Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a one day in Durban itinerary. Durban, South Africa doesn’t get the same amount of attention as Cape Town or Johannesburg get, but that’s a real shame. It’s certainly a fascinating place and just as worthy of attention as South Africa’s other cities.
After all, where else can you learn about the wild creatures that inhabit the farmland in KwaZulu-Natal, eat delicious South African Indian food, and relax on stunning beaches? Join me for a one day in Durban itinerary, and you’ll learn about these and other Durban wonders.
One Day in Durban Itinerary
Where to Stay?
If you’re looking for the perfect place to stay for our one day in Durban itinerary, you can’t go wrong with the Avondale Boutique Hotel. It’s located right near a happening nightlife area, but on a quiet street far from the noise.
A delicious breakfast is included every morning, and it’s made to order, so you can choose anything from spicy eggs to a sweeter option. Plus the security and staff are excellent and attentive.
If you wish to accompany me for convenience and good food at the Avondale Boutique Hotel, just click here. And if you hate convenience and would rather check out some great deals on many other hotels in Durban for your one day in Durban itinerary, just click here.
One Day in Durban Itinerary
What to Pack
- A cell charger so you’ll be able to take pictures all day of food, beaches, dangerous reptiles, etc.
- The best international travel adapter–even if your devices don’t work in South African electrical sockets, this will make them work.
- My favorite guide to South Africa, including Durban, which isn’t really large enough to get its own travel guide
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by a gaggle of vicious penguins on your one day in Durban itinerary.
One Day in Durban Itinerary
Morning: Dangerous Creatures
We spent our last one day in Durban itinerary at Sea World in uShaka Marine World, exploring the adorable sea creatures and eating some adorable sea creatures. So today we’re heading back to uShaka, but this time we’re spending a little less money and getting into the Dangerous Creatures, located in a building on the Village Walk.
Even if creepy crawlies freak you out, you don’t need to be scared in this building. The helpful staff will show you around and even tell you stories about what it’s like living on a farm in KwaZulu-Natal, Durban’s province, where apparently running into snakes and other reptiles isn’t uncommon. Let me share a few more tidbits and fun with…
Three Fun Facts: Dangerous Creatures
1) Are All the Reptiles Dangerous Creatures?
They certainly are not, but one of the most dangerous has got to be the green mamba. Unlike some of the other reptiles in Dangerous Creatures, this snake is actually found in South Africa, though I certainly didn’t see any in the wild on the streets of Durban.
One of the docents asked me if I wanted him to take the snake out and get my picture taken with it. AHAHAHA! That’s a fine way to die horribly. Of course, he was joking, but I wonder if any foolish tourists have ever said yes to this offer.
2) Where Do the Reptiles Come From?
Some of them, like this aptly named Eyelash Viper pictured above, come from foreign countries. But one of the docents told me that many of the reptiles are actually rescue animals. Some people try to keep them as pets, which she said is a terrible idea. Your average person just has no idea how to take care of a wild reptile.
She told me that she was from a farm in KwaZulu-Natal, and she had grown up with snakes around all the time. She said that to them, they’re vermin, kind of like cockroaches are to someone growing up in NYC, like me. But some of them are poisonous, so you need to learn to look out for the dangerous reptiles. Great, now I’m imagining a poisonous cockroach, which is just about the most horrifying thought I’ve ever had in my life.
3) How Close Can You Get to the Reptiles?
You can get as close to this reticulated python as that tube you can see inside its cage. It’s possible to crawl underneath and stick your head inside the tube so the python is way up close. I decided not to do this because it seemed like something for kids, and not because I was absolutely terrified at the thought of being that up close to a reticulated python, no way. No sirree, Bob!
24 Hour Tip
Dangerous Creatures isn’t a huge attraction, so when you’re done, have some fun relaxing on the nearby beach or exploring the sights on the Village Walk, the long pathway right outside Dangerous Creatures. If you’re lucky, you might see some Zulu dancers performing for the crowd! Head out on the afternoon portion of our one day in Durban itinerary when you start to get ready for lunch.
One Day in Durban Itinerary
Afternoon: Explore Durban!
Durban is a fun city to explore because it’s not super touristic, so there’s plenty of unusual nooks and crannies–and plenty of affordable and delicious food! Durban’s not the kind of city you want to rush around; just stroll or take Ubers everywhere on your one day in Durban itinerary and you should be fine.
You’ll be more than fine because you’ll know the satisfaction of getting off the beaten track and getting to know one of the most interesting places in South Africa.
So without further ado, I present…
Approximately Top 5: One Day in Durban Itinerary
1) Durban Rooftop Garden
The Durban Rooftop Garden is an urban beautification project designed to make Durban more lovely and safe. The people who run the garden upcycle trash like gloves and old bottles to plant gorgeous blooms and leaves. This is a charming place to spend a little part of the afternoon of your one day in Durban itinerary soaking up some sun–but with only a fraction of the crowds at Durban’s beaches!
This place can be a little tricky to find. It’s on the roof of the Urban Management Zone’s offices at 77 Monty Naicker Road. Definitely worth working a bit to find it!
2) Spice Emporium
Durban is a wonderful city for Indian food, so you must try some of the local eats at Spice Emporium. (We are stopping at the Monty Naicker Road location because it’s near the rooftop garden. This place is a food store, so you can buy spices and all sorts of things here, but you can also get prepared food at the Chaat Cafe inside the Spice Emporium.
I suggest getting the Mixed plate, which comes with sev puri, khaman dhokla, and pani puri. The khaman dhokla are sweet-spicy-crunchy-savory cakes, and the puri are thin breads that have been shaped into eyeballs and stuffed with various salads and/or liquids. Eat them all in one bite, or they’ll explode in your face!
Durban Indian food is hot hot hot, so don’t be ashamed at buying a beverage to go with it. I recommend one of the mango drinks they sell in the store.
3) Victoria Street Market
The Victoria Street Market is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Durban. You really can’t say you’ve had a one day in Durban itinerary without stopping here. Even though it’s a tourist destination now, it has a rather tragic history. The market used to be a thriving Indian Market, but that burned down in the 1970s. The poor merchants lost everything. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Durban was able to rebuild the market for visitors to the city to enjoy.
Some of the stores are a little tacky, but if you look around carefully, you can find something for a reasonable price. I collect earrings in every city I visit, and there were some very affordable beaded numbers I got here that I always get compliments on.
The best stall in the market is probably the spice market. You can get all sorts of special blends here, but I recommend the Just Like Kentucky blend. Yes, it’s meant to taste just like the spice blend from Kentucky Fried Chicken, but I’m here to tell you that it tastes much better. KFC is super popular in South Africa, so I can see why they market the blend that way.
4) Xpresso Cafe
The gimmick at Xpresso Cafe is that everything here costs 10 rand, which is the equivalent of 70 American pennies. They say it’s because everyone should be able to afford a little luxury, and I totally agree. There are multiple Xpresso locations; we want the one on 33 Churchill Road.
But despite the low low price, the snacks are quite tasty. Don’t sleep on the Copenhagen, which is a nice little bun and not a cheese Danish at all. Just be sure to listen to the staff. I went with an Australian man who wanted a soy latte, and they told him their soy milk had gone off, but he insisted on having it anyway. (The soy milk was off and he couldn’t drink it, which served him right.)
5) Anton Lembede Street
There are plenty of interesting buildings from the colonial period to see near Xpresso, like the City Hall, the train station, and the new theater, which looks like something out of Harry Potter.
See what I mean? But Durban is much more than the former center of British colonial South Africa, and I’d like to direct your attention to some of the freedom fighters who helped South Africa become a democratic country.
This mural is dedicated to Anton Lembede, a South African lawyer who inspired Nelson Mandela in the fight against apartheid, along with many others. He died tragically young, at the age of 33, in 1947, so he’s not as well-remembered as some other figures like Mandela. But we’re not going to forget him, are we?
6) Zulu Hut
In case we haven’t had enough food on our one day in Durban itinerary, let’s make one more stop for some local food at Zulu Hut. As I mentioned earlier, Durban is in KwaZulu-Natal Province, which means Zulu food is part of its cultural heritage.
The food at Zulu Hut is soothing comfort food, like chicken or beef stew along with a light and fluffy bread. (They also sell tripe here, if you’re feeling more adventurous and want to eat cow tummy.) But my favorite thing was a spicy peanut chutney they served alongside the stew. Peanuts are a big part of cuisine in many African countries, and this went great with the chicken.
Of course, if you want to save dessert for last, you can always come here before you go to Xpresso Cafe. I won’t judge! After your final stop, head back to the beach if it’s a nice day, or go back to your hotel and nap if it’s raining. We have one more meal ahead of us!
One Day in Durban Itinerary
Evening: Butcher Boys
South Africans are famously good at enjoying meat, so why not finish off our one day in Durban itinerary at a fine steakhouse called Butcher Boys. (There are two locations, but we want the one on Florida Road, which is one of the happening nightlife spots in Durban.)
Start off with a classic appetizer like a blue cheese salad. Look at all that cheese! Your arteries may hate you after tonight, but your tummy will be insanely pleased.
The steak options here are very customizable–you choose the cut, cook, sides, and sauce. I got the rump steak which has more fat that the filet, but it also has more intense flavor. (And I asked for it medium-rare, which is how I like all my meat.) To top it off, the waitress suggested the pepper sauce, which added a touch of piquante flavor. Always go with the server’s suggestions. They know the food better than you do.
For the side, I recommend the chips, which are quite nice and spicy. Don’t worry, my fellow Americans! In South Africa they call French fries chips, just like they do in many other parts of the civilized world outside the US. We’re not getting a handful of Lay’s to go with our steak.
PS. I apologize for the blurry steak photo. I was still getting used to my iPhone 11.
For dessert, it doesn’t get more classically South African than malva pudding served with lashings of custard. Just like the chips, they’re using pudding here in the British sense. This dessert has nothing in common with a rice pudding. It’s more like a squishy spongy cake with apricot jam in it. The perfect South African end to a perfect one day in Durban itinerary!
One Day in Durban Itinerary
How To Get There
Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a beautiful box of South African wine. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you how to get from your home to your day of the best things to do in Durban.
But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to Johannesburg, and then I took a shorter flight to Durban. I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to South Africa at the best time of day. It’s really easy to see all your options for flights by using their website. That’s how I learned it would save me money to take a round trip ticket to Johannesburg and then go to Durban, rather than doing a round trip from NYC directly to Durban.
Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out to find the best things to do in Durban ASAP.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Durban Itinerary!
What would you do on a one day in Durban itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Durban right now? And is that a green mamba dancing right behind you? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have 24 hours with the best things to do in Durban.