Durban, South Africa

One of South Africa’s most celebrated coastal destinations, Durban is a natural port of call for many cruises which explore this vast and varied country and there are plenty of cultural and natural attractions to enjoy during your time here.

6 hours in… Durban

If it’s your first time in Durban an excursion is always a good idea as with any city, there’s a lot of ground to cover and your driver and guide will know exactly where to go. Marine Parade, also known as the Golden Mile is in many ways the city’s tourist hub, offering all manner opportunities to soak up the culture and witness local tradesmen in action. Indeed, Durban is one of South Africa’s most culturally diverse cities and you’ll certainly get a feel for why as you set to exploring. The Post Office, the Playhouse and St Paul’s Church are all key colonial landmarks worth seeing, while the Indian Market is always bustling.

Panoramic view along the coast of Durban

Panoramic view along the coast of Durban

Durban’s Botanical Gardens are one of the city’s biggest draws and another popular stop-off on many cruising excursions. Durban’s always balmy climate ensures a fantastic display of flora from around the world and some thoroughly pleasant greenery to enjoy during your visit.

Ushaka Marine World is the perfect choice if you find yourself in Durban with the family and to be honest, even if you don’t. It’s an amazing aquarium which showcases all manner of marine life and features a fun-filled dolphin show too. There’s a reptile house and a river ride as well, so if you’re there with the kids you could easily spend all day there.

Been before?

It’s difficult to think of Africa without thinking of the continent’s amazing wildlife and indeed, if you’ve visited Durban before and had your fill of the city itself, there’s always an excellent selection of safari, nature and wildlife tours available which showcase these incredible animals perfectly, whether it’s legendary game animals you want to see or some of South Africa’s other incredible native creatures.

Durban's golden sandy beaches

Durban’s golden sandy beaches

The Valley of 1000 Hills is another great day out if you’re returning to port and though the nation’s incredible fauna is undoubtedly a focus, this immersive day-long experience will immerse you in the country’s culture and traditions by way of Zulu shows and informative displays.

Another choice which will be particularly popular if you’re visiting with the kids, this fun-packed water park certainly lives up to its name, offering all manner of aquatic thrills by way of a wealth waterslides, some of which are certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Can’t keep away?

If you’ve a particular soft-spot for Durban and are looking for new things to see and new experiences to enjoy the Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding is a popular landmark but one which takes a little more time to fully appreciate. The architecture is both striking and stunning and no matter what your faith persuasion, the serene atmosphere which washes over you once you step inside is more than worth the visit. Just leave your shoes at the door and enjoy the spiritual journey.

Not actually a fort, the Old Fort Museum complex will tell you the story of Durban itself, and the role it and the country’s inhabitants had in various conflicts including the Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War. There’s also a science museum, chapel and gardens, so certainly a little of everything’s in one place if you’re looking for a new cultural experience in the city.

For some, simply seeing dangerous animals from the safety of a safari jeep isn’t enough, which is where Durban’s impressive choice of shark diving experiences comes in. If you’re looking for an activity you’ll never forget, this is certainly it. At the other end of the fauna scale, Umgeni River Bird Park is the go-to choice for any twitchers in town, giving you the chance to see flocks of feathered creatures from around the world and witness engaging bird shows too.

Don’t even bother!

…with the Durban North Japanese Garden. A little peace and tranquillity, especially if you’re on a return visit, can often be appealing but the garden is pretty neglected these days and will certainly be a let-down for any afficionados of Japanese landscaping. If you are bent on greenery, head for the Botanical Gardens instead.

In Durban it’s important that you always stick to the well-trodden tourist trail and make sure that you don’t ‘act like a tourist’ by flashing the cash an appearing not sure of where you are going. A pre-booked excursion is always the best choice.

Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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