendly smiles. The Indian population—originally brought here by the British in the late 1860s as indentured laborers to cut sugarcane—has also made an indelible mark and now represents about 1 million of Durban's total population of 3.5 million.