Top things to do in Durban

Durban is a coastal city in eastern South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. Perhaps not as famous as Johannesburg and Cape Town, Durban has plenty to offer those who travel to its golden shores.

Why visit Durban?

There are many reasons to visit our beautiful city, but here are the top 3:

Durban is really chilled… like really

It’s not just a rumour – Durban people are famously chilled out. From wearing flip-flops to the club, to our own unique lingo including words like “kiff”, “dak” and “tune” – Durbanites (what we call Durban locals) are the most chill people you’ll ever meet. Durbanites like to surf, complain about the cold, and “no shirt no service” doesn’t exist here.

Durban’s beaches are amazing

North Beach in Durban, South Africa, with sandcastles and plants
North Beach in Durban, South Africa

From North Beach to Umhlanga to Umdloti, Durbs has a great selection of beaches sure to keep you busy for days. The most important thing for us is that the water is always warm. Wet suits in winter? We’re not in Cape Town, bro.

Durban is a melting pot of culture

Durban is extremely diverse, with people of all races, languages and cultures. The largest ethnic group are the Zulus. There are also a large number of people of British and Indian descent. The Indian influence in particular stands out and has a big influence on the religion, culture and cuisine of Durbs. You’ll find that Durbanites tend to love their curries, a popular dish being a Bunny Chow (steaming curry served in a hollowed out loaf of bread), said to have been invented in Durban.

The best things to do in Durban

Visit the stadium

the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban is an iconic structure
The iconic arch of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Image by Lynn Greyling from Pixabay

Durban is very proud of its Moses Mabhida Stadium, constructed for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Things to do at the stadium:

  • The Big Swing – The Big Swing has been officially named the world’s tallest swing by the Guinness Book of Records since 14 May 2011. Jumping off the arch, you’ll soar into the centre of the stadium for a experience you’ll never forget! Price: R695pp.
  • Stadium Tour – the tour takes you through the players’ tunnel, onto the pitch, and through the VIP Suites and famous art collections that presidents and celebrities have admired before you.
  • Adventure Walk – Climb the iconic arch of the Durban stadium, and enjoy an exclusive view over the city and shoreline. Climbing the arch is fairly easy going, with 500 steps to ascend, and can be done in 20 minutes. Price: R100pp.
  • SkyCar – If you want a less strenuous way to enjoy the stadium, step into the SkyCar (a cabin running on steel tracks) which takes you up to a viewing point, offering 360 degree views of Durban and the Indian Ocean. Price: R60pp
  • Segway Gliding Tours – Hop onto a Segway and glide on the promenade, enjoying the sights and sounds of Durbs. The Segway Gliding Tours can take you all the way along the beachfront, to Blue Lagoon or uShaka. Prices from R230-R480 depending on length of tour.
  • People’s Park – A cool place to hang out, ride bikes, and let the kids roam free in the free play areas. Grab a bite to eat at People’s Park Cafe.
The Moses Mabhida SkyCar takes you to the top of the stadium
Travel to the top of the stadium in a SkyCar. Image by Amarjit Singh from Pixabay

Go swimming or surfing at the beach

Durban has many great beaches, and you won’t be able to resist getting into the water. Surfing is very popular in Durban, and the waves are generally great. You’ll mostly see surfers gathering along the back line at Shaka Beach and North Beach.

A surfer rides a wave in Durban, South Africa, with the city and stadium in the background
A surfer rips it up in Durban. Photo by Ceeces Travel on Unsplash

If you haven’t come equipped with your own board, you can rent surfboards and bodyboards at The Surf HQ or Xpressions – which also rents out sups and offers surf and sup lessons.

Bar hop on Florida Road

A cocktail beverage in a bar, with fairy lights.
A cocktail beverage. Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

Most cities have that one street that feels like the hub of all activity and entertainment. In Cape Town, it’s Kloof Street. In Barcelona, it’s Las Ramblas. In Durban, it’s Florida Road. If you’re looking for something to do come evening-time, try visiting some bars and restaurants on the buzzing Florida Road in Windermere.

Some well-known establishments are House of Curries, Taco Zulu, Dropkick Murphys, and Spiga. Vicky Christina’s is a good spot for sun downers and evening cocktails. When the kitchens close, bars and clubs come to life. Choose from laid-back bars to more up-tempo venues that stay open til the early hours.

Skate, stroll, or cycle along the promenade

Durban’s popular 4 mile stretch (also known as The Golden Mile) offers a wide pavement, perfect for a leisurely stroll, skate, or cycle.

A blue bike with a basket on the Durban beachfront.
A bicycle in Durban. Image by VICTORIA BRUCE from Pixabay

There are several bike rental shops along the Durban beachfront. Xpression also rents bicycles, or you can rent them from The Bike & Bean, also a popular breakfast spot, on Snell Parade.

skateboarding around the Moses Mabhida stadium
Skate along the promenade and around the stadium

Visit uShaka Marine World

Water slides at a water park in Switzerland
Water slides in Switzerland. Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

uShaka Marine World is located on Durban’s Golden Mile, right by uShaka Beach. It’s basically a huge theme park, made up of:

  • Sea World – Africa’s largest aquarium
  • Wet ‘n Wild – a water park with Africa’s highest slide
  • Village Walk – an outdoor shopping mall
  • Kids World – a playground for kids
  • Sea Animals Encounters Island – snorkel with exotic fish, feed a stingray, and even dive with sharks (Xpanda Shark Dive). These sharks are kept in captivity, which I do not agree with. To dive with free sharks, you can try this – snorkel and swim with oceanic blacktip sharks on the Aliwal Shoal.
  • Dangerous Creatures – where you can interact with various reptiles, from snakes to lizards. Again, these are captive animals, so it is your choice whether you do this activity or not.
  • Chimp & Zee, a rope adventure park (no chimps involved!)

uShaka Marine World is also home to a variety of restaurants, including Cargo Hold, a sophisticated venue when you can dine aboard a ship, against the backdrop of a floor-to-ceiling aquarium. Watch sharks swimming by as you indulge in some delicious cuisine.

For rates and times, click here.

Visit the Botanic Gardens

Durban Botanic Gardens is currently Africa’s oldest surviving botanic garden and remains a centre of plant conservation and plant-based education. You can take a guided walk or just wander around these well-maintained gardens by yourself.

The gardens are a popular picnic spot, and you’re welcome to bring blankets, picnic baskets and chairs, and stretch out under a nice shady tree. There’s also a tea garden serving up some top-notch scones. If you’re around in spring or autumn, be sure to visit the Orchid House to view more than 9000 plants.

The Botanic Gardens sometimes holds live music events, with popular local performers like Jeremy Loops and Johnny Clegg, so look out for those. Entry into the Durban Botanic Gardens is free.

Have coffee and cake at Makaranga

Beautiful flowers at Makaranga Gardens
Flowers at Makaranga Gardens.

Makaranga is one of my favourite spots in Durban. A bit out of the way, located about 30 minutes from the centre of Durban, it’s really worth the bit of drive time. The stunning hotel, restaurant and coffee shop is located on a sprawling piece of land with gorgeous plants of all kinds.

You’ll find indigenous and exotic botanical gardens, ponds, meandering streams and even a waterfall. They also have the largest private collection of Zimbabwean stone art in Southern Africa for you to view as you wander the extensive grounds.

Have a bite to eat in the charming restaurant, or some tea/coffee and cake out on the deck. Then take a long stroll around the gardens, soaking in the greenery and peaceful sounds of nature. There’s also a spa at the hotel, if you feel like pampering yourself.

Take part in a sporting event

Durban dwellers are very sporty and have many treasured annual sporting events which they participate in or support with a lot of enthusiasm. To really get in touch with your inner Durbanite, take part or be a supporter at one of Durban’s big sporting events.

The biggest ones are:

  • The Vodacom Durban July– Africa’s greatest horse racing event.
  • The Comrades Marathon – an ultramarathon run annually between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It’s the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race, and draws people from all over the world to take part.
  • The Dusi – the biggest canoeing event on the African continent, and one of the world’s most popular river marathons, attracting between 1600 and 2000 paddlers each year.
  • Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic – the oldest road classic cycle race in South Africa.

Visit the Whalebone Pier in Umhlanga

Whalebone Pier in Umhlanga is a popular spot in Durban
Whalebone Pier in Umhlanga

Whalebone Pier is a popular tourist attraction in Umhlanga (meaning ‘Place of Reeds’ in Zulu), and is always worth a visit. The beautiful setting is completed by the Umhlanga Lighthouse, also a distinctive landmark in this area.

Enjoy the scenery by taking a stroll along the Umhlanga promenade, or while having sundowners at The Oyster Box Hotel’s Ocean Terrace.

Sail out to sea on a catamaran

Durban pier at sunrise
A Durban pier at sunrise. Image by Danie Bester from Pixabay

Admire Durban’s beautiful coastline from the deck of a catamaran! Because Durban has its own harbour, there are several companies running sea cruises and sunset cruises.

Several companies offer either private or public boat cruises, including Dirty Boots, which offers a 1 hour Sea Cruise or a 90 minute Sunset Sea Cruise. For private sunset boat cruises, try Boat Hire by the Sea.

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8 Responses

  1. Susan van der Spek says:

    Very interesting article with loads of useful information for a great visit to Durban

  2. Nic Powell says:

    Wow, this article really showed me what a “kiff” place Durban is!
    Definitely the most comprehensive to-do list around!

  3. Dave says:

    Lovely breezy article, I think even locals will be motivated to get out and about by reading it!

  4. Charlotte says:

    Excellent article! We have an amazing lifestyle here at the coast and it’s wonderful when someone takes the time to piece it all together to make it easier for others to embrace – both locals and visitors.

    • Sandra Parmee says:

      Thank you so much for that lovely comment Charlotte! Durban really is something special and I love sharing that with people.

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