About Durban via the Valley of a Thousand Hills

Route: Durban, Krantzkloof, Monteseel, Valley of a thousand Hills, Midmar Dam, Pietermaritzburg, Nshongweni Dam
Description: From the awe-inspiring Kloof Falls this route follows the edge of the Valley of a Thousand Hills, the shores of Midmar Dam, views ofan old Voortrekker wagon road, and on to Nshongweni Dam
Length: roughly 250 km
Time: a day, at least
Overnight: Hillcrest, Hilton, Howick, Kloof

This route is a very familiar drive for many who live in KwaZulu-Natal. Not only does most of it follow the major highway between Johannesburg and Durban, but it also incorporates the start of the Midlands Meander, ending just before the Battlefields Route begins.

Durban to Krantzkloof
Follow the toll road, the N3, from Durban towards Pietermaritzburg via Mariannhill. Take exit 17 onto King Cetshwayo Highway, travelling past Pinetown and up Fields Hill. Then take Exit 23 Kloof/Village Road turning right into Village Road. Go through one traffic circle. At the second traffic circle turn right into Old Main Road, following directions onto the M33 (left)

Now travel past the Kloof railway station, past Saint Agnes Church where Kloof Falls Road curves to the left and then, more sharply, to the right. This attractive tree-lined road becomes Bridle Road and gently wends its way into the valley. A little later you enter Krantzkloof Nature Reserve.

Krantzkloof's sheer cliffs and lush bush is home to an incredible bird life. Once in the reserve cross the river, and continue up the steep climb, turning right for a parking area. A short walk takes you close to the edge of the cliff with incredible views of Kloof Falls.

Krantzkloof to Monteseel
Follow Bridle Road on (with the highway still behind you) and turn left into Link Road, turning left into Inanda Road for Hillcrest, and on, turning right onto Old Main Road (R103) just before Stretta Café.

Head up Botha's Hill for Drummond. At the top of the hill you soon find a view onto the Valley of a Thousand Hills to your right after which you pass the Rob Roy Hotel (that has been here forever and should, all things being equal, serve up a good old-fashioned cup of tea in its rose gardens). There are numerous other tea shops, pancake places and shops up here too.

Shortly after passing Phezulu Old Main Road begins to wind along a line of hills and the road beings a series of curves from one hill to the next with incredible views of the valley on both sides.

Pass Drummond station, and then a few curves later, look out for the right turn to Monteseel into Michigan Street (there are Monteseel directional boards). Turn left at the T-junction, and then right into Seeles Street.

Monteseel is one of the oldest and most popular climbing areas in the province (over 300 climbing routes with grades to suit everyone). It also offers wonderful views if you park and walk to the edge overlooking the wild kloof (in which three of four known cycads of the Encephalartos natalensis species are known to grow).

Monteseel to Midmar
Head back the way you came, taking a right onto Old Main Road. Follow Old Main Road until it joins the N3 past Cato Ridge. But be aware of your kilometres for roughly 11 km into your drive on the N3 there is an excellent view on the right of KZN's Table Mountain that monopolises its share of the Valley of 1000 Hills.

The scenery begins slowly to change as you head inland as the green of the hills gives way to acacia trees. Roughly 21 km after joining the N3, as you take the hill, there is a view over Pietermaritzburg and the surrounding hills.

Now bypass the city, crossing the Msunduze River roughly 3 km later. This is where the annual Duzi Canoe Marathon is held. You also bypass the village of Hilton.

28 km after you would have turned off for Pietermaritzburg, take the exit for Howick and Midmar Dam to your left.

The nigh-on 3000 hectare Midmar resort lies in the Mgeni valley in amongst the uMhlatuzana hills. It is a hive of sports – water skiing, swimming, sailing, camping, caravanning – and is rich with birds and some game. There is a restaurant in the resort, but it is probably a better idea to head into either Howick or Hilton (try the Old Main Brewery on the corner of Old Howick Road and Denis Shepstone Drive if you like craft beer and local food), or simply picnic on the banks of the dam.

Midmar to Nshongweni Dam
Return to the N3 for Pietermaritzburg taking the exit some 7 km later for Mount Michael and Cedara. At the end of the offramp turn right for Mount Michael onto the R103, which becomes the Old Howick Road a little later. Travel on looking out for the right turn into World's View Road. Take this to the end of the road where there is a parking area and a view site overlooking the old Voortrekker wagon road. The views from here are spectacular.

Rejoin the R103, Old Howick Road, turning right onto the road. Shortly afterwards, roughly 2 km, take a left for Montrose/ Queen Elizabeth Park Nature Reserve, and a little later, take a left at the T-junction into Peter Brown Drive, which takes you into the reserve.

Lying on the northern slopes of Pietermaritzburg, this nature reserve is home to impala, blesbok, zebra, bushbuck, dassies and grey and blue duiker as well as several cycad species and endangered daisies. Walk the circular iDube trail if you have the time.

Leave the reserve on Peter Brown Drive, merging with the R103 at the traffic circle. Continue straight on towards the centre of Pietermaritzburg, taking a left at the fork with Hyslop Road, and then around the traffic circle into Chatterton Road, which becomes Boshoff Street. At the intersection with Church Street, turn right, and then left into Chief Albert Luthuli Street, looking out for the rather impressive red-brick City Hall with its multi-stories and roof of copper and corrugated iron, immediately to your left.

Follow Albert Luthuli out of town until it intersects with the N3.

Travel on the N3 until the Shongweni/ Assegay exit. At the end of the offramp take a right onto Kassier Road, which becomes JB Mcintosh Drive. Take your first left onto a gravel road (Mr559 Route), and then shortly after this another right (Mr461 Road).

You will see the Ntshongweni Dam in the next 3 km, set in a richly wooded gorge to your right, the Nshongweni Hill behind it. Once through the gate, follow the road to the dam wall and picnic area.

To reach Durban, head back to the N3.

Need to Know

WhereDurban via the Valley of a Thousand Hills to Nshongweni Dam: Durban, Krantzkloof, Monteseel, Valley of a thousand Hills, Midmar Dam, Pietermaritzburg, Nshongweni Dam

WhenBest during daylight hours

How muchFree

OvernightStay nearby in Bothas Hill, in KwaZulu Natal

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