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.
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.