Whether you’re on holiday in Durban, or a born-and-bred local, this chilled out East Coast city has a lot to offer kids. From the balmy beaches to the hilly hinterland, from the playgrounds to the pools, you can’t help but enjoy our warm weather and laid-back lifestyle. For example, in summertime the sun rises at 4.30am.
How fun is that?
Kids all over the city have 3 hours of extra play time before normal people like to wake up – what a win for parents everywhere!
Seriously though, other than our devastatingly early starts to the day, Durban is full of fun stuff for the little ones. Hopefully, this list of 50 Fun Things For Kids to Do in Durban will help you fill the daylight hours, especially during the long school holidays.
Before you go on, here’s how it works.
- The list is has 5 categories: Free Activities, Activities Under R35, Activities Over R35, Coffee Shops with Playgrounds, and Markets. It’s a long list, but keep scrolling until you find what you’re looking for.
- Because summer is rainy season in Durban, you will see this symbol *** which indicates venues that are undercover.
- Other than my personal experience, all of the information was collected from websites, Facebook, and friends’ recommendations so I haven’t personally done everything on the list.
- My kids are both toddlers, so the list leans a little to stuff for younger kids but I think you’ll find something for everyone who likes to play.
- And finally…
Disclaimer: All the times, prices, locations, dates etc. are subject to change. I highly recommend you check websites, or phone before you go. Obviously, I can’t be responsible for any of the following: incorrect information, inaccurate directions, bad coffee, bad traffic, load-shedding, pants-wetting, tantrum related-injuries, anything-related injuries, lost property, lost marbles, or any permanent psychological damage. Have fun!
FUN FOR FREE – ACTIVITIES THAT WON’T COST YOU
- Moses Mabhida Stadium
You seriously cannot go wrong here. The People’s Park Playground on the south side of the stadium is really top-notch with four different jungle gyms areas for different ages. Bring a picnic and everything with wheels. The People’s Park Cafe is nearby – huge portions, slow service. Optional paid outings like the SkyWalk, Cable Car, tours etc. HOT in summer although they recently added some umbrellas to the grassy areas. Website: http://www.mmstadium.com
- Paddling Pools at Laguna Beach
Just past Blue Lagoon are the Laguna Beach paddling pools which at the time of posting this have literally JUST finished being revamped. There are different sized slides, pools and shaded areas right on the beach. For free!
- Promenade and Pier at Umhlanga Beach
One of our favourite outings is to the promenade at Umhlanga. The best spot is where you can sit on the sand under the shade of the pier. There isn’t a bathing area here, but the rock pools are great fun. Alternatively, at the far south parking lot where the promenade begins is a super wooden jungle gym and loads of shady picnicking areas. We love to ride bikes and play in the park on days that aren’t great for swimming and sand.
- Ushaka Beach
People love Ushaka Beach for its long, flat sandy section and easy swimming area. There are loads of shops nearby for refreshments, and beach stuff for rent like surfboards, paddleboards, bikes etc. It’s a nice combo of beach and mall, even if it’s just for some window shopping.
- Umhlanga Fire Station
That’s right. There is an emergency services location mentioned on this list. This is more of a special outing then a go-to play area but its worth mentioning because most people don’t know about it. I simply phoned them (031 361 0000 – ask for Umhlanga Fire Station reception) and asked if they do demonstrations. They told me if I could get a bunch of kids – more than 12 – they do them on Wednesday at 10am. It was AWESOME. The firemen get dressed up and show the kids all the stuff on the truck. They can climb into the driver’s area. The highlight is when a fire engine comes in sirens blaring and sprays millions of foam bubbles and the kids go bananas running through it. Have your kids in their swimming costumes when you arrive, bring towels, and you’re all set.
- Botanical Gardens
You really can’t go wrong with Botanical Gardens. Whether you’re riding or walking through, kicking a ball, having a picnic, it’s just great. Check out the massive baobab tree, and see if you can find the sunken garden. If it’s open, a walk through the orchid house is beautiful but mostly the Gardens are a great spot to run the kids ragged so they go to bed early.
“We love feeding ducks and riding bikes at the Botanical Gardens, then flap jacks in their tea garden”
- Breakers Hotel Slides
Apparently open to the public, not only hotel guests, I’ve heard from a number of people that this is a fun, free outing for the kids. Their website says that in addition to the regular swimming pool there is a kiddies pool and slides. Sounds awesome for those humid, hot Durban days. Website: http://www.breakersresort.co.za/index.asp
- La Lucia Mall Golf Shop Driving Range ***
This is one of my husband’s favourite outings with our three old son. They head off to the mall and play golf. I haven’t been there myself, but Tom and Will love it. Worth a shot! (Golf pun!)
- Maritime Museum
I remember going here on school outings and loving it, and I’ve heard recently from two people that it is still a great outing for the kids with a number of historical boats and displays to explore. If your kids are as into engines and transport as mine are, I have a feeling this could be a hit. There is no entry fee, only donations. Website: http://www.durban-history.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=65
- Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve
Crabs, sand, mud, secret passages and pirate treasure – why not have a pirate expedition to the Mangroves? Open from 8am – 1pm on the third Saturday of the month, it’s a great way to spend a morning. Website: http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-beachwood-mangrove-nature-reserve
“Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve on the third Saturday of each month… especially in the summer as feeding the yellowed black mangrove leaves to the red claw crabs never fails to delight and it’s a calming time walking round the 1km boardwalk and up onto the beach.” – Amanda
UNDER R35 PER PERSON
- Durban North Pools
Whether you have a pool or not, a trip to these public pools is a fun change of scenery. Pack water guns, pool noodles and all your fun games and have a water wars afternoon. It’s clean, organised and outside of school holidays – FREE ENTRY! In season, it’s a nominal fee of R7 each (I think!)
- Wild Adventure: The Lost World Edition ***
Open from September 2014 to January 2015, this indoor Dinosaur entertainment arena is well worth a visit. There is a huge inflated T-Rex for the kids to walk through, moving animatronic dinosaurs, and other fun climbing, running, playing activities. Located next to the restaurants on the north side of the Moses Mabhida stadium, you can go grab yourself one of Jacksonville’s brilliant coffees while you’re there. Cost: R30 per person. Website: http://www.mmstadium.com/stadium-attractions/moses-mabhida-stadium-lost-world-edition/
- Flag Farm Animal Farm, Salt Rock
Flag Farm really is the best animal outing for kids. They have an incredibly diverse range of things to see and do – from the farm animals, to pony rides, to milking cows and feeding baby pigs. Recents upgrades include an undercover playground and sandpit for smaller kids, train rides, and fantastic climbing apparatus. There is a small restaurant but you can bring your own braai stuff and picnic – its easy to spend many hours here and the kids will love it. Worth the drive! Cost: R35 per person – Under 18 months free. Website: http://www.flaganimalfarm.co.za/
- Lucky Bean, Assegay ***
We LOVE this spot, even though its a drive from Durban North and the roadworks are a pain. For a great feel of the place check out their lovely website, but our highlights are the indoor swings, soft play toys and ball pits. The bike track is great with loads of riding options and our sons love the various huts with different themes and dress up stuff. And for the adults – the food is DELICIOUS. Honestly, the menu will blow you away and it’s fresh, healthy, tasty food. Cost: Adults – Free. Kids 0-6 years, R20 for first child and R15 for each child from same family. Website: http://www.luckybean.co/
- Mini Town, Durban Beach Front
The working trains and boats are a marvel to the little ones, although the temptation to play with the models is a tough one to resist. It is quite exposed on a hot day, but is a fun, quick outing for the whole family that you can squeeze into an afternoon after playing on the beach. It’s not expensive, and all funds go the Quadriplegic Association of South Africa. Cost: R10 for kids 2-12, R15 for adults. Website: http://www.durban-tourism.com/Mini-Town.html
- Mitchell Park Zoo
This timeless Durban gem has a lot to do. The restaurant, Blue Zoo, is excellent – the menu is diverse, delicious and has great service. Plus, in the outdoor seating area is a really nice jungle gym, and there are tables with play dough, sand art, colouring in and a staff member to help. The “zoo” itself is kind of outdated, but there are amazing birds and rare monkeys to see. A short walk around is enough but its cheap to get in, so its worth going just to keep the kids busy. The jungle gym area outside the zoo, however, is awesome. Bit big for tinies (but they have the restaurant one), and loads of cool features. I haven’t even mentioned the actual park. Loads of space for kicking balls, running around, riding bikes. You can float from one area to another, and before you know you’ll have killed a few hours. Cost: Zoo is R10 for adults, R7 for over two years old. Website: http://www.durban.gov.za/City_Services/ParksRecreation/pnature/Pages/mitchell.aspx
- Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve
Another great idea for a family day trip is to head to the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve and to stroll through the coastal dune forest and across the Ohlange River towards the Umhlanga Lagoon. The guided walk is half an hour long so it shouldn’t be too strenuous for little hikers. The Reserve is brimming with well over 60 species. Keep your eyes open for vervet monkeys and blue and red duiker. The route is well-marked but walking through the reserve alone is at your own risk. Cost: R30 an adult for the guided walk and R15 for children under 12. Contact Umhlanga Tourism – 031 561 4257, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.umhlangatourism.co.za
- Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park, Pinetown
The bike & lifestyle park has its hub based around the picnic area, restaurant and BMX track, with single track trails that lead off in various directions. From what I can gather, kids on bikes of all sizes can enjoy the tracks while the cafe provides a chilled spot for spectators. Adults Riders (12yrs +): R40, Child Riders (under 12yrs): R20, Non Riders: R10 (Fri-Sun, School Holidays & public Holidays) http://www.gibagorge.co.za/
- Kids World at Ushaka
The Kids World at uShaka has the largest jungle gym in Africa. Seriously. It makes me want to me a kid. There is Lego and Duplo Activity Area. There is a Sprinkler play area which is fantastic, and you can shoot massive water cannons. There is a sand pit with a dinosaur hidden in it. There is an indoor toddler play area with soft toys – next to a coffee shop where they offer FOOT MASSAGES! So great. The best plan is to bring in picnics or your own food because unless you want to grab fast food from the uShaka mall, there are no food vendors in the play area itself. This place is awesome and its open until 6pm: R60 for kids over 3, and R15 for adults. Website: http://www.ushakamarineworld.co.za/kids-world
- Funky Monkey, Umhlanga ***
Previously known as Jimmy Jungle’s, this fantastic indoor play centre is a firm favourite for rainy day treats. Under the same management but free from it’s previous franchise restrictions, there really isn’t anywhere that compares to the jungle gyms, toys, ball pits, super slides, trampolines and childcare at Funky Monkey. If your kids don’t mind being supervised by the child minders, its a dream spot where you can enjoy a cappuccino and a magazine and get some work done. In fact, they now offer a 2 hour child minding service where you can actually leave your kids there and go get some work (or fun!) done. Cost: R45 flat rate. R75 per hour for leaving your child there. Website: http://www.kznkids.co.za/listing/funky-monkey-umhlanga
- Umgeni River Bird Park
This is SUCH a gem. First of all, its massive. There is so much to see and a lot of space for running around. There are the talking parrots, the jungle gyms, the endless aviaries and ponds, and bird displays, and an interesting bird show every day at 11am. You can easy spend 2-3 hours here, and there’s a very very average food place, too. Secondly, its all pretty much shaded and when its baking in Durban, the Bird Park really is cool (pun!). Plus, these guys are doing awesome work in rehabilitating birds caught up in the illegal pet trade, as well as breeding rare species and releasing them back into the wild. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Cost: Adults R50, Kids 4-12 R30. Website: http://www.umgeniriverbirdpark.co.za
For those of us who live in Durban, I think we take Gateway for granted. Yes, its gets busy and the surrounding traffic over holidays is a nightmare, but no matter how much you have to spend you have somewhere to go. Sometimes, we go before all the shops open and just play on the Funtubbles rides – no tokens, just use your imagination. But if you’ve got some money to spend, the options are endless. Highlights for kids include: the water slides, flowrider, bumper cars, arcade, Funtubbles (arcade and rides for littlies), movies, adventure golf, ten-pin bowling. Cost: You decide. Parking upwards of R9 an hour. Website: http://gatewayworld.co.za/
- Model Train Rides at Virginia Circle
We’ve never been here other than for birthday parties so I’m not sure what its like on a Sunday, but the kids LOVE the train rides. In addition to the rides, there are some mediocre jungle gyms and space for playing. Cost: Call 082 569 1383. Other details: Kelleway Hall, 10 Hinton Grove, Virginia, Durban (opposite Checkers). 2nd and 4th Sunday from 11am to 4pm.
COFFEE SHOPS WITH PLAYGROUNDS
- Hingham Nursery, Glen Anil
What we love about Hingham is not only the jungle gym and small play area, but just exploring the nursery. The plants, pathways, and statues provide endless interest for little ones, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch sight of the monkeys feasting in the trees above or the families of mongooses that scurry around near the tea garden. The food isn’t amazing, but it’s cool and peaceful. Website: http://hinghamnursery.co.za/site/default.asp
- Coffee Corner At Tap
A little coffee shop behind the Durban North Baptist Church in Beachway, this is a real favourite amongst Durban North families. Lots of shade, astro turf grass, a bike track, a couple of jungle gyms, a little house to play in, swings and space, and a kid friendly restaurant. Opens 9am-4pm weekdays, 8.30am-1pm Saturdays. Usually closed on Mondays, but open for December 2014 holidays. Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Coffee-Corner/228784147240366
- Circus Circus, Durban Beach Front
A real Saturday morning favourite, Circus Circus not only has the sea views and the promenade out front, but a shady outdoor eating area and jungle gym in the back. Our kids love to play in the sandy play area, and it makes it a relaxing spot to watch them as they can’t run off. We usually head next door to the skate park to watch the “big kids”, and if its quiet scoot around the skate park a bit ourselves.
- Makaranga, Kloof
Makaranga Garden Lodge is a real treat. The Botanical Gardens are magical, with loads of paths to explore and nooks to discover. You can book a picnic or eat in their amazing restaurant which has a natural timbered play area and rock garden within sight of you. But its more than food, its great for kids – check out their website: http://www.makaranga.com/things-to-do/children
- Heatherbelles Cafe
Heatherbelles Cafe is a sweet, unassuming little spot on Broadway in Durban North. Set under a big shady tree, there is a trampoline, jungle gym, play houses and dress up clothes. It feels a little rustic but the food is lovely – I had the BEST scone there. If you’re looking for something peaceful and quiet, this is the spot.
- Apache Spur – Riverside***
Alongside the usual Spur Restaurant, (which has to be one the weirdest, most politically-incorrect themed chain restaurants IN THE WHOLE WORLD), is large undercover play area with a jungle gym area, a huge airplane that has slides coming out of it, a climbing wall, three age-specific trampolines, and quite a bit of running-amock space. This area is roofed in, but if its cold outside, its cold inside. There is a very small but very well-equipped toddlers play room thats completely inside – jumping castle, soft play toys and slides. The play area is supervised – they will label your kids with your phone number and table number, and will most definitely call you if your brood are terrorising the neighbourhood. Opens at 9am weekdays, 8.30am weekends. Website: http://www.spur.co.za/restaurant/family/durban-north/apache-river
- Miami Spur – Umhlanga Sands Resort***
Much smaller than it’s Durban North counterpart, the Spur at Sands is still pretty good for an indoor afternoon. What makes it quite fun is that the hotel arcade is also there, although you will have to trek out the restaurant to get to the arcade. One of our favourite “oh-my-gosh-they’re-driving-us-nuts” tricks for a Saturday afternoon is to head over there around 4pm, play, all eat dinner and then go home with half the madness of a typical evening over. Or do the beach and promenade for the morning and finish there with lunch. It basically sets them up for a nap – which is fantastic.
- Burnedale, Salt Rock
We LOVE Burnedale. There’s a sweet, shady play area for small kids, and a small but interesting collection of farm animals to check out. The new treehouse/jungle gym and rope swings are so cool, and take you back to your own childhood before everything was plastic and padded. The restaurant is nice enough, and browsing through the shops will keep parents occupied. Lovely spot. Website: http://www.burnedale.co.za/
- Sage, Salt Rock
One of the first of the restaurant/spa/decor/playground collectives which are so popular, Sage has lovely food and a fun wooden castle for kids, and sand art is available too. Over the years it has felt like its moved more towards the food and shopping vibe than kids, but there is still enough to keep them entertained. Website: http://www.sagecafe.co.za/
- Karibu Nursery, Salt Rock
Yes. Another spot in Salt Rock. My theory is that the traffic in the greater Ballito area is so heinous, the locals need to stay away from home for as long as possible. But Karibu does sound lovely, and most of what you find about them online has to do with their awesome pastries and bakery – TOTALLY FINE WITH ME.“There is a divine new spot in Salt Rock…Karibu Nursery. Very cool undercover kids play area, wonderful staff that play with the kids, such good breakfasts and lunches, even better pastries. You could spend ages there.” – Jenna
Unfortunately, they don’t have a great Facebook page or website, but you can find their address and contact details here: http://www.africanadvice.com/1170760/Nurseries/Kwazulu_Natal/Karibu_Nursery/
- The Waterberry Coffee Shoppe, Ballito
Earlier this year, the Waterberry Coffee Shoppe, famous for its amazing cheesecake and forest trails, shockingly burnt down. But it has been rebuilt and revamped and is finally reopened. You can see some of the great developments on their Facebook page, and it will for sure be a firm favourite once again. Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Waterberry-Coffee-Shoppe/143593909051098
- Savior Coffee Company at The Rock Church, Sunningdale
What started as a trendy, handmade leather brand, expanded to a coffee shop in Morningside and has now grown to have premises at The Rock Church in Umhlanga. These coffee-lovers have included a kids playground in their new spot just off Umhlanga Rocks Drive near Sunningdale, so check them out for a catch up with friends and their kids. Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Savior-Coffee-Company/673207779394931
- Kloof SPCA
This quaint tea garden and playground is a lovely outing, and their market on Saturdays and the last Sunday of the month is worth a mention, too – especially if you enjoy thrift shopping and second-hand goods. For the kids, the playgrounds have been revamped so go support this awesome cause. Open Mondays – Saturdays, and last Sunday of the month. 8am – 3pm.
“Kloof SPCA is also awesome now. Have a whole new kid’s area. Cheap food and drinks and it goes to a good cause…” – Sandra
Durban loves markets – and so do our kids! Good food, good shopping, and great support for local entrepreneurs and artisans is what makes a visit to a market worthwhile. Each of them are quite unique in setting, but generally have similar traders and stalls. Why not take a month to follow the Market Trail from weekend to weekend and find your favourite?
- Shongweni Farmers Market
Every Saturday at 1 Fraser Road, Hillcrest
6.30am – 10.3am
- I Heart Market
First Saturday of each month at Moses Mabhida Stadium
Every Saturday in December
9am – 2pm
- Wonder Market, Umhlanga
Usually last Sunday of every month at Chris Saunders Park opposite Gateway
9am – 2pm
- Golden Hours Market, Durban North
Every Sunday at Golden Hours School near Pick ‘n Pay Hyper
10.00 am – 3.30pm
- Play Market
Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park, near Mariannhill Plaza on N3
- Sunday 23rd November Christmas Market
- Sunday 15th February 2015
- Sunday 8th March 2015
- Sunday 12th April 2015
Please check their website for dates: http://www.gibagorge.co.za/play-market/
- Come on, people.
- Do I have to do EVERYTHING for you?
- Honestly, why did you even have kids?
- Fine. I know. I get desperate, too.
- Maybe ask the kids what they want to do?
- One last tip…
50. If you are completely at a loss, a good friend of mine contributed this absolute pearler. She really knows her stuff, so I saved the best for last…
“Take them for a quick espresso at Jacksonville (you can just leave them in the car while you run in) then take them to the Oyster Box curry buffet. Kids love buffets. And there is an unfenced pool. Rad!” – Christie
Question: How do you keep your kids busy during the holidays?
Share your tips in the comments below so we can all learn a thing or two
Thanks for visiting, and feel free to join my mailing list to receive a monthly blog from me – Jess