14 Fun Things to Do in Durban (+Map)

Durban is South Africa’s third-largest city in terms of both land and population. It’s located in the KwaZulu-Natal Province along the country’s east coast. The first thing you might notice when hopping off the plane is the unique weather. Unlike Cape Town and Johannesburg, Durban experiences real heat and humidity. It has its own tropical microclimate and is where all the country’s palms and sugar grow.

Many don’t realize the incredible foreign influence on this African city until they visit in person. Durban is shaped by its colonial past, with strong influences from throughout Africa and India.

The city is built along the coastline, with an urban beachfront zone. While this part of the city was once glamorous and safe, it isn’t anything to write home about these days. Instead, visitors gravitate towards Umhlanga on the north coast and up to Scottburgh along the South Coast.

Having visited the city plenty of times over my years living in Cape Town, these are a few of my favorite things to do in Durban:

Walk along the Golden Mile

Golden Mile

Whenever I arrive in a new city, the first thing I like to do is explore on foot. To be honest, there aren’t many parts of Durban I recommend walking around alone. To put it lightly, the city center can be dangerous and unfriendly.

That said, the Golden Mile is one of the best parts of the city to explore. There is a good reason it’s one of the city’s main tourist attractions, stretching from the golden beaches, past iconic fishing piers, surf spots, and a ton of restaurants and cafes.

The mile runs along the coastline from uShaka Beach to Suncoast Casino. It includes a direct route to the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which will be discussed later. Some other major attractions along the walk include a Mini Town miniature museum and a popular picnic spot called Blue Lagoon.

Explore the Durban Botanical Garden

Durban Botanical Garden

Durban’s Botanical Garden might not be as famous as Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch Gardens, but it is still one of the best places to visit in the tropical South African city. Founded in 1849, the gardens are the continent’s oldest surviving botanic gardens and remain a major space for plant conservation and biodiversity education in Durban.

The gardens are open Monday through Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. and until 5:45 p.m. during summer. Entrance to the garden is free, but donations are always appreciated.

Pro Tip: Make sure to visit when the Ernest Thorpe Orchid House is open. Established in 1962, this conservatory is home to over 75 species of tropical orchids and 6,000 plants. The gardens also have an impressive collection of tropical palms, cycads, and a butterfly habitat garden!

Spend a Day in the Valley of a Thousand Hills

Valley of a Thousand Hills

For a day trip like no other, take the road towards Pietermaritzburg to the Valley of a Thousand Hills. The valley is pretty big, but part of it can be reached within just thirty to forty minutes from Durban.

The PheZulu Safari Park, just a forty-minute drive from the city center, is a must for anyone who hasn’t been to the area before. Sure, it’s organized for tourists, but it offers an authentic taste of Zulu heritage and culture.

Surrounded by endless hills, you’ll hardly believe you’re just a short drive from the city. The iconic Gasa Clan performs Zulu dance shows four times a day, at 10 am, 11:30 am, 2 pm, and 3:30 pm, for the equivalent of $10 for adults and $6 for kids.

You can even hop on a guided open-air 4X4 game drive for as low as $15 per person!

Ride a Traditional Rickshaw on the Beachfront

Traditional Rickshaw

Along the Golden Mile, close to North Beach, Dairy Beach, and Bay of Plenty Pier, you’ll spot men dressed head to toe in traditional Zulu outfits, pulling rickshaws on wheels. These vibrant rides might be a tourist attraction, but this doesn’t take away from how fun and unique the experience can be!

As a kid, I always loved chatting with the drivers and hearing fascinating stories about the area’s history of rickshaws and Zulu culture. Rides cost around $5 for a ten-minute lap, and I advise you to tip your driver generously.

Pro Tip: There are only a handful of these hand-pulled passenger carts wheeling around the Durban beachfront these days, so make sure to arrive early to secure your seat.

Eat Your Heart Out with Curry


Durban is home to the largest population of people of Indian descent in Africa. In fact, the city is often called the ‘largest Indian city outside of India,’ so it’s no shock that Indian cuisine forms a huge part of Durban’s food scene.

The curry here is as authentic as curry gets. Make sure to try a traditional mutton curry, a local favorite.

Another famous street food is called Bunny Chow. To clarify, there is no bunny in this chow. Instead, bunny chow is a large roll (or sometimes a whole loaf of bread) hollowed out and filled with curry. Bunny chow costs as little as $2 to $3 per massive serving and is traditionally eaten with one’s hands.

Pro Tip: Food is typically spicy in Durban. If you can’t handle the heat, make sure to specify a ‘Cape Town Mild’ for no chili or ‘Durban Hot’ for plenty of spice.

Try Your Hand at a Curry Cooking Class

Curry Cooking Class

On the topic of curry, one of my favorite things to do in a foreign city is learning how to cook a traditional meal. There are a few cooking schools worth mentioning, including Gecko Culinary Adventures in Morningside, the Fusion Cooking School in Westville, and The Curry Queen in Hillcrest.

Depending on how experienced your instructor is, cooking classes start at around $10 per person per hour. Considering you usually get to eat what you cook, this is a small price to pay for a new skill and a meal!

Treat Yourself to a Spa Treatment at the Oyster Box Hotel

The Oyster Box Hotel

If there is one place worth splurging for a massage in Durban, it’s The Oyster Box. This iconic five-star hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean in Umhlanga has one of the country’s top-rated spas, with extensive health, beauty, and wellness treatments.

A two-hour full-body experience costs around $150, while a basic one-hour reflexology massage costs $70.

The Oyster Box Hotel
The Oyster Box Hotel

Pro Tip: Make sure to arrive early for your appointment. When you book a treatment, you can also access the spa’s relaxation room, plunge pool, and rain shower. The Hammam ceremony room can be reserved for an extra charge.

Head to the South Coast for a Beach Day


Just a 45-minute drive south of Durban’s city center, Durban’s South Coast is one of the most beautiful parts of the KZN province. Unlike the busy city, the streets are safe, and the water is clean here.

Some of the most popular South Coast towns include Scottburgh and Amanzintoti. A little further along the N2 highway, Margate and Port Shepstone are around an hour and a half drive from Durban. These small towns offer a totally unique feel from the bustling streets of Durban and are well worth a day trip.

Spend a Day in Umhlanga Rocks

Umhlanga Rocks

If you aren’t staying in Umhlanga already, I highly recommend spending time in this pristine neighborhood pocket. Located just north of the city center, Umhlanga is one of Durban’s most opulent neighborhoods, with some of the city’s best beaches, shopping, and nightlife.

While you’re there, make your way to the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve, Whalebone Pier, and Umhlanga Arch for a bit of shopping. When the sun sets, Florida Road and Windermere Road in Morningside come alive with activity and are lined with great bars and clubs to grab a nightcap.

Learn How to Surf

Learn How to Surf

Durban is famous for its incredible surfing conditions, which are only made better by the temperate water temperature and year-round warm weather. The best beach to learn to surf at is Addington Beach in the city center, where small waves and warm water make for the perfect beginner conditions.

Rent a board and book a lesson at Learn 2 Surf Durban Surf School. A two-hour group lesson costs $30 per person. Or you could opt for a private one-hour lesson for $16.

Pro Tip: Before booking, find out if board and wetsuit rentals are included in the lesson price. Wetsuits aren’t always necessary, but they can make the experience more comfortable.

Watch a Soccer Game at the Moses Mabhida Stadium

Moses Mabhida Stadium

With its iconic ‘arch of triumph’ and unique lighting, Moses Mabhida Stadium is a jewel along the Durban beachfront. Built to accommodate soccer fans during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it’s now a defining landmark of the city’s skyline.

Fourteen years later, the stadium still hosts various sporting, cultural, and social events. If your trip coincides with soccer season, I recommend watching a soccer match live at the stadium. Tickets start as low as $5 per person but get pretty expensive for better seats.

Pro Tip: check the stadium’s schedule and buy your tickets online well in advance to secure the best seats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *