Pietermaritzburg & Midlands

Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands lie between the magnificent mountain panorama of the Drakensberg and the lush sub-tropical coastline of KwaZulu-Natal. It is a region which basks in a wealth of cultural heritage, from Indian, Zulu and Voortrekker influences to the British Colonial atmosphere evident in the many charming villages that blanket the countryside. Pietermaritzburg forms the centre point of a huge area of interest and makes a good base from which to explore.

Climb the winding road northwards to the cascading Howick Falls, visit the 650-hectare bushveld reserve of Umgeni Valley in the heart of waterfall country, or take a treetop canopy tour over Karkloof Nature Reserve. To the west of Howick lies Midmar Dam, which is a haven for yachting, water-skiing, boardsailing, angling and game viewing. The Midmar Mile, the largest open-water swimming event in the world, is held here every year. Other activities in the area include paragliding, hot-air ballooning and abseiling, with white-water rafting and canoeing also popular.

Further north are captivating towns such as Balgowan, Nottingham Road and Mooi River, and a land of lovely trout-filled rivers and dams, dairy farms and racehorse studs which are home to champion thoroughbreds. Other Midlands activities include golf, with a number of notable courses in the area, and equestrian pursuits such as polo. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site near Tweedie, which is now the site of a large-scale sculpture, marks the place where Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962; he would later be imprisoned on Robben Island and spend of total of 27 years behind bars.

Experience game drives through unspoilt African thornveld, as well as bird-watching, hiking, fishing and swimming at Tala Game Ranch, some 15 minutes south of Pietermaritzburg. To the south-west, and only a half-hour drive from Pietermaritzburg, is the little town of Richmond founded in 1850 by the British Byrne Settlers. This picturesque area is renowned for its extensive birdlife and trails, as well as arts and crafts, with the Buddhist Retreat Centre along the road to Ixopo the perfect spot for some restful contemplation.

East of Pietermaritzburg, encounter the Germanic flavour of towns such as Wartburg, settled by Lutheran missionaries in the mid-1800s. Nagle Dam and Game Reserve on the Mgeni (Umgeni) River provide quiet fishing spots and game drives, while Albert Falls Reserve boasts one of the largest dams in KwaZulu-Natal – and a plethora of watersports.

Pietermaritzburg, as the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, represents the area’s historic heart. The first Europeans to settle here were the Voortrekkers, who arrived in 1837 and set up camp on a tract of good, arable land next to the Msindusi (Umsinduzi) River, naming it Pietermaritzburg after two of their leaders – Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz. The village was later turned into a military garrison town by the British, who left an indelible mark on the city’s landscape and character. A tour of this ‘City of Flowers’ reveals a gentle, sophisticated charm driven by a vibrant, modern pulse. Stately Victorian architecture and Colonial-style buildings stand proudly alongside the simple statue of the great Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, who was evicted from a 1st class ‘whites only’ railway carriage on Pietermaritzburg Station in 1893.

Centrally positioned, the impressive red-brick City Hall was built in 1893 and is now a national monument – with a further 50 national monuments situated in walking distance! Notable architectural features include a 47-metre-high Victorian bell tower, stunning stained glass displays and an immense pipe organ. Standing immediately outside the City Hall is the One O’Clock Gun, which was customarily fired every day, with the exception of Sundays, at precisely one o’clock. This naval gun has a fascinating history too, having formerly been used during the 1840s on the HMS Fawn, a ship involved in putting an end to the slave trade as it would capture slave ships and release their human cargo. Directly across from the City Hall lies the Garden of Remembrance which pays tribute to the servicemen sacrificed in both world wars. Many South Africans lost their lives in the Battle of Delville Wood during the First World War. Fashioned out of wood from the Delville forest, the Delville Wood Cross erected here is said to ‘weep’ by oozing sap around the time of the anniversary of this terrible battle.

Created in 1912 as a tribute to the Voortrekkers, the former Voortrekker Museum has been transformed from a historically single-themed museum to one that depicts the heritage of different cultural groups of KwaZulu-Natal, and is now known as the Msunduzi Museum. Voortrekker history is the main focus of the Voortrekker Complex, and includes the historic Church of the Vow, Andries Pretorius House and the EG Jansen Extension. The Voortrekker Memorial Church and historic Church Hall were also recently acquired. The main building is home to a variety of cultural-history exhibitions like ‘A Tapestry of Cultures’ and the ‘Birth of Democracy’. The museum also boasts a replica Hindu Shiva temple, a traditional Zulu hut and a beautiful herb garden, with a new Discovery Centre set to be completed in the second half of 2013. A new display on the South African (Anglo-Boer) War can be seen at Voortrekker House, 333 Boom Street.

At the Natal Museum displays include a recreation of the shops and houses of Pietermaritzburg in the 1850s as well as animal exhibits, marine and dinosaur galleries, regional archaeology, San rock art and African cultural products. The 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indian people to South Africa was celebrated in November 2010 with the launch of a new permanent exhibition showcasing the Indian community of Pietermaritzburg.

Also of note is the old Burger Street Jail, originally built in 1862 with a capacity of around 1 800 prisoners. Gallows were constructed for each of the jail’s blocks, with those of E block reportedly used for public executions. King Dinizulu was incarcerated here after the Bhambatha uprising of 1906. More recent political prisoners have numbered ANC leaders Harry Gwala and Archie Gumede. The jail was closed in 1989 and has been repurposed. Tours are offered, and there is a craft shop and a café – all run as part of a project to uplift and empower local communities and provide hospitality training.

The Old Colonial Building on Church Street, outside of which stands the bronze statue of Gandhi, has since 1899 housed a variety of government offices. The Tatham Art Gallery, which houses works by European artists such as Renoir, Picasso and Hockney, as well as a representative collection of South African art. In addition to numerous markets, modern shopping centres and a casino, there is horseracing at Scottsville racecourse, and celebrated endurance events such as the Comrades’ Marathon and Dusi Canoe Marathon.

The city is filled with colourful parks and gardens, with outdoor attractions such as Queen Elizabeth Park, a small nature reserve which is the headquarters of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and the National Botanical Gardens, with its abundance of rare indigenous flora, duck pond, restaurant, Botanical Zoo and the old HMS Princess’s bell at the end of the long avenue of plane trees. Alternatively, enjoy tea and scones in the Victorian bandstand next to the Oval Teahouse at the leafy Alexandra Park, which was established in 1863 and named after Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII. At 85 hectares, this attractive park with its glorious gardens and floral displays (including a splendid rose garden) is one of the reasons that Pietermaritzburg is known as the ‘Garden City’. In addition to picnicking, popular pursuits here include walking, cycling and running. Established in 1898, the Pavilion is now a national monument. The park hosts excellent markets and other exciting events, such as the Alex Upmarket and the famed ‘Art in the Park’ exhibitions.

BALGOWAN, with its landscape of gentle rolling hills, green pastures and large pine forests, encompasses the area north of Howick, between Lidgetton and Nottingham Road. The countryside is also marked by clear steams and a number of appealing waterfalls. Growing from the location of an old trading store and train station, where local timber was received for the surrounding farms, today Balgowan is at the centre of the Midlands Meander route.

This pleasant place is the location of Michaelhouse School, one of the country’s top boarding schools. Developed in the tradition of British public schools like Charterhouse, Eton and Harrow, Michaelhouse has imposing gothic-style architecture and a chapel. These days, the school is also well-known as the setting for John van der Ruit’s semi-autobiographical ‘Spud’ books, two of which have been made into feature films.

Outdoor pursuits here might take in horse trails in the iHashi Forest, located along the Caversham Road, where the Balgowan Conservancy Project aims to create a mist belt forest trail. Another attraction in the vicinity is the highly-regarded nine-hole Bosch Hoek Golf Course.

BOSTON is a little over an hour’s drive from Durban, heading west off the N3 at Howick and along the R617 toward the Southern Drakensberg. The countryside linking Boston and Bulwer, as well as parts of the Dargle Valley, is covered by the tourism area known as the Boston-Bulwer Beat, which contains lovely vistas of hills, forests, lakes, waterfalls and dams. While this is a great spot to take it easy on a quiet walk or birding trail, more adventurous visitors could give hiking, rafting or even paragliding a go. There are more than 100 listed bird species in this area, including endangered species such as the Wattled Crane, Blue Swallow and Cape Parrot – of which there are only some 360 breeding pairs are left.

Places of historical interest include St. Michael's Church, which was built in 1882 with local handmade bricks. It is situated on a hill overlooking a picturesque valley, alongside the main road to Bulwer and Impendle. A vicarage was built close by for Reverend Freer, the first resident vicar. When the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches united in 1995, the church was extended and inaugurated as the St. Michael's United Church on 23 January 1997.

BULWER nestles in the southern foothills of the Drakensberg range beneath Bulwer Mountain, which is called ‘Amahaqwa’, the ‘misty one’, in the Zulu tongue. Scenic and restful, the surrounding countryside is blanketed with pretty farmhouses, rustic cottages, lodges, campsites and charming country hotels. The forestry industry is central to the area, and birdlife is abundant, with glimpses of the endangered Cape Parrot particularly sought after. Bulwer’s location is also fabulous for paragliding and hang-gliding, primarily because of its easy top landing.

The region’s heritage encompasses the history of the Bushmen or ‘San’ people, who inhabited this land in the foothills of the Drakensberg. After 1837, Boer settlers made their way here from the Cape Colony on the Great Trek, over perilous mountain passes to settle in what seemed to be a new promised land.

The historic Yellowwood Church with its corrugated iron roof was built in 1885 from hand-sawn Yellowwood. The church lies near Bulwer on the old Wagon Road, which was once the main road from Pietermaritzburg to Himeville. Renovated by Mondi in 1989, the church still holds services on the first Sunday of the month.

CRAMMOND is situated just 20 kilometres from Pietermaritzburg and the Albert Falls Dam, one of the largest in the province, which is ranked among the top bass fishing dams world-wide. This area is rightly proud of its rich birdlife and game, which can be seen on walking trails or from the comfort of a game viewing vehicle. More energetic activities include water-skiing, parasailing and canoeing.

CURRY’S POST lies along the road between Howick and Mooi River, and is named after the Curry family, who set up a staging post here in the latter part of the 19th century. The route was a busy one owing to the gold and diamond rushes of the time, and Curry’s Post played an important role in offering food and lodging to travellers on their way to the Transvaal gold reef. George Curry’s original residence – the Coach House – was built in 1873 and presently operates as a bed and breakfast and restaurant.

DALTON is surrounded by sweeping sugarcane plantations, in close proximity to the Union Co-op and Illovo Noodsberg mills. The sugar industry plays a central role in the area’s economy. Located around 45 minutes north-east of Pietermaritzburg in the region of Noodsberg, Wartburg, New Hanover and Harburg, this little town occupies a region with a distinctly Germanic flavour.

NEW HANOVER is another little hamlet with German roots, having been established in the 1850s by German cotton planter families. These days, like Dalton, the area is mainly involved in the sugar industry, with the production of fruits, grains and timber also featuring significantly.

DARGLE and the surrounding Dargle Valley and Conservancy lie to the west of Howick and Lion’s River, amidst the lower reaches of the Southern Drakensberg. Set in beautiful Midlands Meander country, this is an area criss-crossed with river gorges and waterfalls, where large tracts of indigenous forest, grassland and wetland border on extensive pine and wattle plantations. Dargle was named in 1847 by Irish settlers, the Fannins, who thought this lush, green valley reminiscent of the Dargle River Valley in County Wicklow, Ireland. Weather in the valley is characterised by warm, wet summers and dramatic late-afternoon thundershowers, while winters are generally cold and dry with occasional snowfalls. In addition to bird-watching, one of the most popular recreational pursuits is fly-fishing, particularly in the vicinity of Balgowan and Fort Nottingham.

ESTON lies on the R624 in the middle of the triangle created by Mid-Illovo, Richmond and Tala Game Reserve. It is approximately 35 minutes’ south of Pietermaritzburg, but a little further from Durban, which is over an hour’s drive away on the N3. While Eston is primarily a sugar farming district with pleasant farms and smallholdings set among rolling sugarcane fields, these days property here is becoming ever-more popular among commuters. Industries include a sugar mill, and there is also a primary school.

Held every year in August, the Eston Show is an important two-day agricultural show organised by local farmers and members of the community with the aim of developing farming and exposing agricultural and related industries to their target market. A family event, the show provides great entertainment for adults and children, featuring craft and food markets as well as arena events. Another annual event is the Illovo-Eston Mountain Bike Challenge.

GREYTOWN is an agreeable little town set in the midst of sugarcane plantations and extensive pine, gum, popular and wattle forests. Established in the mid-19th century, it played quite an important role in the early development of the province, and is embedded with Boer heritage, historic buildings and interesting trails.

Greytown is the birthplace of South Africa’s first prime minister and prominent Boer leader, Louis Botha. It is also linked to the beginnings of another liberation struggle, as the site of the Bambatha Rebellion led by a local Zulu chief in 1906. Significant buildings include the St James Anglican Church, with an archway and stained glass windows which came from England; the Greytown Mosque, built in 1946 to replace the original of 1898; and the Shri Vishnu Mandir Temple, adorned with a lotus flower to signify spirituality.

Greytown is sometimes referred to as the ‘jewel of KwaZulu-Natal’, and scenic road-trips may be taken along the winding lanes of the lovely Muden Valley, its slopes covered in a profusion of aloes and euphorbia. This is also the site of various Bushman paintings. A cairn of stones, placed here for good luck by a succession of Zulu travellers, may be seen by the side of the road where it descends toward Weenen.

HILTON has the air of a quaint English country village, with evidence of Tudor-style architecture (the iconic Hilton Hotel is a good example), a bracing climate, lush green fields, pretty gardens and tree-lined avenues. Only ten kilometres from Pietermaritzburg, it embraces the hillside above the N3 highway as it wends its way up Town Hill at the start of the Midlands Meander.

A settlement was developed here from 1857, when Joseph Henderson and his wife purchased a large portion of the farm Ongegund, naming it ‘Hilton’. Today Hilton boasts a total of five schools, including the exclusive boarding schools of Hilton College and St Anne’s. Hilton College is well-known as the venue for the annual Hilton Arts Festival, which every September showcases the most exciting offerings in South African theatre.

HOWICK is a bustling farming town situated close to the N3, the national road stretching between Durban and the economic powerhouse of Johannesburg. It gets its name the British Colonial Secretary, Earl Grey, who was the Viscount Howick. Today it is a popular stopover en route to Midmar Dam, the surrounding Midlands and the interior, and is a rewarding destination for lovers of arts, crafts and antiques. With the surrounding dams and streams bursting with trout, Howick is also a great spot for fly-fishing. What’s more, the hilly terrain proves a welcome challenge for mountain bikers. Polo and polocrosse, as well as cross-country horse trails, are also popular here and in the broader Midlands region.

Howick is firmly situated in waterfall country, where the Mgeni River and its tributaries cascade over a series of gorges and inclines en route to the sea. The most famous of these is the 100-metre-high Howick Falls situated near the centre of the town and prompting its Zulu name of ‘KwaNogqaza’, the ‘place of the tall one’. While the falls may be seen from a viewing platform near the car park – where some excellent local crafts may be purchased – there are other, more adventurous ways of exploring this famous landmark. These include an abseil into the gorge and the pool below, as well as a steep hiking trail to the base of the falls.

The town’s other claim to fame is that it was near here, on the R103 to Tweedie roughly three kilometres outside of Howick, that Nelson Mandela was arrested in August 1962. While for years marked by little more than a simple plaque, the capture site has been developed into an impressive memorial site to mark the 50-year anniversary of the incident. The centrepiece of the new memorial is a powerful statue comprising 50 steel columns, each between 6.5 and 9.5 metres in height, set into the Midlands landscape. At a distance of 35 metres the sculpture comes into focus as these 50 linear vertical units line up to create the illusion of Nelson Mandela’s face. There are plans to establish a museum, multipurpose theatre and amphitheatre on the site.

IXOPO is the thriving hub of the Southern Midlands, a significant agricultural region involved in sugar farming and forestry. Unlike many of KwaZulu-Natal’s little towns, Ixopo eschewed its given European name of ‘Stuartstown’ in favour of the original Zulu one. The landscape is carved by the meandering Mzimkhulu (Umzimkulu) and Mkhomazi (Umkomaas) rivers and their waterfalls.

The Buddhist Retreat Centre (BRC) near Ixopo perches on a ridge at the head of a valley looking out over the Mkhomazi river system. Below this tranquil destination stretches a breathtaking expanse of forests, indigenous valleys and gently sloping hills. Integrated into this setting are the centre's buildings, accommodation lodges and cottages, the dining room and office, a shop, a lecture and art studio, a library and the meditation hall. Here, for more than twenty years, people of all religions and none have come together to be still, reflect and get in touch with a simpler and more meaningful way of life. This 300-acre property also contains a variety of paths which follow trails through the countryside past the dam, ancient cycads and even the tracks of early Voortrekker wagons.

Breeding sites of the splendid but rare Blue Swallow are situated nearby, and the BRC has been appointed a custodian by the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The presence of the swallows, in conjunction with the centre's commitment to encouraging the indigenous biodiversity of the area, has led to it being declared a Natural Heritage Site by former President Nelson Mandela.

The historic red brick buildings of King’s Grant were built by German Trappist Monks toward the end of the 19th century and run as a mission supply farm for the St Mary’s Seminary. Known as the St Isidor Mission and Millworks, it comprised a double storey dairy and hayloft, a brick factory, a piggery, a chapel and accommodation. The monks had purchased the land from the King family – descendants of the famous Dick King, who had been granted the land in recognition of his heroic horseback ride to Grahamstown to alert the British regiment there to the Boer invasion of Port Natal. Sold by the Catholic Church in 1996, the farm was renamed ‘King’s Grant’ and converted into a guesthouse with conference and wedding facilities.

KARKLOOF is set amidst an imposing range of hills which extends for more than 50 kilometres, taking in the towns of Rietvlei, Curry’s Post and Howick. The heart of this region consists of mist-belt forests and the steep Karkloof, which provide the habitat for Orachrysops Ariadne, a small, blue butterfly which has been classified as ‘vulnerable’. While much of the area is privately owned, visitors are able to access the 936-hectare Karkloof Nature Reserve, an indigenous haven of yellowwood and black stinkwood trees that is home to Martial and Crowned Eagle as well as small game.

Sheltered within the magnificent Karkloof Forest are the 88-metre-high Karkloof Falls. This area is best seen on a zip-line tour through the dense canopy, 30 metres above the forest floor. This unique eco-experience is offered by Karkloof Canopy Tours.

Karkloof is also the venue for the Classic Mountain Bike Festival, which takes place every May. Held over a weekend, this is South Africa’s biggest and longest-running one-day mountain bike race, and these days has been extended to include a 20-kilometre night race and a 10-kilometres family fun ride.

KRANSKOP, which means ‘the head of the cliff’ in Afrikaans, gets its name from two nearby cliff-faces rising 1 175 metres above the Thukela River valley. According to Zulu folklore, this rock formation of ‘Ntunjambili’ contains a mythical, forbidden cave, and those who find passage through the opening in the cliff-face will never return. The town is situated about a half-hour’s drive east of Greytown on the R74, close to the Zululand region. The British built several fortifications near here during the Anglo-Zulu War, but little remains today except for the scattered stone remnants of Fort Buckingham.

HERMANNSBURG lies along the road between Greytown and Kranskop. This little village was established in 1854 as the first station of the Hermannsburg Missionary Society based in Hermannsburg, Germany. They built the Mission House on a farm named Perseverance, and two years later a boarding school was established which is still in operation today. The Mission House was converted into a museum in 1981.

LIDGETTON is situated between Howick and Balgowan in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains. While still quite close to the urban centres of Pietermaritzburg and Durban, it has a relaxed atmosphere that supports the creative endeavours of the community’s artists and crafters. Sites worth a visit comprise the historical building of St Matthews and the golf courses of Bosch Hoek and Sakubula.

LION’S RIVER is centrally placed within the Midlands just an hour away from Durban. A lush landscape incorporating the Lions River, Dargle Valley and the surrounding conservancy offers a homespun charm that characterises this region of grassland, rivers, mist-belt forests, dams, veld and vlei, not to mention a profuse array of birdlife. Biodiversity and the preservation of the region’s rural character are ongoing concerns, and are actively promoted by the valley’s residents. Those interested in collectables and antique furniture will enjoy perusing the wares at the Lion’s River Trading Post, which was once a water-driven turbine sawmill.

To be found between Lion’s River and Tweedie, Abingdon Wine Estate is a boutique wine producer. Situated at 1 100 metres above sea level, this enchanting estate has in excess of three hectares under vine and includes the only certified single vineyards in the entire KwaZulu-Natal region.

THE MIDLANDS MEANDER, the original arts and crafts route in South Africa, was born some two decades ago as the project of famed Dargle potter, Ian Glenny, with an address that simply stated: ‘first farm on the right, Dargle’. The route traverses picturesque stretches of farmland dotted with quaint villages, famous schools and stud farms. Visitors are invited to explore the studios of artists and crafts folk, including weavers, potters, leatherworkers and woodcrafters; or sample homemade cheeses, herb teas and other fresh produce.

Accommodation ranges from guest farms to superior hotels, lodges and health hydros, and travellers can enjoy cosy country restaurants and pubs, as well as hotels and bistros with superb cuisine. There are two breweries and an award-winning wine estate that is open by appointment for tastings as well as meals. Take a cycling, walking or horse trail through indigenous forests, past tall trees, grasslands, rippling streams and rugged waterfalls. With its colonial charm and intriguing history, and a fascinating array of craftsmen's products, this area is a must for a memorable meander!

MOOI RIVER was initially named Lawrenceville after an Irish farmer who settled here in the 1800s. However, the name which stuck was the Voortrekker one and its description of the centre’s ‘mooi’ (pretty) river. The Zulu name for this locale is ‘Mpofana’ or ‘Place of the Eland’. Stretches of the Mooi River near the town offer delightful facilities for boating, canoeing and tubing, while the upper reaches contain some of the finest brown trout in the country. Situated about 25 kilometres downstream, the Mooi River Falls are a fabulous site when the river is full.

Situated 160 kilometres from Durban and 64 kilometres from Pietermaritzburg, Mooi River is these days a stock farming and textile centre which forms part of the lovely Midlands Meander self-drive arts and crafts route. Both worth a visit, the Weston Agricultural College Museum showcases British military artefacts and the Rhode House Museum contains informative local history exhibits on subjects such as dairy farming, polo and Zulu beadwork.

This region also boasts some famous racehorse stud farms. Summerhill, which includes the neighbouring Hartford stud, is probably the most renowned, being home to Africa's most formidable band of young sire talent, and including among its stallion owners the leading studs in Australia, Japan, the United States, Dubai and South Africa. Situated on the grounds of Summerhill is the gracious Hartford House: the only world class hotel on a world class stud farm in the world. In 2012 it was ranked in the Eatout guide’s Top 10 Restaurants in the country.

MPOPHOMENI is a township on the outskirts of Howick. It is reached via the R617 route that continues on to Boston, Bulwer and Underberg, and is a four-hour drive from Johannesburg and just one hour from Durban. Formed in 1998, the Zulu Mpophomeni Tourism Experience is drawing a growing number of international and local tourists to experience authentic Zulu culture and explore township life. Experiences take in everything from arts and crafts, traditional healers and story-tellers to B&B homestays and tours to local shebeens and other places of interest such as the Shembe Nazareth Baptist Church, established in 1910 by Prophet Isaiah Shembe.

NOTTINGHAM ROAD is the hub of the Midlands, a country village surrounded by open farmlands scattered with dams and forested glades against the backdrop of the distant Drakensberg mountain range. In this particularly beautiful part of the country there are old-world country hotels, family taverns and inviting bistros. Only an hour and a quarter’s drive from Durban, it is conveniently within reach of the city while still retaining a tranquil, rural air. Visitors will find a blend of arts and crafts here, as well as an interesting variety of sporting, environmental and historical pursuits.

Situated some 13 kilometres on from Nottingham Road, Fort Nottingham is the site of a fort built by the 45th Sherwood Foresters, a Nottinghamshire Regiment stationed here in 1856 to protect settlers from cattle raids by the Busmen, otherwise known as the ‘San’. It claims the smallest town hall in the country, and there’s a museum housed inside the old fort. The annual Fort Nottingham Highland and Traditional Games, which include traditional music, highland dancing and games, food stalls and other exhibitors, is held in the area.

The development of Nottingham Road as a settlement came somewhat later than Fort Nottingham and followed the construction of a railway line between Durban and Johannesburg in the 1880s, with the village springing up at the site of the station.

RICHMOND is located about a half-hour drive south-west of Pietermaritzburg in a rich farming region that focuses on the production of sugarcane, tea, timber, citrus, peaches, maize and vegetables, cattle, pigs and poultry. The area is renowned for its extensive birdlife and offers many walking and riding trails as well as a variety of arts and crafts. Polocrosse is a very popular sport here and in nearby Mid-Illovo.

Richmond was founded in 1850 by the British Byrne Settlers, who came here with virtually nothing since their ship had foundered in Durban bay. Some buildings constructed by those original settlers still stand today, such as the Old Court House (also called ‘Heritage House’), which is the home of Richmond’s Publicity Association. Visit an excellent example of a surviving settler home at Blarney Cottage – now a national monument – where the names of family members scratched onto the bricks are still visible.

From Richmond, follow the R56 to the literary landmark of Ixopo, setting for Alan Paton's famous novel, Cry the Beloved Country.

BYRNE lies a short 24-minute drive from Richmond past the favourite fishing and picnic spot of the Beaulieu Dam. This historic village is the site of a welcoming family hotel, and just 75 minutes from the centre of Durban.

ROSETTA marks a mid-way point between Nottingham Road and Mooi River, and the small village mall here serves the surrounding farms and smallholdings. Memorable aspects of this beautiful location include many appealing arts and crafts stores and eateries, hillsides strewn with wildflowers in spring, cascading waterfalls, and year-round spectacular views of the Drakensberg.

A turnoff from the R103 takes visitors to the lovely Kamberg Nature Reserve, some 30 kilometres away, where the main attractions include fly-fishing, hiking, tubing and mountain-biking. There is also a fine heritage site containing the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of San (Bushman) rock art which provided archaeologists with the key to interpreting the symbolism of the paintings as spiritual in content, showing how hunters gained power from the animals that they killed.

WARTBURG was first settled by German immigrants during the 1850s, and is named after the castle in Eisenach where Martin Luther translated the bible into German. Some of those original settler families have lived here for four generations and can still be heard using their mother tongue. The economy is based largely on agriculture, with produce including timber, maize, sugarcane and kiwi fruit. There is an ever-growing arts and crafts community, and recreational facilities such as scenic trails, tennis, bowls and a nine-hole golf course.

1st car rental




Arts, Crafts & Heritage
Attractions, Tours & Safaris
Conferencing & Events
Entertainment & Leisure
Game Reserves
Health & Wellness
Lifestyle & Shopping
Weddings & Honeymoons


COPYRIGHT RESERVED – The copyright of this website (which includes photographic images, design and editorial) may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Creative Solutions.

The BEST of KZN & BEYOND published by CREATIVE SOLUTIONS I Reg no: 2001/012178/23 I T: 031 702 0291 I F: 086 226 7787 I E: rene@thebestofkzn.co.za I Durban I KwaZulu-Natal I South Africa

Website designed and maintained by Little Blackbird Design Studio: Graphic and Website Design