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TThe KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is located between the magnificent Drakensberg mountains, KwaZulu-Natal's game reserves and the eThekwini-Durban metropolitan area. The largest urban presence is Pietermaritzburg, a deeply historical city characterised by museums, historical routes and perfectly-preserved Victorian architecture.
Art galleries, antique stores, an African-inspired shopping mall, interesting buildings, Butterflies for Africa, the Golden Horse Casino, the Howick waterfall and museum, and the surrounding Midlands Meander tourism route are popular attractions to include on your itinerary.
PPietermaritzburg, the administrative capital of the province, was founded by the voortrekkers (Dutch-speaking colonists who moved from the Cape to the interior) in 1838 and was once the capital of the Boer (Dutch-speaking farmers) republic, Natalia.
It is regarded as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent resistance movement, satyagraha, as it was here that he decided to fight racial discrimination against Indians after being forcefully removed from a train for sitting in a first-class carriage.
Investigate this heritage on an historical walking tour or take a half-day or full-day driving tour. Places worth seeing include the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Tatham Art Gallery, KwaZulu-Natal Railway Museum, Voortrekker Museum, Msunduzi Museum Complex, Comrades Marathon House and Macrorie House. The Pietermaritzburg Botanical Gardens, Garden of Remembrance and Church Street mall with its African Arts and Crafts Centre are also worth a visit.
Beyond the city limits, the Victorian-inspired streets give way to beautiful countryside, characterised by rivers, farms, nature reserves and lush green hills that roll away to the distant Drakensberg mountains.
This is the home of the Midlands Meander, South Africa's first and finest arts and crafts tourism route. The meander is scenic and bursts with attractions, featuring around 150 destinations offering everything from handmade arts and crafts and homemade treats to world-class accommodation. Explore studios and galleries, country kitchens and homesteads and experience the true warmth of South African hospitality.
The Midlands also features a wealth of natural attractions. Visit the Midmar Dam and enjoy a picnic, lakeside walks and water sports, try some game viewing at Tala game reserve or the Umgeni Valley nature reserve, or pop in at the Albert Falls Dam nature reserve, and go for a game drive, game walk or a spot of bass fishing, or take a trip further inland to Howick to see the magnificent falls of the same name.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)33 345 1348
Fax: +27 (0)33 394 3535
How to get here
Fly from any of South Africa’s major cities to King Shaka International Airport north of Durban. Take the N3 inland.
If you’re driving from Johannesburg take the N3 freeway direct to Pietermaritzburg. From Cape Town, take the N2 freeway to Durban. From Durban, pick up the N3 to Pietermaritzburg.
Best time to visit
Pietermaritzburg is an all-year-round destination due to its warm climate. Spring to autumn (September to May) is the best time to visit the Midlands, as days are warm and sunny, and the nights moderate. Winter (June to August) produces mild days, but very cold nights.
Things to do
Historical tours of Pietermaritzburg; Victorian and Edwardian architectural heritage tours of Pietermaritzburg; the Midlands Meander tourism route; Midmar Dam; Albert Falls Dam Nature Reserve; Church Street mall, Garden of Remembrance, historic Railway Station, KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Gandhi statue, the Botanical Gardens and Butterflies for Africa, all at Pietermaritzburg.
Dusi Canoe Marathon and Midmar Mile are both held in February; Comrades Marathon in June; The Witness Garden Show at Pietermaritzburg in September; and the Hilton Arts Festival in September.
African arts and crafts at the African market of Church Street mall, Pietermaritzburg; local art, crafts, homemade treats and preserves along the Midlands Meander.
What to pack
Be sure to pack lots of padkos (‘road food’) if you are following one of the Midlands Meander’s five routes.
What to eat
Farm-fresh produce, homemade treats, art, craft, books, furniture and preserves in the Midlands.