The Natal Midlands in KwaZulu-Natal is a place full of natural beauty, greenery and cultural activities. If you are visiting the Midlands, you will not want for things to do on a weekend or even on a weekday.
There are plenty of galleries showcasing African art for those who enjoy spending time at cultural attractions, mountain bike and hiking trails for the more adventurous and a plethora of restaurants for foodies to explore. Below are just some of the attractions that you can see when visiting the Natal Midlands.
The Nelson Mandela capture site commemorates the 5th of August 1962, the day that Mandela was captured by police and taken in to be sent to jail. There is a stunning installation of African art here which takes the shape of Mandela’s face the further away from it you are, and the 35 metre sculpture was designed by artist Marco Cianfanelli.
There is an education centre on the same grounds as the capture site, where you can go to learn about the life, incarceration and death of our great former president, and it makes for an enlightening and exciting family afternoon activity. There is a restaurant too, where you can sit with a cup of coffee, a light meal and contemplate the history of South Africa. The Nelson Mandela capture site has become one of the most popular destinations in the Natal Midlands since the sculpture’s erection in 2012.
Karkloof Canopy Tours is an institution in the Natal Midlands. Nestled in the heart of Karkloof, you will find an indigenous forest hiding in a mist-belt. There are gurgling streams, burnt-orange clivias on damp forest floors and a zip-line running across the length of this stunning green eden.
On a Karkloof canopy tour you will be able to glide through, above and below thick canopies of trees, stopping on platforms to see the exquisite views of the surrounding countryside. This is for the more adventurous at heart, as you will have to make your way through obstacles and keep your nerves calm as you fly through the canopy. Be sure to check what age is appropriate for children, as children under the age of five might not enjoy the experience as much.
Swissland Cheese is a magical experience for any serious foodie, or for anyone who enjoys trying out new cheeses. Established in 1992, it is a cheesery that was started out of a love for cheese, a knowledge of dairy farming and the fact that there was a niche in South Africa’s cheese market at the time.
Visiting Swissland Cheese is the ideal family activity. You will be able to see goats munching on the lush green grass, visit the shop and deli that are packed with delectable homemade goat’s cheeses and watch a live concert (which take place monthly, so time your visit right) outdoors. It has a peaceful tranquil atmosphere which is perfect for spending a relaxing Saturday or Sunday afternoon, all while indulging in scrumptious cheese selections.
The Piggly Wiggly Country Village in the Natal Midlands is one of the first stops that almost everyone makes when travelling the Midlands route, and for good reason. Here you will find a diverse variety of restaurants, stores and activities for the whole family, ranging from candle dipping to riding a miniature steam train.
Piggly Wiggly is one of the most popular destinations in the Natal Midlands, with stores such as the Zulu Lulu Art House, Tous Les Jours clothing store, the Homewood timber furniture store and Huddy’s Books for all book lovers. There is truly something for everyone and a visit to Piggly Wiggly makes for a fun-filled, exciting family day out.
If you are interested in African art in all its forms, including ceramics, then you should make a stop off at Ardmore Ceramics during your visit to the Natal Midlands. The ceramics you will see here are utterly unique, and the art house has been delivering these stunning creations to galleries and museums for many years.
The African art you will find at Ardmore is made by local people, who are given training, materials, a studio and a guaranteed market for their work under the guidance of the founder of the initiative, Fée Halsted. The ceramics you will find have animals wrapped around the necks of vases, breaking free from lush green backgrounds and sculptures of animals and humans with unique features. For any art lover, Ardmore Ceramics is a must-see while you are traversing the route of the Midlands.
There is one important thing you will need to know about the Natal Midlands, and about KwaZulu-Natal in general, time moves slower there. This does not mean that nothing gets done, simply that the people are more laid back and that you do not need to rush your journey. Make a day out of visiting the Nelson Mandela capture site, spend hours basking in the greenery of the Karkloof canopy and don’t rush your meal at Swissland Cheese. The Natal Midlands is the perfect place to go to spend time relaxing, recharging and taking things slow.