Best Things to Do in the Midlands Meander

Squirrel Dargle Forest #bestthingstodomidlands

The Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands is a popular destination in South Africa, known for its stunning landscapes, verdant hills, cascading waterfalls, and lush forests, home to various flora and fauna. The Midlands Meander is a collection of picturesque sightseeing routes that wind through the Natal Midlands, stretching from Pietermaritzburg Midlands in the East to the majestic Drakensberg Mountain range in the West. A travel guide to the best things to do in the picturesque Midlands Meander in South Africa’s Kwa Zulu Natal can help you plan your trip and make the most of this beautiful area. The best way to experience The Midlands Meander Route is on a road trip. With so many experiences to explore amidst these serene surroundings, it can be challenging to decide where to start.

Top 12 Things to Do in Midlands KZN

1. Admire the Midlands Waterfalls

It’s easier to explore the KZN Midlands by visiting its picturesque waterfalls. These falls offer charming picnic areas where you can spend quality time admiring the stunning surroundings. Experiencing the highest waterfall in the Natal Midlands, KZN is one of the best things to do with kids and a couple in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

Although the Karkloof Falls are higher than Howick Falls, they are not as well-known. The Karkloof Nature Reserve is only accessible to those staying within it. However, if you’re not fortunate enough to stay there, you can still see the falls from the picnic spot about 5 km outside Howick. The waterfalls in the Midlands are beautiful places to visit in KwaZulu-Natal.

Don’t miss the chance to see the awe-inspiring Howick Falls. The well-renowned Howick Falls, which is 95 meters high, can be found on the Umgeni River outside Howick. In Zulu culture, the falls are known as KwaNogqaza, which translates to “Place of the Tall One.” Another impressive waterfall is the Grey Mare’s Tail Falls in Natal, which cascades 101 meters over the cliffs into the mist belt forest. The name is derived from the swishing movement of the water that resembles a horse’s tail. This is just one of the many gems on the various Midlands routes.

  • Howick Falls entrance fee: It is free to visit and is open to visitors during daylight hours. 
  • Are dogs allowed at Howick Falls? Dogs are permitted at Howick Falls but must be kept on a leash. You can take a short drive from Toad Hall and then walk down to get there. However, we did not feel safe walking down to the gorge due to the presence of many vagrants. If you plan to visit the falls, go in a group, be cautious, and take pepper spray.
  • Contact details: +27 (0) 83 969 6243
Natal Midlands Meander Karkloof Falls
Natal Midlands Meander Karkloof Falls

2. Explore the Dargle Forest

Dargle is a charming valley and hamlet in the Natal Midlands, approximately 15 km northeast of Midmar Dam. You must visit to experience its splendour. Dargle is renowned for being home to the only forest-dwelling endangered Samango monkeys and Crowned Eagles in South Africa. Strolling through Dargle forest or Karkloof, breathing in the fresh, crisp air while enjoying the birdlife, is a refreshing experience.

Hiking or spending time in the tranquil Dargle forest is a fantastic experience, and one can feel the tranquillity. Besides, you will encounter some of the cutest small mammals native to Africa, such as Hyraxes, other genets, and beautiful birdlife. One could hear their distinctive cries on warm summer nights beside Genets and Dassies, bush pigs, bushbucks, blue duikers, and other mammals.

Sugar-bird in midlands nature reserve
Green sunbird Birds of the midlands meander
Green Sunbird

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Overnight in the Dargle Forest

“We had an amazing experience staying at one of the Crowned Eagle Cottages in Crab Apple, located in the Dargle region. Our cottage provided us with a stunning view of the crowned eagle nest, and we were delighted to find out that a family of Rock Hyraxes was living underneath our cottage.”

Kilgobben Forest Midlands Meander
Kilgobben Forest Midlands meander
Crabapple Crowned eagle cottage
Crabapple Crowned Eagle cottage

3. Visit a Cheese Farm in the Midlands

For fun days out with Kids Midlands, visit a Cheese Farm and have a picnic.

Marrakesh Cheese Farm

The Marrakesh Cheese Farm is between Nottingham Road Midlands and Mooi River in Rosetta. Chris and Sue Coetzer own and operate the farm. They started producing goat cheese in 1998 and later added some cow’s milk cheeses to their product line. In 2010, they stopped producing goat cheese, and since then, they have expanded the factory to make 18 different types of cheese.

Swissland Cheese Farm

Swissland Cheese Farm, founded by Francine Isaac in 1992, is well-known for its Saanen Goats. From a dairy-farming background, Fran’s love for farm life and dairy farming led her to establish this farm. At that time, the only cheeses available in South Africa were the Annato-coloured Cheddar and Gouda. However, introducing Camembert and Brie cheeses soon increased the demand for different cheese styles. Fran’s passion for the opportunistic creation of Swissland is evident in her herd of healthy and happy free-roaming goats.

The farm’s picnic facilities are excellent, providing a relaxing space under the trees on green grass. Swissland Farm sells award-winning cheeses and offers snacks, juices, and wine. Moreover, it has wide open spaces where children can interact with farm animals. Swissland Farm provides guests picnic baskets, blankets, glasses, and cutlery. Having a picnic at Swissland Farm is an unforgettable experience in the Midlands.

Swissland Cheese South Africa
Swissland Cheese Farm shop
white Saanen motor and baby Goat at Midlands farm
Saanen Goats at Swissland
Picnicking at Swissland cheese farm in the Natal Midlands
Picnicking at Swissland Cheese Farm

Are you looking for a great place to spend a day in the Midlands with your family or partner? Look no further than Karkloof! This location is a paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts and offers an excellent opportunity for Meandering the Midlands Meander. You’ll have the chance to spot the fantastic Knysna Turaco, also known as the Knysna Loerie. Altogether, Cape Baths, Emerald Cuckoos, Woodpeckers, and the colourful Narina Trogon.

In addition to birdwatching, enjoy the tranquillity while admiring the blue Karkloof Butterflies, dwarf chameleons, Samango Monkeys, and bushbuck. Karkloof is also home to the Crowned Eagle, Crowned Hornbill, and the endangered Cape Parrot. Other bird species that call Karkloof home include the Wattled Crane and the African Grass Owl.”

There is an immense range of activities in Karkloof KwaZulu Natal for any person. Activities range from enjoying nature while picnicking, visiting the Karkloof Falls, swimming, and hiking. For adventure seekers, there are adrenaline-filled Canopy tours where one can soar through the sky over the beautiful forest. Besides a canopy tour amongst the birds and monkeys in the forest, go Mountain biking or hiking within the reserve. The unspoilt reserve in the Natal Midlands is considered one of the most beautiful places in South Africa.

Perfect for days out with kids Midlands – The Umngeni Reserve is located near Howick, only 30 km from Pietermaritzburg. It borders the Umgeni River and boasts diverse habitats, harbouring game and birdlife. In addition to fauna, flora, and birdlife, Umgeni Nature Reserve offers hiking trails, none of which are physically demanding.

Also known as WESSA Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve, it is a unique outdoor education centre in South Africa and one of the popular attractions in KwaZulu Natal. It offers intensive environmental workshops by experienced and qualified teachers to the community.

6. explore the Midlands Local Markets

You can’t afford to miss the Hilton Rotunda Farm stall, where you can buy various delicacies from local farmers. From freshly baked products to Honey, mustard, bottled fruits, and jams. Furthermore, trout, meats, dairy products, fresh fruits and veggies are included.

Several Farm stalls along the Midlands Natal routes also sell fresh produce, homemade jams, chutneys, and a selection of sweets, rusks, pancakes, homemade pies, and meals—crafts and clothing made by people around the Midlands.

Midlands markets
Midlands markets

7. Go Coffee Shop Hopping

One of the best things to do in the Midlands is to enjoy the region’s freshly ground Coffees.

Terbodore Coffee Roasters

From the moment you step out of your car, you get overwhelmed by the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans. Besides their excellent Coffee, the warm hospitality, atmosphere, and great food at Terbodore make them a favourite amongst locals and tourists. Terbodore is located at 87 Old Main Road, Curry’s Post, Terbodore Coffee Roasters, which has been roasting and selling coffee beans since 2004. Their products are available Countrywide in most stores.

The Barn Owl Coffee shop
The Barn Owl Coffee

Barn Owl Coffee Shop

Located outside the Leather Company, you cannot miss this cute Coffee Van called The Barn Owl.

Besides fresh Coffee, the Barn Owl Coffee Shop offers juices and other refreshments.

Nottingham Blueberry Café

One of the famous Nottingham road things to do is stop at the Blueberry Cafe on Blueberry Hill. Besides admiring the surroundings, taste the best cheesecake in the Midlands.

Blueberry Cafe boasts its Blueberry Cheesecake, but the cafe offers many other delicious options.


8. Explore Piggly Wiggly Country Village

Situated on the popular Midlands Meander route at R103 Lions River, Piggly Wiggly is most famous among families with children due to its large play area and restaurant in the open. Furthermore, they offer entertainment and a variety of cosy shops, from the finest arts and crafts to clothing, sweets, and more.

Delight yourself in the collection of the finest hand-crafted Belgian chocolates, shakes, chocolate dipping, and unique gifts. Chocolate Heaven gift shop 11A, Piggly Wiggly Village, Dargle Road, Lions River. Their workshops and chocolate dipping are held at Chocolate Haven Nottingham Road. To make a booking, visit Chocolate Haven.

Visit the Meander Routes Attractions for more information on the array of shops, ranging from crafts and factories to Nuts about books and toys and the Midlands Country markets.

10. Visit Nottingham Road Brewery

The Natal Midlands has many excellent restaurants and cafes, including the famous Nottingham Road Brewery. While meandering through the Midlands, remember to visit the Nottingham Road Brewing Company.

11. Visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Historical Places of Interest Midlands: The Nelson Mandela Capture site was declared a museum and built before Nelson Mandela went to Robben Island prison for 27 years. Nelson Mandela was captured on August 5, 1962, near Howick in the heart of the Midlands of KwaZulu Natal. The site’s sculpture comprises 50 steel rods and creates a realistic image of Nelson Mandela’s face when viewed from a specific angle.

Along with the museum is a café called the Truth Café, where one can enjoy refreshments, an exhibition centre, and a bookshop. A recommended tour is the Giants Castle Cave Art & Mandela Capture Site tour.

Adventurous Things to Do in the Midlands

The Midlands Meanders are known for their astonishing beauty and Top activities in Kwaknows

12. Go Hiking in the Midlands

Things to Do in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands with kids: Hiking in the Midlands is fantastic and can be enjoyed throughout the year. You only need low to moderate fitness and no need to stress. Exploring the Dargle forest or Karkloof and taking in the fresh air and birdlife can be a great way to unwind. The Midlands offers fantastic hiking opportunities throughout the year, and you don’t need to be incredibly fit to enjoy them.

A leisurely nature trail leads to the Drakensberg caves if you enjoy exploring the outdoors. The Giants Castle Reserve in Drakensberg is an excellent destination for those seeking a beautiful and culturally rich experience. You can view the San and Khoekhoe Cave paintings, a testament to the region’s unique history. Midlands Meander to Giants Castle is 102,6 km and is about a 1 hour 45 minutes drive via the N3. For an excursion that offers an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the area, book a Drakensberg Mountains Plus Hiking Full-Day Tour.

The Pet-friendly Mount Park Guest Farm offers many hikes ranging from shorter to longer hikes through the indigenous forest. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, their Mount Park Loop hike. If you don’t rush it, the route takes roughly 1 hour 45 minutes. Walking through the woods, you’ll walk past natural streams from where one can drink fresh spring water. Altogether, there is a restaurant where one can enjoy something afterwards. Other places that offer hikes in the Midlands are Hartford House, Crab Apple, and Glensheiling Resort

Adventure Activities in The Midlands

What is your passion? The Midlands offers everything, from watersports to walking trails, short hikes, long hikes, and extreme sports: game drives, cycling, quad biking, canopy tours, and paintball. Watersports include kayaking, abseiling, fishing, canoeing, swimming, and rafting.

Visit the Best Guide to the Midlands Meander for tips on travelling the Meander routes, the best places to stay and where to Camp on the Midlands Meander route.

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  1. James Dyer says:

    We are inspired!!! An amazing blog. Thank you!!!

  2. There certainly are some great things to do in the Midlands Meander. Great bird shot captures! My ornithologist daughter would love this. Waterfalls are always a great draw for us. Especially if we pick up a great cheese picnic at Swissland Cheese first!

  3. I’ll definitely be putting this on my bucket list for the extreme activities. The Karkloof Nature Reserve looks really good too. Great to such diverse wildlife.

  4. Some great options in your post. My favorite would be the scenic forests and waterfall. I think the Nelson Mandela memorial is a great place too

  5. Those bird photos are amazing. I would also love to go to the cheese farm since I am a cheeseaholic!