Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa
The Midlands Region
The Natal Midlands: Pietermaritzburg Outdoors
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Alexandra Park (1863), was named after Princess Alexandra of Denmark who became Queen Alexandra of England and is set in a bend of the Umsinduzi provides cycling, soccer, hockey and swimming facilities.
The beautiful Victorian cricket pavilion is a has been declared a national monument adjacent to which is a delightful bandstand in the 'chinoiserie' style where one can enjoy a light meal near the Sunday Craft Market that adjoins the cricket pitch.
In order to give work to local citizens during the depression, they were allowed to develop an area of the park which is now the delightful rock gardens.
A succulent rockery and rose garden are also part of the park and in May each year, the park plays host to one of the largest outdoor art exhibitions in South Africa.
Many come in the evening to walk under the plane trees, shuffle through the dead leaves, admire the art and enjoy a braai (barbecue).
The National Botanic Gardens
The shady 50ha Botanic Gardens near the city centre is situated adjacent to the Dorpspruit stream and was established originally to supply plants to the local settlers.
The displays are divided between indigenous and exotic species and there is a Zulu 'muthi' (medicine) garden. The Plane Tree Avenue is world famous as the trees change colour according to the season.
Plants are not the only attraction as many bird species, monkeys and buck also occur in these gardens. A small restaurant serves light meals.
Wylie Park set above the city was bequeathed to the city on condition that it remained a place of quiet contemplation and contains many fine examples of indigenous plants.
Its cool surroundings are perfect for the city's emblem, the azalea and the riotous display of colour in springtime is an unforgettable one.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Close to Wylie Park is the Queen Elizabeth Park, headquarters of the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service (Ezemvelo Wildlife)(formerly the Natal Parks Board).
Only ten minutes from the city centre, one can find rhino, zebras, bushbuck and a profusion of birdlife. There are picnic spots and the self guided iDube trail around the park.
Ezemvelo Wildlife building houses an attractive theatre at which slide shows, talks and films are shown.
Green Belt Trails
A recent innovation is the introduction of several Green Belt Trails around the city for horse riders, mountain bike riders and pedestrians which pass through both indigenous forest and open grassland.
These trails incorporate old railway routes, caves, tunnels and waterfalls, a marvellous selection of bird and plant life and all take less than an hour to complete.
Bisley Nature Reserve
Located in an area of natural savannah thornveld, the reserve (250ha), close to the city centre provides visitors with an opportunity to observe bird, animal (zebra, giraffe) and plant life.
The Doreen Clark Nature Reserve - Winterskloof
This small mistbelt forest reserve (7ha) has hiking trails and picnicking spots.
Ferncliffe Forest (250ha)
There is a small interpretative centre in this reserve of indigenous mistbelt forest.
One of the most picturesque racecourses in South Africa is located just outside the city centre at Scottsville.
The Spanish style course buildings include a number of restaurants, an English pub and a picnic enclosure as well as the more usual racing amenities.
Pietermaritzburg is surrounded by hills, the most notable - and from which the best view of the city may be obtained - being World's View (3545ft)(on the Old Howick Road) to the west where the original Voortrekker wagon tracks can still be seen leading down from the ridge.
There are also picnic spots. The World's View Trail follows the route taken by the Voortrekkers.
The camp was established in 1843 by the Sherwood Foresters and remained active for more than 15 years. There is a display of militaria at the fort.
The Cedara Forest Trails
The trail comprises a six hour circular walk through the plantations and past dams.
Cedara State Forest, P/Bag X6006 Hilton 3245
Albert Falls Resort
North of Pietermaritzburg on the Greytown road is the Albert Falls Dam. Water skiing and sailing are permitted on the dam and there is a caravan site and the Notuli hutted camp.
The area has been stocked with giraffe, red hartebeest, springbok and oribi and there are also night drives and hiking trails. Birders will find the area particularly interesting with some 280 species identified.
Anglers may also note that the South African record for bass was broken three times in one morning at the Albert Falls Bass Tournament.
The Notuli Hutted Camp is located on Notuli Hill. Visitors may enjoy water sports or simply amble about the trails where they will encounter giraffe, springbok and other wildlife. There are also 60 camp sites at the water's edge.
Contact Ezemvelo Wildlife or Camp Superintendent, PO Box 31, Cramond,
On the far shore of the dam is Ecabazini, a traditional Zulu Homestead. Guests may enjoy living in either authentic Zulu beehive huts or in rondavels and during their stay, take an active part in the day to day affairs of the kraal, learn about Zulu culture and eat traditional Zulu food under the stars each night.
There are also visits to units on the farm where guests can learn of the ways in which the Zulu people have assimilated Western ways.
This picturesque dam is 6kms from Pietermaritzburg on the Edendale road.
The Albert Falls Amble
The Amble is an arts and crafts route extending from Albert Falls to Wartburg, Dalton and New Hanover.