Durban offers a blend of African, European, and Indian culture, as well as a vibrant waterfront, superb weather, and ready access to some of South Africa's best beaches. Long a magnet for outdoor lovers, Durban has something for everyone.
Durban is a wonderful base to explore South Africa's east coast. Bodyboard at North Beach, surf at Bay of Plenty, or fish at Blue Lagoon.
Durban isn't known as "South Africa's Playground" for nothing. Families can unwind at great attractions like the water park and aquarium at uShaka Marine World.
If you want to get up close and personal, you can dive with (harmless) sharks at Blue Wilderness or see thousands of fearsome reptiles at Crocodile Creek.
Durban's playground reputation was built around huge casinos like Suncoast - an entertainment complex with gambling, beaches, food, and shows to enjoy every day of the year.
South Africans love their sport. Why not catch the cricket at Kingsmead or see the Springboks battle it out in a rugby game at Kings Park Stadium?
Not for nothing is uShaka Marine World's 40 acres of water adventure considered one of Durban's best spots to visit. Here, families, friends and couples alike flock for the day - but don't expect to see the entire African-themed park in just 18 hours. The aquarium has five different sections, designed around five creatively re-imagined shipwrecks. Come for the dolphin show but stay for the chance to scuba dive and explore these shipwrecks, view the fascinating creatures and take your chances atop the "Wet'n'Wild" slide, the highest, most breathtaking water slide in the southern hemisphere. Slider, beware!
It's called the golden "mile" but its actually almost four miles of beachfront in Durban: could you ask for anything better? From Blue Lagoon South to Addington Beach, and Durban Harbor, this boardwalk and its accompanying beachfront attracts walkers, joggers, surfers looking to catch a few cool waves and sunbathers just craving those rays. The Golden Mile feels more like a tropical destination than a city one and you'll quickly understand why those who visit Durban come back refreshed and sun-kissed. Take to the generous and well-kept pavement for activities like biking and rollerblading. And, to cool down, take a dip or build a sandcastle.
See a meerkat stand curiously on its tiptoes and an Aldabra giant tortoise munching away at the Mitchell Park Zoo in Durban. Though it was first established as an ostrich farm, this veritable menagerie of animals has since expanded its roster to include cotton-top tamarins, majestic grey crowned cranes and more. Once you've been captivated by the fauna, rest amidst its flora: Mitchell Park Zoo boasts about 200 species of fragrant roses. Travelers with kids can take advantage of the Blue Zoo tea garden, playground, walk-through aviary and lawn area.
This historic trail is for those who want to relive the origins of history and democracy in South Africa. Start at Inanda Township, where Mandela first voted in South Africa's 1994 democratic elections, and move to Gandhi's Phoenix Settlement, a key space for the passive-resistance movement, and the Inanda Seminary, founded in 1869 for girls by American missionaries. Progressing through the trail gives the traveler a real sense that history, like time, is constantly on the move.
The Durban Botanical Gardens occupy a vast and sprawling 37 acres of land dedicated entirely to the celebration and study of Durban's native ecosystems and flora. As such, it is famous for its "living fossils" of pre-dinosaur era cycads that are safe from extinction but have existed for almost 250 million years. Botanists work and study within the facilities while the traveler gets a chance to view the impossibly lush and green foliage, small pools and canopied trees up-close.
Durban enjoys 320 days of sunshine every year, so most months are ideal for outdoor lovers. In fact, winter (June to August) could be the ideal time to go, with temperatures rarely dipping below 70 degrees.
King Shaka International Airport (DUR) is 30 miles out of town. From there, a taxi will cost around R400, while the airport shuttle costs R80.
Trains from Johannesburg to Durban are operated by Shosholoza Meyl/South African Railways (R360, around 12 hours).
From Cape Town or Port Elizabeth, follow highway 2 around the coast. From Johannesburg, take highway 3 straight to Durban.
Companies operating buses to Durban include Baz Bus, Citiliner, Greyhound, and Translux, with connections to all major South African cities.
Some of Durban's best hotels include the Suncoast (which also offers a casino complex), the seafront Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani, and the more central Hilton Durban.
City Center - dominated by modern office buildings, Durban's center has excellent museums like the KwaMuhle Museum - a powerful record of the history of Apartheid.
Beachfront - visitors and locals alike gravitate towards Beachfront, with its sand, water parks, casinos, and recently renovated promenade.
Berea - a historical gem, Berea is full of colonial-era homes, as well as the Durban Botanical Gardens and less crowded sands at Bluff Beaches.
Mynah buses run between Durban's suburbs (R2.40 per journey) while the People Mover operates on inner city routes (R16 for a day pass). Aqualine also run buses to resorts along the coast.
Taxis need to be pre-booked, and will cost around R18 for the meter drop, then R25 per mile.
You can rent cars from branches of Dollar, Avis, and Europcar, with daily prices as low as R140.
Gateway Theatre of Shopping claims to be the largest mall in the southern hemisphere. However, if you want something more intimate, try Essenwood Craft Market, where you'll find Zulu art and soapstone figurines.
Supermarkets in Durban include Shoprite, Checksave, and Saverite. As an indication, expect to pay around R25 for 12 eggs.
Try Butcher Boys Grill for authentic South African meat (a national obsession), dine on excellent seafood at Harvey's, sample African cuisine at moyo Ushaka, or enjoy first-rate curry at restaurants like Little Gujarat. Prices will vary, but a good meal shouldn't cost more than R100.