Eshowe is the oldest town of British settlement in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and is a good base to see the Zulu culture. The town is enmeshed with the Dlinza forest, one of five remaining coastal scarp forests in Kwazulu-Natal.
In 1861, Reverend Hans Schroeder of the Norwegian Mission Society was given permission by King Mpande to start a mission station nearby.
During the Anglo-Zulu War, in 1879, British forces occupied the mission but the fort was besieged by Zulu forces for 10 weeks. The Zulu forces razed the fort to the ground, much as it is today near the town of Gezinsila.
Fort Nongqayi was built by the British in 1883, and the town served as the administrative headquarters of Zululand.
The Eshowe area has been home or base at one time or another to four Zulu kings: Shaka, Mpande, Cetshwayo, and Dinizulu.
Eshowe is inland and set on an elevation, and is cooler than Durban in summer. During the wet season, it is often misty, and is reputed to have the third highest rainfall in South Africa. South Africa has awarded Eshowe its most picturesque town award at least once, to which a drive through its suburbs will attest.
In 2011, it was home to 15,000 people.
While the level of crime affecting tourists is generally low, caution and sensibility is advised, especially for female travellers.
Drive up the N2 from Durban, turn left at the Dokodweni Plaza onto Route 66. Carry on straight for roughly 30 km, passing turn-offs to Gingindlovu and Mtunzini. There are two turn-offs to Eshowe, one at the bottom of a large hill (best to take if headed to George hotel) and the second is at the top of the large hill, taken by turning left at the first traffic light encountered. Ask your guesthouse which turn-off is best.
By minibus taxi
Minibus taxis leave/arrive at the main taxi rank in Eshowe. To get to the taxi rank, follow the road that leads off Main Street between the roundabout (outside KFC) and the George Hotel. Minibus taxis leave when full.
To Durban - Cost: R70. The dropoff in Durban is on Umgeni Road and Fynn Street, in front of Durban Station.
To Empangeni - Cost: R30. 1 hour.
To Melmoth - Cost: R20. 45 minutes.
The Baz Bus stops at Zululand Backpackers and the George Hotel. The fare from Durban is R225.
Greyhound runs bus service to Melmoth, 48.3 km from Eshowe. You can take a minibus taxi from Melmoth to Eshowe for R20.
Provincial public buses (2 a day, mornings) also leave from the taxi rank daily. The journey takes around 2 hours.
It is possible to walk from end to end in the Town Centre (about 20 minutes at a medium pace). The entrance to the boardwalk and visitor centre is a further 25 minute walk away from the Pick n' Pay centre. A car may be easier, but is not essential if you have time on your hands. Taxis can help you visit sights you think may be too far to walk.
- Eshowe Taxi Service, 116 Main Street, ☏ . 7AM-7PM. Meter Taxi Service that is available for short or long distance trips.
- 1 Fort Nongqayi Museum, 7 Nongqayi Road, ☏ . M-F 7:30AM-4PM; Weekends: 9AM-4PM. Fort Nongqayi features the Zululand Historical Museum dedicated to Zulu culture. Also on site is Vukani Zulu Cultural Museum, Adams Outpost Restaurant, a small chapel and a number of other NGO and community projects. R25.
- Mpushini Falls. A 40-minute walk from the Fort Nongqayi Museum Village.
- Entumeni Nature Reserve.
- Walk up the one-street town centre. Take in the feel of a market town catering to rural Zulus. Stop at the markets and shops selling everyday necessities, such as Four Square Coleys, and Inkanyezi, buy some impepho (a herb burnt for medicinal and spiritual purposes) from a street trader outside OK Bazaars.
- Zulu Village Tours and Events. The George Hotel organizes guided tours of the Zulu villages and arranges attendance at Zulu weddings, Sangoma healing ceremonies, and coming of age ceremonies. half day tour: R350, full day tour: R495.
- Shakaland (drive on the R66 out toward Melmoth for about 20 minutes, signposted). Built as the set of a movie depicting the life of Shaka, a local entrepreneur converted it to a hotel, now owned and operated by the Protea Hotels Group. Guests stay in traditional beehive huts, and day visitors can dine at the restaurant overlooking lake Phobane, and pick up curios at their well-stocked Curio Shop.
- Chennels Volunteer Projects. Teach English, help refurbish classrooms, or take care of orphans.
- Dlinza Forest (off Kangela Street, signposted; or, if staying at the George Hotel, ask for a shortcut in walking distance from the hotel), ☏ . A 250-hectare indigenous coastal scarp forest, unique in that it borders and is part of a town. Walk along a network of trails and spot rare bird species, butterflies and small mammals including the blue duiker and bush pig. A Visitor Centre offers curios, information displays and refreshments. Here you can request a guide accompany you, though please tip generously
- Aerial Boardwalk, accessed from the same Visitor Centre that marks the start of the Dlinza Forest trails (off Kangela Street, signposted), firstname.lastname@example.org. Sep 1 to Apr 30: 6AM-5PM; May 1 to Aug 31: 7AM-5PM. Walk 125 m along a wooden walkway 10m high in the forest canopy then climb to the 20-m-high observation platform for panoramic views. the best time to come is in the early morning, where you will be greeted by a cacophony of birdsong. A small network of trails lead through the forest.
- Fishing. Some farmers may let you fish on their private farms, or alternatively you can try your luck at one of the public dams. It is best to enquire with locals. Safety is an issue
- Eshowe Hills Golf Course. 18-hole course designed by Bob Grimsdel on the Eshowe Hills Golf Estate.
- Zululand Bike Adventures, Havelock St, ☏ . Daily 9AM-5PM. Game drives.
- Eshowe Church of Christ, 78 Main Street (Across from Police Station), ☏ . Morning services start at 9AM, Evening services at 6PM and Wednesday services at 7:30PM. If you are looking for a great place to worship in Eshowe, the congregation here is great. They are able to translate from Zulu to English for all people.
- Fort Nongqayi Museum Village Shop, 7 Nongqai St, ☏ . Sells locally produced crafts especially pottery and beadwork
- Eshowe Centre, 25 Osbourne Rd (opposite Edwards Pharmacy), a row of stalls at the rear of the building.. A variety of small shops caters to the Zulu Market, selling herbal medicines (meet an inyanga (traditional herbalist), cow-skin shields, cultural dress and other interesting assortments.
- Baobab Art Gallery, the end of Hullett Drive, off Kangela St. (walk 3 minutes up Kangela St. from the Pick n' Pay centre, and take the second road right; immediately look for a blue sign hung above a house fence), ☏ . Showcasing local Eshowe artists, artist Janine sells ceramics, mosaics, sculptures, cards, mobiles and paintings. The focus is on use of natural materials found from the environment, and on one-of-a-kind, artist-produced artwork and craft.
Memory Lane Coffee Shop in the Pick n' Pay shopping centre offers meals and an environment frequented by (often retired) locals, where you may get a chance to learn more about the town if you ask nicely enough. Ask to see the coffee shop's copy of an old Zululand Times magazine which provides insight into and experiences from the past. Memory Lane also has a separate ice-cream and milkshake cafe next door.
The Sports Club and the Bowling Club offer an a-la-carte menu and a pub/bar, and are open for lunch and dinner (relatively formal).
There are standard South African fast food outlets such as Spur, Steers, Debonaires, KFC and Nando's.
Pop-in Cafe, up the hill from Super-Spar walking toward town, offers a selection of popular South African working-man meals, such as samp and beans, curry dishes, Vetkoek and 'Russians'. They have a sit-down section, or you can eat under the tree in the park outside.
To sample the fare enjoyed by locals, head to either of two town centre butcheries, that offer an offstreet barbeque. Hear the sizzle and smell your way there.
- Zululand Brewing Company at The George Hotel. Brews Chelmsford Porter, Jantoni Pale Ale, Zulu Blonde, Bull Horn Bitter, Assegai Lager and Ultimatum Pilsner.
- The George Hotel & Zululand Backpackers, 36 Main Street, ☏ . Favourite among backpackers and those looking for tours to Zululand. Doubles from R295, singles from R160, dorm beds R100.
- Birds of Paradise B&B, 49 Ulundi Street. Luxury accommodation with tennis court, swimming pool, DSTV, barbeque facilities. R360pp including breakfast.
- Eshowe Loeries B&B. 6 bedrooms with swimming pool and sauna in private courtyard. Traditional home cooking. From R250.
- The Chase (Off R66), ☏ . Spectacular views. Single R360pp; doubles R340 pp; cottage/flatlets R600.
- Durban - the third largest city in South Africa, 150 km from Eshowe
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park
- Mtunzini - coastal town, home to the Umlalazi Nature Reserve
- Amatikulu Nature Reserve and the nearby Prawn Shack
- Siyaya Coastal Park - 42 km of unspoilt coastline stretching between Amatikulu Nature Reserve and Umlalazi Nature Reserve. Most easily accessible from either of the reserves.
- Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park