Durban is an interesting stop in South Africa, my overall feeling is that it was a lot of fun, but finding our bearings was a bit complicated.
Lonely Planet describes Durban as the ultimate family playland, I am not sure I would go this far, but it can be a good place for families.
For little kids the biggest barrier to travel in Durban is the distance between attractions. Durban has a wonderful beachfront to stroll. But it is a long stroll that can be tiring for little legs, so just keep this in mind.
On Sunday it is party time and the main beachfront promenade is packed, you will see lots of families.
You can rent bikes and bicycle from one end to the next, you can rent skateboards, and body boards. They have a great skate park loaded with small children learning to roller skate and skateboard.
Things to do in Durban with Kids
Go to the Moses Mabhida Stadium
The Moses Mabhida Stadium at Durban Beachfront was the home to the 2010 World Cup Cup. It is beautiful and you can take a funicular up to the top with your entire family for about 15 dollars. Kids under 6 ride free and the view and the ride up will entertain kids and adults alike.
The entrance to the funicular is not obvious, so when you get there ask and somebody will point you in the right direction. You can rent bicycles and get a bite to eat all within the vicinity of the funicular entrance. They even offer very cheap Segway rides, your kids must be 12 and older.
On the front facing side is a playground that our kids enjoyed.
The Waterpark and Aquarium
Important – THE WATERPARK IS CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY
This was a huge surprise. The tickets for the family for a combo ticket which included both the aquarium and the waterpark were very reasonable. We luckily were able to wait until Wednesday and we had an amazing day.
We started with a seal show (kind of lame but the kids liked it) followed by an amazing dolphin show and underwater aquarium.
From there we went across the way and spent the afternoon in the waterpark. Our 4 and 6 year olds were able to ride almost all the slides and they had a blast!
Rent a bicycle:
Bicycle hire is not only popular but a great way to get from one end to the other in a fun way. We rented two tandems for about $18 US for an hour. The kids whined a bit at first but ended up having a great time while mom and dad peddled them around upwind!
Go to the free waterpark slide on the waterfront:
This is a free waterpark with a big 2 sided waterslide that your kids will love. You can’t miss it when you are walking but if driving it is beachside from the ride park. Our kids made this a 2 day adventure and they had loads of good cheap fun!
Where to Stay in Durban With Kids
If you can, I would recommend skipping the hotel in Durban and stay instead at Umhlanga Rocks.
Accommodations in Durban were frustrating and expensive. We ended up at a hotel, which although it was probably one of our more expensive stops was a letdown compared to our “self catering” accommodations in South Africa.
I wish I could be more help here. If you have kids, ideally you would stay on the Durban beachfront, but this is very pricey.
We spent one night on the Bluffs, which was too far off the beaten path and then up the road from the beachfront which was not ideal, but OK. Check the prices and try to find a beachfront property. Lonely Planet was little help and the backpackers hostels were not ideal for families.
What to eat in Durban
Eat some Bunny Chow, because this is where it was made famous. This is also a good place to get great tasting Indian food.
A note on surfing the Durban beachfront
The surf is kind of messy but could be fun. Surprisingly renting a surfboard in Durban is extremely difficult. After asking around, jogging and biking the entire beachfront I found one place to rent a board and it is a newer surf shop right next to the water-park and marine world. Why no one rents boards along the way is beyond me and it is a real shame.
The surf is tide dependent, which makes this challenging. Again, as a solo traveler my day depended on what I was feeling at any given moment. With kids, if the surf is up but if kids are going down, renting a board and getting out on the surf and back to your hotel room can be difficult. Especially if you are not right across from the beach, which in Durban will cost you the shirt off your back.
The beachfront from end to end is protected by a “shark repelling net”, at least that is what the surf shop told me. A grizzly old South African told me if you want to go surf with sharks surf Durban, according to the locals this was not true. I don’t know, seemed safe enough to me.