Durban Botanic Gardens are regarded by many as some of South Africa's most beautiful city park lands. In 1850, the original curator, Mr. Mark Johnson McKen, laid the groundwork for what it is today. Specialties include the Earnest Thorpe Orchid House, a Herb Garden, a Sunken Garden and the Garden for the Blind. There is an information center and a tea garden. There are live concerts held in the park regularly, throughout the year, and audiences are welcome to bring along a picnic basket. Multiple concerts take place in the hall and the event spaces in the gardens. Workshops and exhibitions are also held.
Encompassing a long stretch of sandy land, the Golden Mile boasts a pristine series of beaches in the city. Straddling the coast of Durban, these beaches also feature a number of attractions that beckon tourists from all over. Owing to the conducive environs, scores of surfers and outdoor enthusiasts flock to the Golden Mile.
The Mitchell Park Zoo was initially set to be an ostrich farm, but when the plan didn't work, it was later turned into a vibrant zoo. An extensive collection of exotic birds, tropical fish, small animals and reptiles are housed in this pleasing setting. There are also spacious lawns for picnics. Easily accessed from the far end of Musgrave road.
This museum is located in the center of the town and examines Durban's history. The museum focuses on the history of racial laws in Durban, and is housed in the former Department of Native Affairs building. Photographs and video exhibits examine the political and social struggles that characterized the apartheid period and the colonial period before it.
Most of the popular bathing beaches in Kwazulu-Natal are protected by shark nets maintained by the KZN Sharks Board. Each day, crews on ski boats check the nets and collect any snared sharks. These are brought back to the institute, dissected and studied. There are regular one-hour tours which include a peek into the enormous freezer where the shark carcasses are stored, a shark dissection, and a fascinating audiovisual presentation. There is an interesting curio shop offering sharkskin leather goods and sharks teeth. Boat tours may also be arranged (USD 15). Some of these exhibits are not for the faint-hearted.
To the eastern side of the city center is The Indian District, also known as the Indian Quarter. The Jumah Mosque is reputably the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Two markets are of note, the Oriental Bazaar on Albert Street (between Queen and Commercial) and the Indian Market which is on the far side of the M3 at the west end of Victoria Street. This area has become home to Zulu herbalists selling 'muti'. For traditional medicine and rituals, head for Russell Street Extension where these sellers congregate.
The largest Islamic mosque in the Southern Hemisphere, Durban's Juma Masjid is one of the city's most striking architectural assets. Located in Durban's central Indian district, its beautiful gilded and domed minarets are unmistakable.
This mosque, built in 1927, is the largest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere. The architectural style is an interesting combination of Islamic and Colonial. It has colonnaded verandahs, a gold-domed minaret, and many turrets that dominate the whole street, lending it an atmosphere of the East. Anyone may enter as long as you remove your shoes and leave them at the entrance. The narrow entrance can be found on Queen Street. Guided tours are available with the Islamic Propagation Centre at the mosque.
Once set in the shaded tranquility of Cathedral Street, this cathedral now finds itself amidst the hubbub of the inner city. The exterior of red faced brick is crowded with Gothic spires. Inside, cool marble floors, vaulted ceilings and a beautiful marble alter provide a peaceful sanctuary in this busy part of the city. The cathedral still holds daily services and welcomes all those who wish to join the congregation.
Surrounded by furniture and antique shops, this mosque has become a landmark with its tower jutting up between the buildings. It is one of a number of old and attractive buildings that date back to some of the earliest days of Durban's history. The outer walls are painted a refreshing peppermint green color. Visitors are welcome but requested to leave their shoes at the entrance.