KwaZulu Natal DestinationsEston, Natal Midlands
Eston is real sugarcane country. Head out here from Durban and you're privy to a series of rolling hills, cattle farmlands, and fields of sugarcane. You get a pretty good idea of what most of the surrounding countryside must have looked like at some stage before development, particularly the north coast of Durban. Sugarcane thrives here.
It is not surprising then to learn that one of twelve sugar mills in KwaZulu Natal is located at Eston. In fact the mill here is the newest of the bunch, commissioned only in 1995 to replace the old mill at Illovo, where it crushes about 1.26 million tons of cane a year. There is also an annual Eston agricultural show organised by local farmers as a family event with a flea market, great food and a beer and tea garden. It's all in the interests of these farmers who want to create awareness about their crops and products.
Staying in Eston will mostly occur on smallholdings and farms, many of which are becoming increasingly popular as commuter properties. Eston is only a 35 minute drive from Pietermaritzburg. Whilst Durban is a tad further, it is still only an hour's drive along the N3, meaning that for those who don't work a full week at their desk, Eston is a wonderful country lifestyle alternative.
The pretty town of Richmond is an easy half hour's drive from Eston. There is a lot to do and see in the midst of the Midlands here, and, despite the bad press Richmond received during the 1990s due to violent political clashes, the historical architecture and the country style living are attractive to visitors. Visit Richmond's museum, and if you can, take a drive on to Byrne - a gorgeous village that looks as though it has stepped out of rural England. The hiking around here is wonderful too.