62 Best Sights in Durban and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Eastern Shores

Fodor's choice

An ideal beach and safari destination, the Eastern Shores (which lies on the eastern section of Lake St Lucia) features a number of straightforward, paved game-viewing roads that offer comprehensive access to the lucky packet of charming habitats at a fraction of the cost at other Big Five destinations. Take a day trip to scour the grassland, lakes, pans, and coastal dune forest for animals and birds via the lookout points (if there's time for just one, then make it Kwashaleni Tower which was designed for whale watching). Pack a bathing suit and snorkel mask too and break your day in the car with a picnic on the beach at popular Cape Vidal. 

Herb Market

Fodor's choice

Southern Africa's largest and most extensive traditional medicine market, known locally as the Muti (traditional medicine, pronounced moo-tee) Market, has tables and tables filled with bunches of fresh and dried herbs, plant matter, and (controversially) animal bones, skin, and other parts, possibly including endangered species. The market also serves as a distinctive traditional-medicine facility, where sangomas (traditional healers) offer consultations to locals in a bustling, urban atmosphere. If you're feeling bold, you might wish to consult a sangoma on matters of health, wealth, or personal problems. Remember to always respect the traders and do not take photographs of people or the goods for sale, particularly any animal matter. If you are with a guide, ask them to negotiate picture-taking on your behalf, if you must—there's no guarantee though. Speaking of guides, you can hire one through Durban Tourism or book a comprehensive tour through Markets of Warwick that includes all the neighborhood's markets. 

KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board

Fodor's choice

Most of the popular bathing beaches in KwaZulu-Natal are protected by shark nets maintained by this shark-research institute, the world's foremost. Each day, weather permitting, crews in ski boats check the nets, releasing healthy sharks back into the ocean and bringing dead ones back to the institute, where they are dissected and studied. One-hour tours are offered, including a shark dissection (sharks' stomachs have included such surprising objects as a boot, a tin can, and a car license plate!) and an enjoyable and fascinating audiovisual presentation on sharks and shark nets. An exhibit area and good curio shop are also here. You can also join the early morning trip from Durban harbor to watch the staff service the shark nets off Durban's Golden Mile. Depending on the season, you will more than likely see dolphins and whales close at hand,  but the real kicker are the sunrise views across the city. Booking is essential for trips to the shark nets, and a minimum of six people is required; no one under age six is allowed.  Book well in advance for this—it may turn out to be a highlight of your trip.

1a Herrwood Dr., Umhlanga, KwaZulu Natal, 4319, South Africa
sights Details
Rate Includes: Presentation R50, boat trips R350, Dissection show days Tues.–Thurs. only, Boat tour fee includes complementary ticket to shark dissection show

Recommended Fodor's Video

KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts Gallery

Glenwood Fodor's choice

This arts complex, known as KZNSA, houses four exhibition areas, in addition to a crafts shop, the Durban Center for Photography, and a classy open-air cafe. The center does not have a particular focus but is committed to promoting emerging talent in the province. Exhibition media ranges from photos and paintings to video installations. The center's clean architectural lines and leafy setting, with ever-changing colorful murals on the exterior, make this a popular venue with Durban's trendy set, and it's a lovely place to cool off after a hot morning touring the town. The gallery and crafts shop support and promote local art, so it's worth seeking out for tasteful souvenirs. Local musicians are often given a platform on Friday nights.  The daytime-only restaurant is a wonderful child-friendly pit stop with affordable lunches such as prosciutto and mozzarella toasted sandwiches or no-frills beef burgers for under R65.

Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Fodor's choice

In 2012, on the 50th anniversary of Nelson's Mandela's capture, this breathtakingly dramatic steel sculpture was unveiled and the visitor center opened. You will never have seen anything quite like this—don't miss it. The magnitude of what happened here is remarkable: on August 5, 1962, after 17 months on the run, Nelson Mandela, disguised as a chauffeur, was arrested at this very spot on his way from Durban to Johannesburg. He was convicted of incitement and illegally leaving the country and was sentenced to 5 years in jail before being prosecuted in the Rivonia Trials that led to his 27-year incarceration, most of it served on Robben Island. The new immersive exhibition is a marvel with a 360-surround film screened onto the towering walls accompanied by copious clippings and artifacts that'll keep you engrossed for ages. Plan at least two hours for your visit; the last admission is at 4 pm. The cafe is open on weekends from 10 to 4 for light lunches and coffee.

Phinda Private Game Reserve

Fodor's choice

This eco-award-winning flagship &Beyond reserve, established in 1991, is a heartening example of tourism serving the environment with panache. Phinda (pin-da) is Zulu for "return," referring to the restoration of 220 square km (85 square miles) of overgrazed ranchland in northern Zululand to bushveld. It's a triumph. Today Phinda has a stunning variety of seven healthy ecosystems including the rare sand forest (which grows on the fossil dunes of an earlier coastline), savanna, bushveld, open woodland, mountain bush, and verdant wetlands. The Big Five are all here, plus cheetahs, spotted hyenas, hippos, giraffes, impalas, and the rare, elusive, tiny Suni antelope. Birdlife is prolific and extraordinary, with some special Zululand finds: the pink-throated twinspot, the crested guineafowl, the African broadbill, and the crowned eagle. The reserve is a little more than a two-hour drive from Richards Bay or four hours by road from Durban.

Umhlanga Beaches

Fodor's choice

Some of the country's finest beaches are on this stretch of the coast, and they can be less crowded than those in central Durban. Safe and clean—Umhlanga Rocks beach has a Blue Flag award—the beaches are easily accessed via pathways from parking lots down to a promenade skirting the busy beachfront. Vacation apartments and premier hotels like the Oyster Box, Cabanas, and Beverly Hills line this paved walkway southward to Umhlanga’s famous lighthouse. If you're driving here, arrive early at peak times so you'll have a better chance of finding a parking spot. Amenities: food and drink; parking. Best for: jogging; sunrise; surfing; swimming; walking.

Lighthouse Rd. or Marine Dr., Umhlanga, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free

uShaka Beach

Beachfront Fodor's choice

In front of uShaka Marine World aquarium and water theme park this beach has small waves and calm conditions, making it great for families. Sand sculptors are often here, too, creating intricate artwork. Grassy banks offer an alternative to the sand (which isn't always as clean as the more central beaches), and the local surf school is busy all year round. A block inland, in the rejuvenated Point area, is the trendy Docklands hotel. Amenities: parking. Best for: swimming; walking.

uShaka Marine World

Beachfront Fodor's choice

This aquatic complex combines the uShaka Sea World aquarium and the uShaka Wet 'n Wild water park. The largest aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere, it has a capacity of nearly 6 million gallons of water, more than four times the size of Cape Town's aquarium. Enter through the side of a giant ship and walk down several stories to enter a "labyrinth of shipwrecks"—a jumble of five different fake but highly realistic wrecks, from an early-20th-century passenger cruiser to a steamship. Within this labyrinth are massive tanks, housing more than 350 species of fish and other sea life and the biggest variety of sharks in the world, including ragged-tooth and Zambezi (bull sharks). Try to catch the divers hand-feeding fish and rays in the morning. The complex includes dolphin, penguin, and seal shows, and a variety of reptiles and amphibians populate the Dangerous Creatures exhibit.

The extensive water park comprises slides, pools, and about 10 different water rides. The intensity ranges from toddler-friendly to adrenaline junkie. Durban's moderate winter temperatures make it an attraction pretty much year-round, though it's especially popular in summer. Right out front, the uShaka beach is also one of the best in the city with lifeguards on duty.  Avoid on public holidays, and call ahead during winter when hours may change.

Buy Tickets Now
1 King Shaka Ave., Durban, KwaZulu Natal, 4001, South Africa
sights Details
Rate Includes: Sea World R157; Wet \'n Wild R157. Dangerous Creatures Exhibit R62, Children under 3 get in for free

AmaZulu Game Reserve and AmaKhosi Lodge

More than 100 square km (39 square miles) of pristine wilderness on the perennial Mkhuze River are the attraction at this private reserve, where habitats range from rocky hillsides to thick bushveld, tamboti forests to broad wetlands. AmaKhosi has all of the Big Five, in addition to wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, and a variety of antelopes, including the shy nyala. Most animals have been reintroduced, with the exception of leopards, which remain secretive and very difficult to spot. Hundreds of birds, however, are much easier to see.

Try something really special—after a day spotting big game, join a guided frogging safari at night. Armed with a lighted miner's helmet, you'll discover a whole new exciting amphibian world. The reserve is 40 km (21 miles) south of Pongola.

Assagay Coffee

Take a tour to see how this 100% homegrown coffee, very popular with locals, is grown, roasted, and packaged. You may also find this distinctive, delicious coffee—from dark roast through to espresso—in your local speciality coffee store. Look for the distinctive calico bag packaging.

Babanango Game Reserve

About three hours from Durban, and 50 km (31 miles) from Vryheid, this new reserve pairs Zulu cultural lessons with wonderful wildlife encounters. Once indentured farmland, this protected 22,000-hectare (54,363 acre) Zululand reserve underwent biodiversity rehabilitation and now encompasses mist belt grasslands, thornveld, and river frontage, and is home to animals of all sizes, from the sweet little steenbok to the surlier lion. The acacia-flecked plains and meandering valleys are home to three beautifully refurbished lodges—historically-inclined Babanango Valley Lodge, Zulu Rock Lodge in the north, and the highly anticipated riverside Travellers Camp—all managed and staffed in partnership with local communities. Nearby sites include the Isandlwana battlefield, Rorke's Drift, Devil's Pass, the grave of Piet Retief, and the location of the Battle of Blood River.

BAT Centre

Victoria Embankment

This vibrant center (buoyed by a current contemporary revival) is abuzz with artists and musicians. Most days—and some nights—you can watch sculptors and painters at work, hear poetry readings, and see Africology (African teachings and traditions) dancers and musicians. The center is home to several small galleries that showcase the work of local artists. The center contains a coffee bar overlooking the bay and shops that sell an excellent selection of high-quality African crafts, including fabrics and ceramics.

Battle of Blood River Site

One of the most influential events in the history of South Africa with long-reaching tragic consequences for the original inhabitants of the land, this battle, fought between the Boers and the Zulus in 1838, predates the Anglo-Zulu War by more than 40 years. After the murder of Piet Retief and his men at Mgungundlovu in February 1838, Dingane dispatched Zulu impis to kill all the white settlers in Natal. But by November Andries Pretorius's new group of 464 men and 64 wagons moved to challenge the Zulus and took a vow that should God grant them victory, they would forever remember that day as a holy day. On December 16 an enormous Zulu force armed only with spears attacked the armed Boers. At the end of the battle 3,000 Zulus lay dead, but it's said not a single Boer had fallen. The long-term effects of the battle were dramatic. The intensely religious Voortrekkers saw their great victory as a confirmation of their role as God's chosen people which led to the apartheid system that surfaced more than a century later. Two powerful monuments—one to the Boers, the other to the Zulus—today commemorate the battle.

Bluff Beaches


South of Durban's harbor, these beaches offer a less crowded alternative to the more central city beaches, although it can get rough at times, with big waves. Brighton Beach and Anstey’s Beach are popular surf spots, with southerly surf swells breaking on the rocky reef below. Cave Rock at low tide is a paradise for anyone who enjoys exploring rock pools; at high tide it's a wave ride for the fearless. Amenities: lifeguards. Best for: surfing; swimming.

Marine Dr., Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Campbell Collections


Amid bustling, suburban Berea, Muckleneuk is a tranquil Cape Dutch home in a leafy garden. It was built in 1914 upon the retirement of Sir Marshall Campbell, a wealthy sugar baron and philanthropist who lived here with his wife, Ellen, and daughter, Killie. Today it is administered as a museum by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and is furnished in similar style to when the Campbells lived here, with some excellent pieces of the family's Cape Dutch furniture. In addition to the William Campbell Furniture Museum (William was the son of Sir Marshall) there is an extensive collection of works by early European traveler artists, such as Angas, and paintings by prominent 20th-century Black South African artists, including Gerard Bhengu, Daniel Rakgoathe, and Trevor Makhoba. The Mashu Museum of Ethnology displays the best collection of traditional Zulu glass beadwork in the country, plus African utensils, like tightly woven wicker beer pots, carvings, masks, pottery, and musical instruments. There are also weapons dating from the Bambatha Uprising of 1906, during which Blacks in Natal rebelled against a poll tax and were brutally put down. Paintings of African tribespeople in traditional dress by artist Barbara Tyrrell, who traveled around South Africa from the 1940s to 1960s gathering valuable anthropological data, add vitality to the collection. The Killie Campbell Africana Library, open to the public, is a treasure trove of historical information on KwaZulu-Natal. It includes the papers of James Stuart, a magistrate and explorer during the early 20th century; the recorded oral tradition of hundreds of Zulus; a collection of pamphlets produced by the Colenso family in their struggle for the recognition of the rights of the Zulu people; and a good collection of 19th-century works relating to game hunting.

220 Gladys Mazibuko [Marriott] Rd., Durban, KwaZulu Natal, 4001, South Africa
sights Details
Rate Includes: Muckleneuk daily tours R20 (reservations essential); library free, Bring exact cash

City Hall

City Centre

Built in 1910 in Edwardian neo-baroque style, the hall looks as if it has been shipped straight from the United Kingdom column by column—hardly surprising, since it's an exact copy of Belfast City Hall. The main pediment carries sculptures representing Britannia, Unity, and Patriotism, and allegorical sculptures of the arts, music, and literature adorn the exterior. City Hall houses not only the mayor's parlor and other government offices, but also the Durban Art Gallery, the Natural Science Museum, and the City Library. Ask the guard to let you in to see the huge theater's ornate molding and grand parterre boxes, or join an official tour run by City of Durban.

Dumazulu Cultural Village

This village has a royal connection, having been opened by the current King of the Zulu, Goodwill Zwelithini. It's the largest traditional cultural settlement in KwaZulu-Natal and home to 50 permanent residents. Visitors can experience Zulu culture, including traditional crafts, music, and cuisine. Artisans also sell their craftwork.

Durban Art Gallery

City Centre

A vibrant, contemporary mix of local, southern African, and international work is presented here, though the main focus is on work from KwaZulu-Natal. Exhibits have included the cultural diversity of art and craft from KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of South Africa. Look out, too, for the traditional, patterned hlabisa baskets, regularly displayed at the gallery. Exhibits change every few months.

Durban Botanic Gardens


Opposite the Greyville Racecourse, Africa's oldest surviving botanical garden is a delightful 150-year-old oasis of greenery interlaced with walking paths, fountains, and ponds. The gardens' orchid house and collection of rare cycads are renowned. The Garden of the Senses caters to the blind, and there's a lovely tea garden where you can take a load off your feet and settle back with a cup of hot tea and cakes—crumpets with "the works" are the best in town. On weekends it's a popular place for wedding photographs. During the Music at the Lake events, which happen on some Sundays, various musical acts perform in the gardens (additional fee) and people take along picnics.

Durban Natural Science Museum

City Centre

Despite its small size, this museum provides an excellent introduction to Africa's numerous wild mammals (the displays include a stuffed elephant and leopard, as well as smaller mammals like wild dogs and vervet monkeys), plants, birds, reptiles, and insects. It's a great place to bring the kids or to familiarize yourself with the local wildlife before heading up to the game parks in northern KwaZulu-Natal. At one popular gallery, the KwaNunu Insect Arcade, giant insect replicas adorn the wall; another, the bird gallery, showcases a variety of stuffed birds, including flamingos, ostriches, eagles, and penguins. Then there's the enormous Tyrannosaurus dinosaur dominating the exhibition. There are exciting, temporary art exhibitions next door.

234 Anton Lembede [Smith] St., Durban, KwaZulu Natal, 4001, South Africa
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day

Farewell Square

City Centre

In the heart of Durban, the square (also known as Luthuli Square) is a lovely shady plaza bordered by some of the city's most historic buildings, including City Hall, the Central Post Office, and the Royal Hotel. Walkways lined with stately palms and flower beds crisscross the square and lead to monuments honoring some of Natal's important historic figures. The square stands on the site of the first European encampment in Natal, established by Francis Farewell and Henry Fynn in 1824 as a trading station to purchase ivory from the Zulus. A statue representing Peace honors the Durban volunteers who died during the Second South African War (1899–1902), also known as the Boer War or Anglo-Boer War. The Cenotaph, a large stone obelisk, commemorates the South African dead from the two world wars. In the same block is the Old Court House Museum, one of the city's oldest buildings. Apart from the historic attractions, it's an energetic, bustling part of the city center, with street stands selling inexpensive flowers, clothes, and food for the locals. You'll really feel the vibe of the city here.  Pay attention to your valuables while walking in the square.

Bounded by Anton Lembede [Smith], Dr. Pixley Kaseme [West], and Dorothy Nyembe [Gardiner] Sts. and the Church St. pedestrian mall, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, 4001, South Africa

Florida Road

City Centre

Florida Road leads a double life. By day, shoppers and tourists stroll up and down the tree-lined avenue, browsing art galleries and boutiques and indulging in lazy lunches; by night it transforms into a neon-lighted nightclub, where hordes of young and not-so-young revelers overflow from restaurants, lounges, and bars.

The thing that sets Florida Road apart is its historic character, with fine Edwardian architecture, well-preserved historic buildings, and half a dozen churches creating a timeless atmosphere that attracts the city’s trendy set to meet and eat. Don't miss the hundreds of locks that adorn the fence at Mandela Legacy Park.

Since the strip is only about 0.8 km (less than ½ mile) long, you can enjoy it on foot in fine weather, but Mynah buses pass regularly, so there’s transportation if you need it, and taxis are another option. The city has erected detailed and well-marked boards for walkers to navigate the city's most popular areas, including Florida Road and surrounds.

Florida Rd., Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Fugitives' Drift

This drift (ford) was where, on 22 January 1879, the British survivors of the Battle of Isandlwana crossed the Buffalo River, and it was here that Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill were killed as they tried to save the Queen’s Colour. They are buried on the hillside above the drift, which is now on the grounds of what is now the Fugitives' Drift Lodge, part of a nature reserve. The Queen's Colour was later recovered and, now restored, hangs in Brecon Cathedral in Wales.  There's no information on-site, so read up about it before your visit, or hire an accredited battlefields guide.

Gateway Theatre of Shopping

The largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere, Gateway has been designed to let in natural light and is surprisingly easy to navigate. Shopping ranges from surfing paraphernalia and imported and local fashions to electronics, Indian spices, and designer wedding frocks. Gateway also has a large variety of entertainment options including an IMAX theater, indoor trampoline park, funfair, karting track, and sports arena.

Golden Mile


From Vetch’s Pier in the south to Suncoast in the north, the Golden Mile is a series of golden, sandy beaches divided by piers. Beaches are cleaned regularly, and each has a beach report board warning of bluebottles, jellyfish, strong currents, or dangerous conditions. Bodyboarders favor North Beach, and New Pier and Bay are preferred surfing spots. Swimmers should remain between the flags or beacons and away from the sides of piers, where strong currents wash straight out to sea. Chairs and umbrellas can be rented. Just off the sand, popular beachfront hotels like the Edward, Blue Waters, Elangeni, Belaire, Tropicana, and Garden Court jostle for visitors’ favor. Rent a bicycle, Segway, or go-kart from a few points along the beachfront and fully enjoy the promenade when you tire of sunbathing. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets. Best for: surfing; swimming.

O. R. Tambo Parade, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding


This magnificent lotus-shaped temple, opened in 1985, is at the heart of activities run by the city's International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Gold-tinted windows add a glow to the interior, floored with imported Italian marble and intricate artwork. Colorful laser drawings depicting the life of the Hindu god Krishna cover the ceiling, and statues of Krishna and his consort Radha are elaborately dressed in traditional Indian attire. Love fests and traditional singing and dancing take place on Sunday (1:30–5) and all are welcome. You need to remove your shoes when entering the temple.

Hawaan Forest

This 114-acre coastal forest grows on a dune that dates back 18,000 years and has 175 species of indigenous trees, fungi (during wet months), and various species of birds. Guided walks take two to three hours and are conducted on the first Saturday of every month (except in January or February), but if you call ahead you may be accommodated at another time.  Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes.

Portland Dr. at Herald Dr., Umhlanga, KwaZulu Natal, 4319, South Africa
sights Details
Rate Includes: R30

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Reputedly King Shaka's favorite hunting ground, Zululand's Hluhluwe-iMfolozi (pronounced shloo-shloo-ee im-fuh-low-zee) incorporates two of Africa's oldest reserves: Hluhluwe and iMfolozi, both founded in 1895. These days the reserves are abbreviated as HIP. In an area of just 906 square km (350 square miles), Hluhluwe-iMfolozi delivers the Big Five plus all the plains game and species like nyala and red duiker that are rare in other parts of the country. Equally important, it encompasses one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet, with a unique mix of forest, woodland, savanna, and grassland. You'll find about 1,250 species of plants and trees here—more than in some entire countries.

The park is administered by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the province's official conservation organization, which looks after all the large game reserves and parks as well as many nature reserves. Thanks to its conservation efforts and those of its predecessor, the highly regarded Natal Parks Board, the park can take credit for saving the white rhino from extinction. So successful was the park at increasing white rhino numbers that in 1960 it established its now famous Rhino Capture Unit to relocate rhinos to other reserves in Africa. The park is currently trying to do for the black rhino what it did for its white cousins. Poaching in the past nearly decimated Africa's black rhino population, but as a result of the park's remarkable conservation program, Africa's black rhinos safely roam this reserve—and you'll get a great opportunity of seeing them in the wild here.

Howick Falls

Although this area in the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is mainly about dining, shopping, and the arts, this lovely waterfall is definitely worth a stop. In the town of Howick, the Umgeni River plunges an impressive 300 feet into a deep pool in the gorge. Local people and sangomas (traditional Zulu healers) believe the waterfall is inhabited by ancestral spirits and has mystical powers. Take photographs from the viewing platform, or if you have more time, there are numerous hikes of varying difficulty that provide different vantages of the falls. Contact or visit the Howick Tourism Office, which is just a few hundred yards from the falls, for information.

Falls Dr., Howick, KwaZulu Natal, 3290, South Africa