Since it was first launched nearly three decades ago by a group of like-minded potters and artists keen to market their work, the Midlands Meander has grown to include more than 120 countryside outlets that attract visitors from far and wide.
Every weekend visitors (and locals) visit the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands to browse numerous roadside stalls and shops to fill their baskets with home-grown produce, artisanal cheese, beer and wine, home-made crafts, carpets, delicataessan fare, hammocks, glasswork, leather belts, bags and shoes, wind chimes, classic antique furniture, fine artworks, wooden furniture, plants and many other unique items.
What makes it a popular destination for day trippers and weekenders is its slow pace of life, the variety of items on offer, the outdoor activities, beautiful scenery, and, above all, the warm hospitality of the locals.
This is a place where people have learned to live in the moment, so they’re never in too much of a rush to stop for a chat or to recommend a new destination along the route.
The Midlands Meander is a year-round destination, with cosy pubs and blazing fires beckoning when snow falls on the nearby Drakensberg mountains in winter, and cold rivers luring anglers, kayakers, tubers and swimmers in summer.
But if you’re keen to embrace the full Midlands Meander experience, an overnight (or more) stay is recommended. There is wide a choice of accommodation, from backpackers and five-star hotels, to health spas, self-catering cottages and B&Bs.
The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands region is about an hour’s drive from Durban, or four-and-a-half hours from Johannesburg.
The Midlands Meander comprises five routes that incorporate Howick, Balgowan, Lidgetton, Dargle, Lions River, Curry’s Post, Nottingham Road, Rosetta, Kamberg, Mooi River, and Hilton and extend towards the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site in the north.
If strolling around the markets and craft outlets sounds too dull, fast-flowing rivers in summer lend themselves to activities such as river rafting, kayaking and tubing, while some of the rougher terrain offers mountain biking, quad biking, zip lining, abseiling and tree-top canopy tours.
Mango operates regular daily flights from South Africa’s major centres to Durban, and also offers fly-and-drive options. Visit www.flymango.com for more information.