Midlands Meander | Things to Do in KwaZulu-Natal

Searching for a road trip with top attractions and adventure in South Africa? The five routes making up the Midlands Meander in KwaZulu-Natal visit a myriad of exciting places and start an hours drive from Durban. If you love history, you can visit the many battlefields, historical buildings, and monuments in the area.

Travel through winding hills, shop at the farmer’s market, and support local artists before spending the night on a wine estate.

Here is our list of the top things to do during your Midlands Meander.

Top Things to Do in the Midlands

This area is breathtaking and has peculiarly named towns like Curry’s Post and Mooi River (meaning ‘beautiful river’ in Afrikaans). While the Midlands Meander started in the 1990s as a route to visit countryside art studio’s, it has developed into a variety of activities.

The Midlands Meander route is less than 100 km, and allows for a slow travelling style. Pick up a vehicle from Avis Car Hire Durban and head west towards the majestic uKhahlamba Drakensberg mountains to explore for a day, or two.

Take a Karkloof Canopy Tour

Zip through the treetops of the indigenous Karkloof forest to reach magnificent viewpoints. This zip lining activity is led by professional guides and offers you a unique perspective of the forest below and the wonderful birdlife. 

Best of all, your tour here includes a short 4×4 trip and refreshments.

Photo by Nadiia Ganzhyi on Unsplash

Support Local Arts and Culture

Purchasing handmade crafts at Dargle Valley Pottery is a great way to support the local artists. The gallery has a large number of oil paintings and pottery pieces on display and is a good place to pick up a gift. The owner, Ian Glenny, is a founding member of the Midlands Meander.

Visit Nelson Mandela Sculpture and Capture Site

A highlight of the area is the Nelson Mandela Sculpture at the site where he disappeared from public view for 27 years of incarceration. The artwork is constructed from 50 steel poles protruding from the landscape. 

When viewed from the right perspective it focuses to become a portrait of South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

Karkloof Farmers Market

Walking through the fragrant market on a Saturday morning will be a highlight of your meander. The locally-sourced produce helps connect you to the people who live and grow food in this area. Treat yourself to a delicious brunch in this market within a ten-minute drive from Howick.

Wine Tasting

The Abingdon and Highgate Wine Estates offer a unique experience in the Midlands. Abingdon Wine Estate provides a boutique bottle from a single vineyard. The oak trees above provide shade in the summer, and fire stokes the warmth on winter days.

Taste the Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage, and Cabernet Sauvignon after a cellars tour at Highgate Wine Estate. It has a lovely restaurant perfect for a meal with your favourite glass. Beautiful weather predicted? You can order a picnic basket with 48 hours notice. Enjoy a bottle of wine, cheese board, and tapas dishes for the perfect picnic overlooking the dam.

Photo by Nacho Dominguez Argenta on Unsplash

Dip in Chocolate Heaven

Savour hand moulded Belgian chocolates and take on the chocolate dipping activity in Nottingham Road. With your Chocolate Heaven creations in hand, you can explore the haberdashery, landscaped gardens, flower shop, and health shop next door.

Places to Visit in the Midlands

The roads are scenic, and if you are not careful, you’ll miss some of these incredible places on the Midlands Meander. Here you can soak in the spa, savour a fine dining experience, and rest your head for the night on a wine estate.

Spas in the Midlands 

You are spoilt for choice with the spa treatments available in the Midlands. The scenic setting and personal touch make these places unique to KwaZulu-Natal. Granny Mouse is a relaxing place to stay the night and offers a hydrotherapy bath, massages and facial treatments.

Karkloof Safari Spa lets you relax during a Thai massage therapy to the sound of birdlife. It is an exhilarating location for a manicure, with the treatment room allowing you to watch wildlife only meters away in natural bush.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash

The Fordoun Spa is located on Nottingham Road and has a lovely Turkish steam and clay treatment room. If you are looking for an aromatherapy body and bath treatment, consider spending the evening at Fordoun Hotel.

Other notable spas include Hartford House, Indigo Fields, African Bush Spa, and

Brookdale Health Hydro.

Midlands Meander Restaurants 

These restaurants in the Midlands offer a reprieve from the buzz of day to day life. You’ll feel refreshed after dining alfresco under the oak trees or sitting toasty beside a fire.

Hartford House is a boutique hotel with a notable restaurant boasting a luxurious feel. The gastronomic experience is guided by the seasonal produce available as close to the premises as possible. Make sure to walk in the gardens following your four-course meal.

The views over the dam at Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse make it an ideal location for a scenic lunch. A five-course meal prepared by chef Richard Poynton is a memorable experience, with each dish explained beforehand.

Photo by Carlos Lindner on Unsplash

Best Midlands Meander Accommodation

If you are looking for relaxing accommodation in the Midlands, the spa treatments available at Fordoun, Granny Mouse, and Karkloof make these the best places to stay. The five-star boutique hotel at Fordoun offers luxurious rooms and entire cottages in a tranquil setting. Here you can truly unwind.

The views and sounds of the nearby Lions River help set the relaxing atmosphere at Granny Mouse. This four-star hotel offers clean country cottages with modern amenities. The bistro and spa will convince you to spend another night. 

If, however, you are looking for something more affordable, a bed and breakfast or cottage in Howick may be more suitable.

Roadtrip the Top Attractions in KwaZulu-Natal

Setting off from Durban or Johannesburg to the Midlands in KwaZulu-Natal is a road trip you won’t soon forget. The canopy tour through the forest, breathtaking views of the Drakensberg mountains, unique crafts, wine tasting, and relaxing spa treatments are just some of the things to look forward to.

Plan your route to the above activities, and book yourself into a countryside cottage to get the most out of your midlands getaway.

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About us

Actually, Home Food and Travel offers a lot more than just reviews of accommodation, restaurants, spas and adventure activities.  We also visit great destinations, receive advice from interior designers and stop to smell the roses and taste the coffee.

Our team of journalists are seasoned travels and love visiting the myriad of exciting places around South Africa.  Whether it is off the beaten track or in the heart of the top attractions of the country, we’ll be there,

Home Food and Travel advice on finding the right accommodation

So what is the right accommodation?  Well more often than not, it’s your travel budget that dictates the type of accommodation that you choose. 

Expensive is not always better.  Our team at Home Food and Travel will tell you that they have camped in areas with limited ablutions and had a wonderful holiday.  They have also spent a night in a five star hotel only to be disappointed because their expectations exceeded the experience.

The reason for your travels will also affect your choice.  A business trip requires different amenities to a beach holiday. 

Our articles, reviews and experiences can certainly help you make your decision.

Restaurants with a good mix of service, food and ambiance

To my mind a great restaurant offers three things – excellent service, great food and a wonderful ambiance.  Of these, service is the most important. 

No matter that the food is delicious and the setting delightful, poor service can ruin the occasion.  However, great service combined with mediocre meal and a plane jane restaurant can still be a pleasant night out.

We’ve eaten in restaurants that are really dirty but with incredible food and couldn’t help but give a rave review.  We’ve also hardly noticed what we ate because the setting was just amazing.

However, the best restaurants come with the best of service, food and ambiance.

Spas are the ultimate relaxation aid

How do you know when you have had a great spa experience?  The answer, of course, is when you doze off on the treatment table. 

Well that’s our theory anyway.  It also doesn’t take a grand location with enormous facilities for a spa to be really good

A small, personal spa that is owner run can result in the best massage you have ever experienced.  However, the grand spas in five star hotels offer unsurpassed facilities in an environment that just makes the stress in your shoulders and neck melt away before you even finish checking in.

Adventure!

You don’t have to be an adrenaline junky to enjoy an exciting experience.  In fact, what are commonly termed adventure activities usually have incredibly high safety standards and unblemished safety records.

Ziplining, bungy jumping and shark cage diving are all very safe.  It’s just that our mind tells us we are craaazzzzyyyy to be doing this.

On the road to great places of accommodation, restaurants, spas and adventure activities

If you’re driving, be safe and make use of all the wonderful farm stalls that populate South Africa’s open roads.

If you overhear somebody asking a lot of questions or see someone taking photos of empty bedrooms chances are it’s one of our Home Food and Travel team members.

We’re out looking or those great places of accommodation, restaurants, spas and adventure activities.

See you on the road!

 

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