The Midlands Meander isn’t a single attraction at all, but rather a network of more than 150 artisans, activities, restaurants, lodging and tours that have banded together to promote the rural but creative Midlands Region of KwaZulu-Natal.
Halfway between Durban and the land-locked country of Lesotho, residents offer “slow tourism” experiences including the chance to watch artists at work, taste locally grown and produced foods, experience inspiring landscapes and meet small business owners. Dozens of art galleries and shops showcase locally-made paintings, batiks, weavings, pottery, beadwork, wrought iron, wind chimes, candles and even functional items like hammocks and locally-sourced leather shoes.
Foodies will enjoy the chance to try locally crafted beer and wine, Peel’s Honey, the oldest honey label in South Africa, or creamy goat cheese at the Swissland Cheese Farm. Golfing, fishing, horseback riding, tubing and other local attractions like the Karkloof Canopy Tours, which allows guests to zoom through forest at more than 40 miles per hour, can make a day trip turn into a week-long adventure. Also popular are Howick Falls, whose local lore ties it to seasonal storms, and the roadside sculpture and mini-museum that commemorates the location where Nelson Mandela was captured and sent Robben Island in 1962. Even accommodations are quirky and unique Sycamore Avenue Treehouses rents private abodes tucked into a forest.
The association that unites the forest and village sites of the Midlands Meander puts out an annual route map offering several itineraries options based on Interest. Tour companies depart Durban and take in a selection of what’s on offer.
Routes span more than 50 miles between Pietermaritzburg and the uKhahlamba-Drakensburg World Heritage Site including many back roads. Midland Meander attractions begin an hour’s drive from Durban. Guide books with maps and suggested routes are available throughout the region or download a free iPhone or Android app for your smartphone.