The restful rolling hills of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands offer a calm respite from city life. A mere 4 hour drive from Joburg, or an hour and a half drive from Durban will have you passing springy fields with glossy cows at pasture. The Midlands takes coffee very seriously; take it slow and stop off at any of the fine coffee brewing establishments sprouting up all over the Midlands. There’s even a wine farm on offer. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy getting to know the impressive terrain of the Ukhathlamba Drakensberg Park Heritage Site with its varied grassland, bush veldt and forest eco-systems. You’ll hear the bark of baboon troops echoing through the valleys and the splash of mountain streams with ample picnic and river-sunning spots to be found. And after all that exercise Travelstart brings you the inside scoop on the best places to eat on the Meander.
Blueberry Cafe, Nottingham Road
You’ll be delighted with this great find and it’s easily accessible from the N3, just after the Mooi River Plaza (if you’re travelling from Joburg). Simply take the Nottingham Road offramp. There’s ample room for the kids to play while you indulge in coffee and freshly-baked cakes complemented by views of the surrounding farmland, with hills and dales as far as the eye can travel. Blueberry Cafe offers delicious, farm-fresh fare with none of the fuss. Step in to an elegant yet welcoming space with spacious ceilings and an indoor greenhouse as the entrance connecting the restaurant.
Open everyday from 8am to 4pm.
Call 033 266 7132.
Find cheap flights to Durban here.
Caves, waterfalls and mountain biking at Lotheni Nature Reserve
Mountain biking enthusiasts, trout fishermen, casual walkers and serious hikers will all find what they’re looking for in this section of the Ukhathlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site. There’s an excellent swimming spot 1km below the resort, perfect for when you want to cool off after a long hike. Trout fishermen can purchase a daily rod fee from the reception office.
R40 entrance per person to the reserve.
You can buy a range of refreshments (including cold beer) at the reception office as well as hand-carved walking sticks and snacks.
The reception office opens at 8am.
There’s also a museum concerning early settler life. The Canyon Trail starts near the museum and includes a number of clear streams, waterfalls and impressive views of the Lotheni Valley and Hawk and Tent Peaks and will take about 5 hours to complete depending on fitness levels. The Jacob’s Ladder Trail is an easy-going 2km-long hike, popular with family groups and picnickers. You’ll begin your hike by crossing the Lotheni river via the impressive Tebetete wooden suspension bridge then head downstream.
To get to Lotheni you drive on gravel roads through beautiful farmland peppered with goats and horses and the Lotheni river snaking its way out of the valley.
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Stonehouse Café, Himeville
You can’t pass by the appealing Stonehouse Café at the foot of the Sani Pass without stopping in for lunch or brekkie to steel your nerves for the road ahead. The leafy garden and jungle gym for the kids is matched by the tasty and well-priced food.
Find it at 47 Arbuckle Street on the main drag.
Call: 033 702 1154
Open everyday from 8am to 3pm.
Steampunk Coffee South Africa, Lions River
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You may have heard of Truth in Cape Town but have you heard of Steampunk Coffee SA in lovely little Lions River? This is a firm favorite with locals stopping off for a daily cup of quality coffee. There are some chairs but this is more a spot to stop in for a takeaway coffee, chat to your knowledgable and passionate barista, say hi to Decaf the dog and head out on the Meander- the Nelson Mandela Memorial and Capture Site a little further along the road is a must-visit.
Open everyday from 7am to 5pm and on public holidays from 9am to 2pm.
Thokans Garage, Old Main Road, Lions River.
Coffee with the sultan at Terbodore Coffee Roasters, Curry’s Post
Continuing on your quest for the finest beans in the land you may recognize the noble great dane logo in your friendly supermarket however it’s always best to go to the source. Terbodore Coffee Roasters in Curry’s Post is a wonderful place to while away an afternoon all year round. The restaurant serves up wonderful homemade fare, the coffee is a must and you’ll get to meet Maddy the brand new addition to the great dane family.
Open from Thursday to Sunday from 8.30am to 4.30pm.
87 Curry’s Post Road
Can’t make it to the Midlands? Terbodore operates a family branch in Franschhoek.
Sultan – the Terbodore mascot. Making sure that all coffees served at out coffee bar are perfect! #terbodore #midlandsmeander #coffee #coffeeroastery #coffeebar #coffeetime #roastery #espresso #greatdane #bigdog #lamarzocco #linealove #linea #mazzer
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Meandering in the Vines at Abingdon Wine Estate
Who would have thought you’d encounter a vineyard so far from the undulations of the Franschhoek and Stellenbosch wine valleys. Situated at 1140m above sea level, Abingdon is making its mark on the meander with 100% KZN made wine.
Ian and Jane Smorthwaite bought the farm in 2000 and the first vines were planted in 2004. The vineyard is flourishing and now boasts a lunch menu and tasting room.
The tasting room is open on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays from 10am to 5pm for lunch and tastings.
R15 per wine tasted.
Good to know:
The last lunch orders are served at 2.30pm. Tastings are on offer from 10am to 4pm.
Abingdon regrets no children under the age of 12.
Call 033 234 4335 to make a booking.
Culture and Adventure at Injisuthi
Just four hour’s drive from Durban, Injisuthi lies in the central part of the Maloti Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site with Cathedral Peak to the north and Giant’s Castle to the south. It contains the largest group of San Rock Art south of the Sahara. Take a guided walk to Battle Caves, the best-preserved San rock art site in southern Africa (available daily). Sleep under the stars in one of the overnight-caves.
Estcourt is the closest town 76 km away and is the last port of call for petrol and supplies.
To find out more about accommodation and pricing call Ezemvelo’s Central Reservations office in Pietermaritzburg on 033 845 1000.
Pizza at Il Postino, Dargle
Il Postino has the best pizza in the district with wood-fired delicious Italian pizza done properly. There’s live country music on offer every Friday night and all the major sports broadcasts.
Open for lunch from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 3pm.
Open for dinner from Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm to 9pm (8pm on Sunday nights).
The bar is open on Tuesday from 4pm to close and from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to close.
Closed on Mondays, Dec 25 & 26, Old Years Eve and New Years Day.
Call 072 905 9390 to make a reservation.
Cosy Kamberg (the mountains are so named because they are shaped like a rooster’s comb – a “kam” in Afrikaans). This pint-sized nature reserve offers fresh air, trout fishing and lovely trails perfect for a weekend in the countryside.
To find out more about accommodation and prices call Ezemvelo’s Central Reservations office in Pietermaritzburg on 033 845 1000.
Taste of Thai, Hilton
Another rather lovely surprise is the beautifully made and presented authentic Thai cuisine you’ll find at Taste of Thai in the misty village of Hilton. There’s even a cherry blossom tree inside the restaurant. A Thai curry is a wonderful way ti warm up if you find yourself in sleepy Hilton for the Hilton College Arts Festival or passing through on the Meander.
Be sure to make a reservation as they are very popular. Call: 033 343 1234.
Find Taste of Thai in the lower level of the Quarry Shopping Centre.
Stormy Hill Horse Riding, Boston, Impendle District
A ride through the country forests and farmland of Boston is one for the bucket list. Stormy Hill offers a self-catering cottage and horse rides to suit your comfort level and equine expertise, catering to beginners and experienced riders. Stormy Hill is located in the rich historical and cultural Impendle District.
Impendle derives from the isiZulu word Impiyasendle or Impiendle meaning “outside war” referring to the conflicts between colonialists and local people. People of the Amabhidiya faith live in Impendle District and gather every September in red robes for a pilgrimage to a holy mountain.
R375 per person for the Forest Trail ride.
Call Caroline on 0741927787 for more info.
Culture, adventure, quality coffee and serene landscapes- the Midlands Meander and surrounding areas have so much to offer newcomers and old friends.