Words: Anne Schauffer | Images: Stephen Pilbrough, supplied & Shutterstock
Durban’s beaches and promenade are undoubtedly highlights of the city, and regulars will testify to the sense of pride and freedom felt as you cycle, run, walk, skateboard, or use any other non-motorised transport, from the Blue Lagoon/Umgeni River end to uShaka Marine World. Safe, healthy, and out there. In the not-too-distant future, of course, the promenade extension which began recently, will provide additional kilometres hugging the ever-changing vista of the harbour mouth and along the Esplanade.
uShaka Marine World is one of the world’s top aquariums and uShaka Wet ’n Wild is an extensive water theme park to keep the little ones happy and busy.
Take a two-minute SkyCar ride up the Moses Mabhida Stadium arch, step onto the platform and take in the unparalleled 360º views of Durban and beyond… or test your nerves on the Big Rush Big Swing, flinging yourself off in a 220m arc over the stadium.
There are professional walking tours of inner-city Durban, incorporating Warwick Triangle, the Victoria Street and muti market, and other historically significant sites.
Durban is the art deco capital of Africa, with numerous sensational buildings. The Durban Art Deco Society offers walks, tours, or you can self-drive.
If you’re in the mood to shop, there are ample markets to choose from. I Heart Market is held on the first Saturday of the month (every Saturday in December) on the lawn alongside Moses Mabhida and offers only Proudly South African goods and eats. Then there’s the Antique Fair at Windermere Centre on the first Saturday of every second month, and the Stables Lifestyle Market close to the rugby stadium in Jaco Jackson Drive, offering antiques and home decor. It’s open Wednesday and Friday evenings and Sundays from 10am until 5pm. The Wonder Market, in Chris Saunders Park, Umhlanga, is open every Sunday, and Shongweni Farmers Market, Outer West, every Saturday.
Denis Hurley Centre (DHC) is one of the city’s most astonishing success stories and beacons of hope in the heart of the city – situated between the imposing spires of the Emmanuel Cathedral and the minarets of the Juma Masjid Grey Street mosque (two of the most significant and revered spiritual institutions in the city). The DHC serves the needs of the poorest people of Durban through their clinic, feeding scheme, vocational training, educational and community support, and pastoral outreach. Volunteer to spend some time there, or visit them – Thembi Langa, their tour guide, will show you around, and get you involved in one of the city’s most hopeful places.
Phansi Museum in Glenwood is a fascinating little museum with a country-wide collection of traditional clothes, items and artwork. Curators are highly knowledgeable and friendly. The museum has a shop that sells local literature, jewellery and other traditional items.
The African Art Centre has been showcasing and selling superb African art and crafts (now based in Station Drive) for over 50 years.
Stainbank Nature Reserve is a 253ha protected area in the suburb of Yellowwood Park, Durban, with a network of trails totalling 15km, wildlife and over 200 birds.
Kickstart Shows, a professional theatre company, stages four productions a year at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on the UKZN campus, typically a festive season panto; a family-friendly production; a major musical and a drama. Playhouse, the city’s mid-town theatre venue, is well worth a visit just for visuals.
Explore the city with a sketch pad with the Urban Sketchers. Join a group of artists, sketchers – accomplished and hobbyists – as they paint, draw and sketch ‘en plein’, monthly on Sunday afternoons around the city. Or join Beset Durban, which offers family-friendly walks through some of Durban’s forgotten spaces and best-kept secrets, every four to six weeks. Their mission is to “explore, educate, inform, occupy and share”.
An inspired music support mechanism, Concerts SA is a joint South African and Norwegian live music development project housed within the Samro Foundation which works with musicians, promoters, venue owners, schools and audiences to nurture and develop live music throughout South Africa as far as the SADC countries. Catch fabulous, homegrown, crossover and multicultural live music, be it jazz, acoustic, contemporary, folk or world music, at venues in and around Durban.
The Chairman is a warm, stylish and schmaltzy weekend all-jazz venue (established and up and coming) with innovative cocktails, great eats, and a strict dress code, in Mahatma Gandhi Road, downtown. Jazzy Rainbow is Durban’s longest running jazz venue, found at 93 Smiso Nkwanyana Road.
The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra is a magnificent full-time professional orchestra, with four formal symphony seasons a year – either in the Durban City Hall or the Playhouse Opera. Baroque 2000 hosts excellent, monthly baroque concerts in the beautiful St Mary’s Church at Marianhill Monastery, about 10min outside Durban. The Monastery, too, is historically magnificent.
KZNSA Gallery, which is over a century old, is one of the more contemporary art galleries. Others worth visiting are Tamasa Gallery (Overport), Elizabeth Gordon Gallery (Florida Road), Green Gallery (Mount Edgecombe), and Etchings Art Gallery (Umgeni Park)
For those keen to work up a sweat there’s yoga on the beachfront – simply pay a drop-in fee and greet the sun. Or you can learn to surf with Xpression on the Beach (Addington beach). Price includes a coach, a surfboard and rash vest or wetsuit. You can hire a bike from Bike n Bean, or run or walk on the Durban beachfront.
Get in touch with nature at the Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve in Virginia, or visit Africa’s oldest botanical garden in Berea or the Mitchell and Jamieson parks in Morningside.
Visit Station Drive, off Umgeni Road, and find eateries, small businesses, retail, craft beers and more and check out Florida Road in Morningside – it’s the vibey, mixed-use sector by day and night, with eateries, coffee shops and retail.