I was incredibly lucky to have grown up in the gorgeous, green province of KwaZulu Natal, on the east coast of South Africa. Some of my best childhood memories are of escaping out onto the Midlands Meander, a scenic drive filled with delicious nibbles and quirky arts and crafts. If you find yourself in South Africa, take a day to explore this stunning area, have an adventure or two, and spend some time in nature once you’ve taken in some of the world’s best scuba diving. Here are my top picks for places to visit on the Midlands Meander route.
The very first stop you should make on any Midlands Meander day trip is Steampunk Coffee. The coffee shop is situated at a petrol station, and it really looks like nothing special until you get a glimpse of the murals painted beautifully all over the walls. Expect the unexpected as the steampunk designs jump out at you from every corner, amongst inspirational quotes and some little nibbles you can enjoy with your coffee.
I especially love Steampunk Coffee because of their commitment to going green. Bring your own travel mug if you want take-away coffee, or be prepared to sit and sip. You can also bring your own container and grab some of the beans that are roasted to perfection on-site. If you’re looking for something to do during the gorgeous midlands summer nights, take a look at their facebook page to see if you can catch one of their poetry evenings.
Marrakesh Cheese Farm
This is a little hidden gem on the Midlands Meander that is an absolute must-visit for any cheese lover! Chris and Sue Coetzer run the farm, and have been making cheese on the premises since 1998. I have met both Sue and Chris, and they really are what makes this place so special. As soon as you drive up to the cute little barn, you’ll be met with friendly smiles and an exquisite cheese tasting that will set your taste buds tingling.
Prepare yourself for 8 to 10 different cheeses, as well as jams and chutneys that are also home-made. The cheese is very reasonably priced, so be prepared to fill up your fridge! Find out more about Marrakesh Cheese Farm here, and get directions here.
Linga Lapa is unmissable with its name emblazoned loud and proud on the roof of the building. This stop is for meat-lovers, as you can get your fill of what I think is the best biltong on the Midlands Meander. There is also a restaurant on site and you can take a look at all the other yummy things in their butchery and deli. Find them here.
Peel’s Honey is an absolute institution on the Midlands Meander, established in 1924, Peel’s is the oldest honey brand in South Africa. I can remember visiting the store with my grandparents as a child, and it is just as wonderful today as it was then. With the honey sourced from local beekeepers, Peel’s is a must stop for anyone with a sweet-tooth. Find them here.
Truth Cafe at Mandela’s Capture Site
Truth Cafe is a great, scenic spot to stop for coffee or a light meal. Very affordable, the cafe is is open for lunch and breakfast. You can even book the venue for your next pool party or function! The location of the cafe is also really special, as it is a short walk from one of the most iconic sculptures on the Midlands meander. The Mandela Capture Site marks the place where Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, the beginning of his 27 years in prison. You can find an informative visitor’s centre here as well as local artists and crafters. The Capture Site is an educational and beautiful stop for your day out in KZN. Find Truth Cafe and the Capture Site here.
Curious Crafts and Stores
If you’re in love with wind chimes like I am, you’ll want to make the slightly longer drive out to Culamoyo Chimes. Even if you don’t end up going home with one of the gorgeous chimes available, your breath will be taken away by the view out over the mountains and valleys of KZN. There is also a gorgeous larger than life set of chimes towering in the shop’s gardens which makes for an amazing Instagram photo! Find out more about Culamoyo on their website.
Groundcover leather company
Groundcover is another one of the stores on the Midlands Meander that I have fond childhood memories of. I had leather sandals from them as a child, and I still dream of owning one of their amazing handbags. Groundcover has a gorgeous shop with a stunning bronze sculpture of the shoemaker’s elves in the garden. Founded in 1990, Groundcover is housed in a restored settler’s cottage. Come here for amazing shoes, boots, bags, belts, and briefcases! Find them on their website here.
Peter’s Gate Herbal Centre
Peter’s Gate is one of those stops on the meander that always leaves me smiling. From the gorgeous scents of home-made soaps, salts, and creams, to the friendly greeting you get from the puppers, this centre is just a warm heart of goodness. The centre was established in 1997, and it has one of the most beautiful views on the meander. If you’re lucky, you can also grab a waffle or a coffee and take in the ambience. If you’re looking for herbs to grow, you can pick up a wide variety from the nursery, or chat to the friendly owners if you’re looking for something specific. Find them on the web here.
Lion’s River Trading Post
Lion’s River Trading Post is the perfect spot to jump across to from Steampunk Coffee. If you like ‘scrap-ratting’ around for jewels in the rough, this is the stop for you. From antique tools, to old gumball machines, you really can find everything here. There are also two sweet pups that greet you at the shop, which always makes something a must-visit for me! Find them here.
Midlands Meander All-in-one Stops
As much as I hope you can spend a few days on the Midlands Meander, you might only have a few hours to explore. If you want to get as much done as you can, here are two great options for stops that include food, fashion, art, and views!
The Junction Village Centre
The Junction is one of my favourite stops on the Midlands Meander, and we even stopped here for lunch on the day after our wedding! The Junction has a ton of stores that can keep shopaholics happy for a few hours. Take in toys, clothes, books, art, cooking supplies, and so much more. I would recommend taking in brunch at Relish, a gorgeous restaurant that has stunning interior decor as well as a beautiful outdoor seating area. Their pizzas are amazing, so go hungry! Find The Junction here.
I can remember visiting Piggly Wiggly Farm Stall when it was literally just one farm stall on the side of the road. We wanted to buy a lettuce, and the lady at the store wandered into the field to pick us one fresh from the soil! Piggly Wiggly has grown considerably in the last two decades, and it is now a fabulous family-friendly stop with something for everyone. We especially enjoy Chocolate Heaven, where you can buy chocolate covered koeksisters, and even chocolate biltong!
Shopaholics will also enjoy their time here, as there is fashion, furniture, art, toys, books, and all manner of souvenirs to take home and remember your KZN Midlands Meander trip. If you’re into adventure, take the short zip-line to get a taste of Karkloof Canopy Tour’s awesome zip-lining experience. The little ones can also take a ride on the narrow-gauge railway, although if trains are your thing, you should take a trip to the Pietermaritzburg Model Engineering Society’s railway for some serious fun.
The Bend has a very special place in my heart, as it was where Chris and I got married in 2016. Not only is it the most affordable wedding venue on the Midlands Meander (a world-renowned wedding destination), it also is a truly glorious place to stay. Imagine a stream running through mountains, with rolling green hills and the soft braying of sheep, and you can come close to understanding how relaxing and enriching the grounds of The Bend are. As I said, I may be bias, but I would go back here to stay in a heartbeat! Find them here.
Another one of my favourite places on earth, are the Sycamore Avenue Treehouses. Yup, here on the Midlands Meander you can rent your very own fantasy treehouse to live out your wildest Lord of the Rings dreams. Chris and I spent our mini-moon here, and it was the best decision we have ever made. The grounds house 6 unique treehouses, and each one looks out to provide you with a private and intimate experience.
With each treehouse fashioned on a different theme, you can have a completely new experience each time you stay. There is also a wonderful buffet dinner and breakfast available, and hanging out with the other guests and the wonderful owners is a lovely, warm experience. As a child who grew up having to be coaxed out of my treehouse at sunset, Sycamore Avenue was a dream come true and worth every penny. Find them here.
Midlands Meander Tips
- Make sure you take cash with you, as not every shop on the meander will take cards.
- Give yourself more time than you think you need, so that you can take in the scenery and make any unexpected stops you see on the way.
- You can make a meander day trip from either Pietermaritzburg or Durban, as the meander is accessible from both.
- Take a look at the Meander website to plan out your must-see spots so that you don’t miss anything vital.
The KZN Midlands Meander is a magical and eclectic place with so many beautiful secrets to be discovered. The best itinerary is honestly to grab a car and drive till you find something that sparks your curiosity, because you could spend years finding each special spot. You can find a Midlands Meander map here, and let your adventure begin!
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