South Africa is a big country with a huge range of attractions. Whether you are looking to combine a visit to KwaZulu-Natal with other destinations in South Africa, or simply have limited time on your trip, we know it's hard to fit it all in - and let's face it, you simply can't. While there is scarcely a place in KwaZulu-Natal we wouldn't recommend, the reality of time limitations when travelling does mean that one sometimes has to cut things down to the bare essentials. So here is our suggested two week itinerary that will cover the highlights of beautiful KwaZulu-Natal, combining the best of city attractions, beach, berg and bush.
Map of the route through KwaZulu-Natal
Map key: Primary route :: Attractions :: Route extension
Stop 1: Durban and Umhlanga city and beaches
Days 1-3. Fly into King Shaka International Airport. Collect a rental car and transfer to your accommodation in Umhlanga (Travel time: 20-30 minutes). Spend the next two days exploring all that this area's laid-back beach city culture has to offer.
Visit uShaka Marine World's aquarium and water park, or hire bicycles and cycle the famous Golden Mile in Durban. Check out any number of incredible beaches in the area and, for something a little different, take in a high tea at the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga. For a taste of local culture join Durban Green Corridor on the Inanda Heritage Route and if you have a shopping itch that needs a scratch, then you'll be pleased to know that Gateway, one of the largest shopping malls in the southern hemisphere, is just around the corner.
Stop 2: St Lucia
Days 3-6. Drive from Durban to St Lucia (Travel time: 2 hours 30 minutes). Take in an afternoon estuary boat cruise and then spend the next two full days discovering the magic of South Africa's biggest estuary and surrounding wilderness area. Here are 12 different ways you can do just that.
Don't forget to book a night game drive in the Eastern or Western Shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park with one of the tour operators in town. This is an incredible experience that is well worth braving the chilly night for.
If you're travelling between the months of November and March then you'll definitely want to book a turtle tour and experience one of the most spectacular phenomena along the KZN coast - the turtle nesting season.
Some other places worth checking out during your time in St Lucia include Cape Vidal, Bat Cave and the famous Lake St Lucia estuary.
Route extender: If you haven't had enough of this beautiful coastline, then head up north to Sodwana Bay for blue-water SCUBA diving on South Africa's best coral reefs. If you have a 4x4 then push even further north all the way to Kosi Bay, but be warned, you may not want to leave and could just end up spending the rest of your holiday here... 🙂
Stop 3: Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve
Days 6-9. Drive from St Lucia to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve (Travel time: 1 hour), and spend the next three days game viewing in this phenomenal Big Five game reserve.
Stop 4: uKhahlamba-Drakensberg
Days 9-12. Drive to the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg's Giant's Castle Game Reserve, in the central berg region (Travel time: 5 hours). Spend the next three days hiking and reconnecting with nature in the tranquility of the mountains. Be sure to bring along these day-hike essentials.
Route extender: If you enjoy history then you will definitely want to stop over in the Battlefields Region on your way from the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve and spend a day or two exploring Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift with the guys from Fugitives Drift Lodge.
Stop 5: Midlands Meander
Day 12-13. Overnight in the countryside near Nottingham Road on the Midlands Meander, a curated foodie, arts and crafts route through the picturesque farmlands of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands region (Travel time: 1 hour 20 minutes). Take a slow drive and explore the route, stopping to enjoy fine dining, a spot of shopping or even a few spa treatments.
Day 14. Drive to King Shaka International Airport. Take a short detour on the R103 between Cato Ridge and Hillcrest for spectacular views over the aptly-named Valley of a Thousand Hills (Travel time: 2 hours).
Route extender: If you're finding it hard to leave KwaZulu-Natal after all that and you can squeeze in a bit more time, then the South Coast is where you'll want to go! Check out Scottburgh and Umzumbe for some of the best beaches along this stretch and be sure to make a special stop at the Waffle House in Ramsgate. You definitely won't regret that!
Check out our full first-timers guide to the perfect KwaZulu-Natal road trip for more ideas and places to visit.