A Fun-tastic Family Guide to the Midlands Meanderby Lauren Morling on 4 March 2015
The Midlands Meander is an 80km network of sightseeing routes winding through the green belly of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, an easy hour’s drive from Durban. Meander means to “wander at random” and this is exactly what the route is about. Green hills, canopy tours, arts and crafts, family friendly farms, outdoor activities, child friendly accommodation, and restaurants with colourful playgrounds and kiddies’ menus make the Midlands Meander a no-brainer when it comes to family road trips. No amount of “are we there yet” will bring you down, because every bend in the road uncovers an exciting new activity.
THINGS TO DO
There’s something for everyone along the Midlands Meander, whether you’re 1 or 100. Check out these exciting activities for the creative and energetic.
Family picnic, biking, and fishing
Spend a day next to the St Ives dam and enjoy catch and release bass fishing (own rods), or bring your mountain bike and tackle the 4km Family Fun Trail. The 140 hectare property is home to zebra, wildebeest, antelope, horses, and donkeys. There is a jungle gym on site and picnics can be arranged. Click here for a trail map.
- Mountain biking: R40 per rider
- Fishing: R50 for half day and R100 for full day
- Picnics: season dependent
St Ives, R103 | GPS: -29.456344, 30.134795 | Bike track open daily, 08:00 – 17:00. Restaurant open Wednesday to Friday, 11:00 – 21:00, Saturdays, 08:00 – 21:00, and Sundays, 08:00 – 15:00 | +27 (0)33 234 4490
Rope the family in for a friendly game of paintball at Yellowwood Café. The first Sunday of the month, is ”walk on day” where you can come along and join a group. The activity is suitable for 10 years and up.
Cost: R600 a game. Maximum of 10 people.
1 Shafton Road, Howick | GPS: -29.503286, 30.232701 | Open Tuesday to Sunday and public holidays, 09:00 – 15:00 | +27 (0)33 330 2461
Hot air ballooning
There’s no better way to experience the Midlands Meander than with a 1 hour hot air balloon ride at sunrise. The 4 hour experience includes tea and coffee, champagne and orange juice, breakfast, and a completion certificate. The cost includes transfers to and from Antbear Drakensberg Lodge. Children over the age of 5 are welcome.
Cost: R2550 per adult and R1275 per child under 12 (1 – 4 people), R2400 per adult and R1200 per child under 12 (5 – 8 people).
Hot Air Ballooning SA, Antbear Drakensberg Lodge, Fernhurst Farm, Estcourt | GPS: -29.143596, 29.816138| +27 (0)83 446 9423 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rent a bicycle
Rent a bicycle from Aladdin’s de Light and cycle your way along the Midlands Meander. Drop off points can be arranged and picnic baskets can be pre-ordered.
Cost: R75 per person per day or R30 per hour
Aladdin’s de Light, 2 Robbin Road, Nottingham Road | GPS: -29.360002, 29.993324 | Open Friday, 10:00 – 16:30, Saturday 09:00 – 17:00, Sunday 09:00 – 16:00 | +27 (0)33 266 6460
Zulu-lulu’s art classes
The Art Bar at Zulu-lulu Art House is great for family bonding with shelves of blank pottery pieces waiting to be painted to life. Pick a ceramic from the shelf, paint it, and have it glazed. Pick it up from Zulu-lulu in Lions River or Inky Shop in Hillcrest, or have it posted to your home in South Africa. The venue is available for kiddies’ parties at no extra cost.
- R55 – R250 depending on pottery size (includes brushes and 4 colours)
- R50 for delivery in South Africa
Piggly Wiggly Country Village, 1 Dargle Road, Lions River | Open daily, 09:00 – 17:00. Closed on Christmas Day | GPS: -29.458282, 30.135707 | +27 (0)83 627 3491 | email@example.com
Aladdin’s art classes
Enjoy pottery and stained glass courses at Aladdin’s de Light, or drop your kids off for an art class during the holidays. Kiddies’ classes are ideal for children of 6 years and up (under 5s to be accompanied by a parent).
- Pottery courses: R180 per person. Minimum of 4 people (2 hours)
- Kids classes: R100 per child (2 hours)
Aladdin’s de Light, 2 Robbin Road, Nottingham Road | GPS: -29.360002, 29.993324 | Open Friday, 10:00 – 16:30, Saturday 09:00 – 17:00, Sunday 09:00 – 16:00 | +27 (0)33 266 6460
Enjoy a round of 9-hole putt-putt at Millgate Cottage and throw a coin in the wishing well (all coins go to charity). The Mole & Pig Inn bar has pool tables and a television for sports events.
Cost: R15 per person for unlimited putt-putt
R103, Balgowan | GPS: -29.413298, 30.082071 | Open daily, 07:00 – 17:00 | +27 (0)83 289 7696 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Candle dipping and sand art
Get creative with candle dipping and design your own candles with colourful wax, paint, and glitter. Sand art is available for kids and you can have your child’s hands moulded out of wax as a souvenir. Candle dipping is available at the Junction complex and Piggly Wiggly Country Village.
- Candle dipping: R12 – R108 (4 dips included, 50c per extra dip), R4 extra for paint, R3 extra for glitter
- Sand art: R20 per postcard, R40 per card, R7 per bookmark, R110 – R395 for home pack (cards and sand bottles).
The Junction, Nottingham Road or Piggly Wiggly Country Village | GPS: -29.357402, 29.997006 | Open daily, 09:00 – 16:00 except Christmas Day (the Junction) and daily, 09:00 – 17:00 (Piggly Wiggly Country Village) | +27 (0)33 266 6980 | email@example.com
The best way to make use of the breeze is to fly a kite. Bring your own kite from home and test it out on the green fields of the Midlands Meander. Its a great way to blend exercise and fun with the kids.
Horse or pony rides
Spend a day with the family at Kleinbosch Estate; a working farm with Nguni cattle and thoroughbred horses. Kids will love the jungle gym, trampoline, and haystack. Spend the day clay pigeon shooting or explore the 500 hectare farm and natural bush on a horse or pony ride. Horse and tack are provided. Riders must bring their own riding boots.
- Horse riding: R171 per person (1 hour)
- Clay pigeon shooting: R260 per person for 20 rounds. Minimum of 8 people.
Kleinbosch Estate, Mount West Road, Howick | GPS: -29.290604, 30.057531| +27 (0)33 266 6170 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Karkloof Canopy Tours
Karkloof Canopy Tours zips through the second largest indigenous forest in South Africa on slides up to 175m long. You’ll see plenty of birds, monkeys, trees, and plants on your exciting tour above the treetops. The canopy tour is suitable for 7 – 70 year olds.
Cost: R495 per person
Karloof Road, Karkloof | GPS: -29.322596, 30.262709 | Open daily, 08:00 – 15:00 | +27 (0)33 330 3415 | email@example.com
SWEETS & TOYS
The Sugar Shack
The Sugar Shack is a one stop sweet shop with retro candies, soft serve ice cream, candy floss, and hot popcorn – reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
The Junction, Nottingham Road | GPS: -29.357402, 29.997006 | Open Wednesday to Sunday, 09:00 – 16:00 and public holidays. Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day | +27 (0)83 305 2273 | Cynthia@traditionalsweets.co.za
Get your chocolate fix at Chocolate Heaven, stocked with hand-moulded treats made from the best Belgian chocolate. Fillings include nougat, biltong, lavender, and chilli – to name just a few. Book a Chocolate Experience where you can dip fruit, cheese, gherkins, and more in the most finger-licking chocolate you’ll ever taste.
The Junction, Nottingham Road | GPS: -29.357402, 29.997006 | Open Monday to Saturday, 10:00 – 16:00, public holidays and Sunday, 10:00 – 15:30. Closed Christmas Day, 19 January – 5 February | +27 (0)33 266 6870 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Funtasy Toy Shop
Funtasy has unique handcrafted toys and games that you won’t find in commercial stores, from doll houses to rocking horses. Kids can even create their own toy with its own heart and passport!
The Junction, Nottingham Road | GPS: -29.357402, 29.997006 | Open daily, 09:00 – 16:00. Closed Christmas Day | +27 (0)33 266 6999 | Cynthia@funtasy.co.za
Tashas Fantastic Fudge
Tashas Fantastic Fudge makes for a great road trip snack! Indulge in a pack of yummy fudge with flavours like French vanilla coffee, honey & Horlicks, cheesecake, milk tart, and red velvet.
Cost: R25 for 4 pieces
Shop 1, Jacaranda Centre, Hilton Avenue, Hilton| GPS: -29.554589, 30.301266 | Open Monday to Friday, 08:00 – 16:30. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day | +27 (0)83 381 8483 | email@example.com
The Faraway Tree
The Faraway Tree is a fantasyland of fairies, gnomes, elves, and trees with faces. With an impressive collection of wings, wands, jewellery, and tiaras, it’ll be the highlight of your little girl’s trip.
Open Wednesday to Monday, 09:30 – 16:00. Closed Christmas and New Year’s Day | +27 (0)33 266 6146 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dargle Valley Market
Stock up on local produce and home brewed coffee at the monthly Dargle Valley Market.
Il Postino Restaurant, Main Road, | GPS: -29.475642, 30.104566 | Open first Sunday of the month, 09:00 – 11:30 | +27 (0)82 831 4092
Karkloof Farmers Market
The Karkloof Farmers Market is a fresh produce market with fruit and veggies, home baked treats, and an indigenous nursery. Kids will love the pony rides, sand pit, and jungle gym.
Karkloof Road, Howick | GPS: -29.472186, 30.238771 | Open Saturdays, 07:00 – 11:00 | +27 (0)82 820 8986 | email@example.com
Rotunda Farmstall offers fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, freshly baked goods, jams and preserves, and a selection of wine.
N3, Cedara Interchange, Hilton | GPS: -29.563138, 30.299077 | Open Monday to Friday, 08:00 – 17:30, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, 08:00 – 17:00. Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day | +27 (0)33 343 4205 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Swissland Cheese has cheese tasting and tours where you can learn how the cheese is made. Pick a selection of your favourite cheese, ice cream, and dairy products to enjoy on the rolling lawns. Kids will love feeding the goats.
Old Main Road, R103, Balgowan | GPS: -29.412357, 30.072466| Open Friday to Monday, public and school holidays, 09:30 – 16:30. Closed Christmas and New Year’s Day | +27 (0)82 418 3440 | email@example.com
The Junction is a fantastic shopping village whether you can grab some padkos, stretch your legs, or go for a toilet break. There are various eateries, kiddies’ playground, candle dipping shop, and beautifully manicured gardens. We love the “Slow down. Free range children and animals” sign.
The Junction Complex, Nottingham Road | GPS: -29.357402, 29.997006 | Open daily, 08:00 – 16:00 | +27 (0)33 266 6116
HISTORICAL & NATURAL ATTRACTIONS
Nelson Mandela Capture Site
The Nelson Mandela Capture Site was unveiled by President Jacob Zuma in 2012 and is made up of 50 steel poles that align to form the face of former president Nelson Mandela. It’s a beautiful setting with hills and valleys in the background, and a museum and shop on site.
Cost: R25 per adult, R20 per student, R15 per child under 18
R301, Howick | GPS: -29.468361, 30.171039 | +27 (0)83 227 2376 | Open daily, 09:00 – 16:00 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Known by the local Zulu people as “KwaNogqaza” which means “place of the tall one,” Howick Falls cascades 95m into the Umgeni River. You can also hike the Howick Falls Gorge Walk or enjoy a swim and a picnic at the bottom of the waterfall.
Falls Drive, Howick | GPS: -29.485374, 30.238023
Midmar Dam is set in a nature reserve with picnic and braai sites, hiking and biking routes, and a dam that’s great for canoeing, sailing, kite surfing, wind surfing, boating, and fishing. The water is bilharzia free and safe for swimming. There is a boat shop for the rental of yachts, canoes, wind surfers, and fishing equipment.
Cost: R20 per adult and R10 per child
N3, Howick | GPS: -29.490494, 30.193279 | Open daily, 06:00 – 16:00 | +27 (0)33 845 1002
Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve
Explore the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve and spot giraffe, zebra, and antelope as well as 270 species of birds. There are walking trails, swimming spots, and picnic sites with stunning views over the reserve.
Cost: R30 per adult and R15 per child under 12 years
1 Karkloof Road, Howick | GPS: -29.475561, 30.239160 | Open daily, 08:00 – 18:00 (winter) and 08:00 – 19:00 (summer) | +27 (0)33 330 3931 | email@example.com
The Midlands Meander has plenty of restaurants with playgrounds and kiddies’ menus.
Piggly Wiggly Country Village
Piggly Wiggly Country Village has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for lunch on the go or a sit down meal. Pack your own picnic with food from the 3 Fat Pigs deli to enjoy on the lawns while the kids play on the jungle gym. There is also Piggly Wiggly Coffee Shop, Meander Fine Wines, and the Pizza Place, as well as a candle dipping shop and putt-putt facility. Serves breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Piggly Wiggly Country Village, 1 Dargle Road, Lions River | GPS: -29.458282, 30.135707 | Open daily, 08:00 – 17:00 | +27 (0)33 234 2911 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Corner Post
The Corner Post is a firm favourite for families with an indoor restaurant, deck with a sports screen, courtyard with water features, and a fantastic play area. There’s everything from pizza to pasta, and even an all-day kiddies’ menu. Don’t miss the fish and chips special on Mondays, burger special on Tuesdays, ribs special on Wednesdays, and lunch specials on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Serves lunch, dinner, and tea.
124 Main Street, Howick | GPS: -29.476365, 30.219417 |Open daily, 10:00 – late | +27 (0)33 330 7636 | email@example.com
The Picklepot is both child and wheelchair friendly with an adventure playground and a bubbling stream running through the grounds. Sit outdoors and enjoy country fare like sandwiches, burgers, scones, and omelettes, all served with the shop’s range of pickles and preserves. They will even provide a bowl of water for your dog. Serves breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Open Weekdays, 08:00 – 16:30, weekends, 09:00 – 16:00. Closed Christmas Day | +27 (0)72 190 5548 | firstname.lastname@example.org
La Popote at Sue Tarrs Summerhouse
Sue Tarrs Summerhouse used to be an old milking parlour so you can enjoy relaxed country dining surrounded by old milking pens and feeding troughs. The nursery has old fashioned plants and perennials for the garden. Serves breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Folly Hill, Hilton | GPS: -29.570095, 30.283555| Open Tuesday to Sunday, 08:30 – 16:00. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and the Easter weekend | +27 (0)33 343 1448
Il Postino Pizzeria
Il Postino Pizzeria serves delicious thin crusted wood fired pizza in an outside area with a fenced in play area and jungle gym. Roaring log fires are lit up in winter. Serves lunch, dinner, and tea.
Dargle Road, Howick | GPS: -29.475773, 30.104378 | Open Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 – 15:00, dinner Tuesday to Sunday, 18:00 – 21:00. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day | +27 (0)72 905 9390 | email@example.com
The Bistro at Granny Mouse Country House & Spa offers casual dining with burgers, pizzas, and more. You can also pick up a picnic hamper from the deli if you want to sit outside and enjoy the view. Serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea.
Old Main Road, Balgowan | GPS: -29.423899, 30.094964 | Open daily, 07:00 – 21:00 | +27 (0)33 234 4071
Caversham Mill Restaurant
The deck at Caversham Mill Restaurant overlooks the Lion and Impafana Rivers. It’s a great spot to sit back and watch the waterfall and wheel of the old mill. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Caversham Valley, Lidgetton, Howick | GPS: -29.417153, 30.095852 | +27 (0)33 940 0145 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Yellowwood Café on Farm Fairfell is a national monument. Sit indoors in the cosy restaurant, on the patio, or out on the lawns with a view of Howick Falls. There is a jungle, a small bike track for children under 5, and a gnome garden. Kids will love the miniature donkeys, Dexter cattle, pot belly pigs, miniature horses, as well as bantan chickens, rabbits, and Guinea pigs. Serves lunch, dinner, and tea.
1 Shafton Road, Howick | GPS: -29.503286, 30.232701 | Open Tuesday to Thursday, 08:30 – 16:30, Friday and Saturday, 08:30 – 20:30, Sunday and public holidays, 08:30 – 16:30 | +27 (0)33 330 2461 | email@example.com
Bierfassl is a cosy Austrian themed restaurant with a fireplace, outdoor seating, and a kiddies’ playground on the lawn. Enjoy beer tasting from Nottingham Road Brewery and meals from light salads to Eisbein. There is a kiddies’ menu with hamburgers, frankfurters, and toasties, as well as a deli selling food and beer. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
R103, Nottingham Road | GPS: -29.361428, 29.999455 | Open daily, 09:00 – 23:00. Closed Christmas Day | +27 (0)33 266 6320 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tumble Downs Café
Tumble Downs Café on an old stud farm offers freshly prepared meals, spacious lawns, and a view of the Kamberg and Karkloof Valley. There is a playground and kiddies’ menu for children. Serves lunch and dinner.
Currys Post Road, Howick | GPS: -29.420033, 30.197147 |Open Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 – 16:00, Thursday to Saturday, 11:00 – 18:30, and public holidays: 11:00 – 18:30. Closed Christmas Day | +27 (0)82 802 2837 | email@example.com
MEET THESE LITTLE CREATURES
Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon
The endangered Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon is native to the woodland habitat of the Midlands between Balgowan and Rosetta. They can reach a length of 9cm and have scales of various colours all over their body. See if you can spot them but don’t pick them up or remove them.
Karkloof Blue Butterfly
The rare Karkloof Blue Butterfly currently only exists in four populations in the world. The Endangered Karkloof Blue Butterfly Conservation Programme aims to grow populations by reintroducing the butterfly to 16 new locations, of which the Midlands Meander will be the first. The Midlands Meander Association has donated R10,000 to the programme and hailed the butterfly as part of their logo.
TOWNS ALONG THE MIDLANDS MEANDER
The Midlands Meander winds its way from Mooi River to Hilton, and includes 5 exciting routes depending on what you’re looking for.
- Mooi River
- Nottingham Road
- Curry’s Post
- Lions River
The Midlands Meander has a moderate climate. At an altitude of 1,247m above sea level, the summers are warm with occasional thunderstorms. The winters are mild and chilly with the occasional dusting of snow. Long days of sunshine make the Midlands Meander a fantastic year round holiday destination. Please note that while the weather is mostly predictable, it is possible to experience all four seasons in just one day, so always pack warm clothes.
Temperature & rainfall
- November to April: highs of 28 – 33˚C and lows of 12 – 18˚C. Occasional afternoon thunderstorms. (summer)
- March to May: highs of 22 – 28˚C and lows of 10 – 16˚C. Rare thunderstorms (autumn)
- June to August: highs of 12 – 20˚C and lows of 0 – 10˚C. No rain. Occasional snow (winter)
- September to October: 8 – 20˚C. Mist and drizzle (spring)
- Rainfall: Summer rainfall of 740mm per year
The Midlands Meander experiences occasional snow during the winter months. Check Snow Report.
You can book scheduled flights to King Shaka International Airport (Durban) or Pietermaritzburg Airport. Alternatively, the Midlands Meander is easily accessible from either Johannesburg or Durban for those who wish to drive themselves.
- Johannesburg: 4.5 hours’
- Durban: 1 hour 15 minutes
The Midlands Meander has a range of excellent accommodation available for families, from self-catering cottages, to cosy guest houses with family units. Find a place to stay along the Midlands Meander.
What are your favourite family stops along the Midlands Meander?