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EEstablished in 1874, the Pietermaritzburg National Botanical Garden was created primarily to grow trees for distribution throughout the then-Natal colony and as a collection point for indigenous, rare and beautiful plants.
Today the garden grows, displays and conserves plant collections from the grasslands of the east coast of South Africa. Its nursery sells a wide range of summer-rainfall indigenous plants, as well as several threatened and rare plant species. However, the aesthetic of its Victorian and Edwardian origins is still visible throughout, as can be seen in the majestic Plane Tree Avenue, planted in 1908.
Various small mammals that shelter in the forest and wetland may be spotted in open parts of the garden. These include the blue duiker, Cape clawless otter, greater cane rat and small-spotted genet. Vervet monkeys, bats, 117 butterfly species and 180 bird species have also been recorded, largely due to the diversity of habitats in the garden.
Birding enthusiasts are advised to take to the Turraea Trail, where forest, thicket and lake habitats attract numerous species, or the Forest Trail, where birds of prey and tree-loving birds such as the forest weaver and chorister robinchat may be seen.
Large lawns, flowerbeds and massive trees in the Display Garden attract the likes of the buff-spotted flufftail, orange-breasted bush shrike, croaking cisticola and malachite sunbird, among many others.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden
Tel: +27 (0)33 344 3585
How to get here
Pietermaritzburg lies 80km inland from Durban along the N3 highway. Take exit 76 from the N3 onto Alan Paton Avenue, which becomes Park Drive, then right onto College Road, which becomes West Street. At Pietermaritz Street turn left, then right onto Pine Street and left onto Mayors Walk Road. The turn-off to the garden is to the right on Mayors Walk Road, about 1 500m further on.
Best time to visit
The garden is open 365 days a year from 8am, closing at 6pm (October to April) or 5.30pm (May to September).
Around the area
Nearby attractions include the Voortrekker/Msunduzi Museum, the KwaZulu-Natal Museum and Golden Horse Casino. You’re also at the start of the Midlands Meander, so an overnight stay in Pietermaritzburg – or one of the nearby towns, like Hilton or Howick – is a great way to kick off that particular adventure…
Tours to do
Guided tours of the gardens are available between 9am and 3.30pm, but booking is essential.
The garden has routes and trails, and caters for wheelchairs, which may be hired on site.
What to pack
Birding book and binoculars; a hat and sunscreen.
What to eat
There are no catering facilities operating within the garden at present, but the Pietermaritzburg CBD is just down the road, with restaurant options ranging from mall fast food, to café fare, to a variety of regional cuisines – with a few fine-dining spots tucked away in the surrounding hills, too. After a morning spent at the garden, you won’t have any trouble finding an eatery offering whatever you fancy for lunch with a quick app search.
Plants sold at the nursery.