Sometimes the best treasures are right here on your doorstep, if you’re a Durbanite that is. If you’re planning to visit Durban, well then, be assured, there is a whole lot more to this city than just beautiful beaches. Here are seven places we think are pretty amazing …..and not so far off the beaten track. (We have recently updated this popular article with two extra Durban treasures we just had to tell you about)
Yes, believe it or not, Durban has it's own Castle, Codemore Castle, tucked away in the heart of the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, surrounded by giant Yellowwood trees, this gracious old stone homestead. It was built by Dering Stainbank in 1885 as a family home and is situated just South of Durban city. Coedmore Castle has remained in the family for 4 generations, and contains many of the original household contents including furniture from the 19th century, old family portraits and antique silverware. Although donated to the state by Kenneth Stainbank, the family currently manages it. It is now open to the public for guided tours, school outings and hire of the grounds for small weddings, functions and photography.
The castle is set in the gorgeous Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve which has a range of mountain bike trails, hiking trails, excellent birding and regular guided walks. This is one of those Durban secret spots you want to visit! In order to tour the castle, bookings are essential. Click here for contact details
90 Coedmore Avenue, Yellowwood Park, Durban (Click this link for a map)
Durban folks often see photos here and there of (or hear rumors of) spots where you can see snow on the Drakensberg (in winter) and at the same time see the ocean and harbor …..this would be quite a site and yes, such a place really does exists. Emalangeni Hill, near Durban Green Corridor's Isithumba Adventure Centre is surprisingly easy to access, in fact it's even accessible by sedan car and probably less than a 30 minute drive from Botha's hill. The area includes some of the most dramatic scenery you will find in the Valley Of A 1000 Hills. The drive to the top of the hill takes you past some incredible rural settings, several taverns that will welcome you in like an old friend, deep gorges and views of the cascading rapids along the uMngeni River and some excellent bird watching along the way. On the drive up you also get spectacular views of Nagle Dam, Inanda Dam and the Duzi - uMngeni confluence. For those with more adventurous spirit, there is also a hair raising 4x4 track down one side of this hill which takes you back down to the Mfula Store area (Contact Jacques Malan for information on these 4x4 tracks) - bottom line, if you have not been up here, then you really have not seen what the Valley of a 1000 hills is really all about.
The area is best accessed via iSithumba Adventures where it is recommended that you pick up a guide (even though the roads are good, they are not well signposted, we hope to get signage to this site soon) or get onto one of Durban Green Corridor's 4x4 excursions and discover this and more incredible scenery yourself.
The best views in Durban. About a 30 minute drive from Duran central is Inanda Mountain, an epic spot with cliffs plummeting down to the shores of Inanda Dam. The views are simply staggering, arguably the best outlook anywhere in Durban. The top of Inanda Mountain is also an amazing bird watching site, especially in late morning when birds of prey catch the thermals off the cliff face and glide up right in front of you. This is the sort of place you can just sit and look and look and look.
How to get there.
Head up the M25 (Curnick Ndlovu Highway) for about 12 km’s, at the big traffic circle in Inanda turn right. Take your first major tar road to the left after 600m, signposted uMzinyathi Falls. Follow this road for a few kilometers till you see a tar road to the left signposted “Hillcrest” after about 1km, turn right at the signpost for “Matata” Head up this steep (tar) mountain pass for several kilometers. At the T-Junction, turn right onto a dirt road and follow this for about 1km through the grassland to the cliff edge. Be careful….the road literally ends at the edge of the cliff face.
The magnificent Mzinyathi Falls are less than a 20 minute drive from Gateway, yes, that’s right, so close yet hardly anyone even knows these falls exist. The Mzinyathi river plunges down a beautiful sandstone amphitheater, over 100m into the Mzinyathi gorge, towering cliffs, thick forests, all makes for an incredible day out. This is also a very popular rock climbing spot and after heavy rains, the falls are a truly impressive sight. Guided hiking trails down into the gorge can also be arranged through the Durban Green Corridor.
Head up the M25 (Curnick Ndlovu Highway) for about 12 km’s, at the big traffic circle in Inanda turn right. Take your first major tar road to the left after 600m, signposted Mzinyathi Falls. Proceed for almost 2km, cross the bridge over the small river turn left onto the Mr259 Rd. Not far down this tar road is a signposted turn to your left onto a dirt road to the falls (about 2km’s of reasonably bumpy dirt road but easily accessible with a sedan)
The Mzinyathi Gorge is also home to the “Rastafarian Caves” – these caves are home to a community of Rastafarians, many of which have normal jobs and commute back to the caves for worship on weekends. The caves can only be accessed using a tricky hidden path and have well constructed little stone rooms within the cave made using natural rock from the area. Visiting the caves is strictly by prior arrangement and with a guide but well worth making the effort to learn more about this fascinating culture and site. Contact Durban Green Corridor to arrange a guided experience to these caves.
The Rastafarian Caves are located in the same area as Mzinyathi Falls
Deep in the Valley of a 1000 hills, about a 30 minute drive from Hillcrest is the most beautiful little spot you’ll ever find, Mfula Store. This old trading store still operates and has great overnight accommodation facilities in a deep, lush forested valley, you may as well be 10 000 km’s away. Just down the road from Mfula Store where the uMngeni and Mqeku rivers meet is one of the most scenic and tranquil picnic spots in KwaZulu-Natal. Managed and maintained by local community members, this site is great for a day out to relax and enjoy the river. The picnic site also has an amazing set of rock formations that form a natural water slide in the river. The store is also conveniently situated close to iSithumba Adventure Centre where you can hire mountain bikes or enjoy an extraordinary cultural experience in this quiet community.
Head out of Hillcrest on Old Main road towards Botha's Hill. Then turn right into the Valley Trust Rd/M56. Follow this for about 10km turn left at the circle at the end of the road. Continue on this road (which becomes dirt) for 7km and cross the bridge, Mfula Store is directly ahead.
Right at the uMngeni Mouth, near the Durban Green Corridor GreenHub are the Beachwood Mangroves. This 76-hectare reserve, not 5 minutes from the city centre is a National Monument and consists of rare mangrove swamp forest and important estuarine habitat at the mouth of the Umgeni River.
There is a beautiful boardwalk into the mangrove forest from which one can view crabs and other mangrove critters going about their day and generally offers an amazing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Guided walks and canoeing can be arranged through the Durban Green Corridor GreenHub
The Green Hub is conveniently located just off the M4 (R102). Coming from the M4 South-bound, please take the Blue Lagoon off-ramp. Then take a right and carry on under the M4-bridge and take the first right into Stiebel Place and you find the Green Hub in front of you. Coming from the M4 North-bound, please take the Blue Lagoon off-ramp, take a left and directly turn right into Stiebel Place and you find the Green Hub in front of you. Coming from the Moses Mabhida Stadium, carry on straight until you get to an Engen garage. Take a right at the garage into Athlone Drive and turn left into Stiebel place, just behind the garage. Follow the road until you see the Green Hub in front of you.