Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve, located in the picturesque town of Hilton on the northern slopes of Pietermaritzburg, is a must-see destination for nature enthusiasts visiting KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The reserve serves as the headquarters of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the province’s nature conservation service, and is home to a diverse array of beautiful species, including impala, blesbok, zebra, bushbuck, dassies, grey and blue duiker, and crowned eagles.
One of the main attractions of the reserve is the popular iDube trail, a circular self-guided hiking trail that offers visitors the opportunity to explore the reserve on foot and see the wildlife and plants up close. The trail is suitable for all fitness levels and is a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon.
In addition to the wildlife, the reserve is also home to numerous indigenous and exotic plants, including several cycad species and endangered daisies that can be found growing naturally in the grasslands. These plants, together with the animals, create a unique ecosystem that is not to be missed.
Although there is no accommodation within the reserve, day visitors are welcome to make use of the three picnic areas that are equipped with braai (barbecue) and ablution facilities. The reserve is also close to the town of Hilton, where visitors will find a variety of accommodation options.
The reserve also has a small resource centre that offers regular environmental education workshops throughout the year. These workshops are a great way to learn more about the reserve and its inhabitants, and visitors are encouraged to enquire about the schedule of workshops when planning their visit.
Popular Activities and Tourist Destinations near Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve
Visitors to Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve can also enjoy a variety of other activities and tourist destinations in and around the reserve.
The reserve offers game drives that take visitors on a guided tour of the reserve in a open vehicle. This is a great way to see the wildlife up close and learn more about the reserve’s inhabitants from experienced guides.
The reserve is home to a diverse array of bird species, including the endangered Cape vulture, and is a popular destination for bird watchers. Visitors can explore the reserve on foot, by bike or by car in search of different bird species.
The reserve has several dams and rivers where visitors can go fishing and catch tilapia, yellowfish, and bass.
The village of Hilton
The reserve is located near the charming village of Hilton, which is known for its lovely colonial-style architecture, quaint coffee shops and restaurants, and vibrant local arts and crafts scene. Visitors can explore the village’s charming streets and visit the local art galleries and craft shops.
The capital city of KwaZulu-Natal is located just a short drive from the reserve and is home to several interesting historical and cultural attractions, such as the Natal Museum, the Tatham Art Gallery, and the Voortrekker Museum. Visitors can also explore the city’s vibrant street markets and enjoy the local food and drink scene.
Located just a short drive from the reserve, Midmar Dam is a popular destination for water sports and picnicking, with a large picnic area, boat launch and plenty of space for swimming and sunbathing.
A short drive from the reserve, the Howick falls is a spectacular waterfall that is a popular destination for visitors. The falls are surrounded by lush vegetation and provide a peaceful and scenic spot for picnics and swimming.
Natal Railway Museum
In addition to the activities and destinations previously mentioned, visitors to Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve can also take a trip to the Natal Railway Museum, located in the nearby town of Hilton. The museum, which is located at the Hilton station and next to the historic railway line between Durban and Johannesburg, offers a glimpse into the rich history of South African railways.
The museum features a wide range of railway memorabilia and antiques, including silverware from the famous Blue Train, an old steam locomotive lamp, and a train token system that was used in the past. Visitors can explore the museum’s exhibits and learn about the history of railways in South Africa.
One of the exciting developments for the museum is plans to run trips from the station through the beautiful Natal Midlands countryside to Howick Falls. This will be a great way for visitors to experience the stunning scenery and the rich history of the region.
The Natal Railway Museum is a great option for visitors looking to learn more about the history of the region and the railway industry in South Africa. Whether you’re a railway enthusiast or simply looking for an interesting and unique day out, the museum is definitely worth a visit.
Visitors to Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve looking for a unique shopping experience can head to the Hilton Farmstall, located at the Hilton Rotunda. This popular farmstall offers a wide range of locally-sourced and produced products that are perfect for a picnic lunch or to take home as a souvenir.
At the farmstall, visitors can find a variety of cheese, dairy, and meat products, as well as trout, nougat, and an interesting selection of jams, honey, and mustard. The bakery section offers freshly-baked breads that are perfect to pair with your jam. And for a sweet treat, visitors can enjoy a scoop of delicious goat’s milk ice cream.
The Hilton Farmstall is a great option for visitors who are looking for a unique and delicious shopping experience. With a wide range of locally-sourced and produced products, visitors can find something that suits their taste, whether it’s a gourmet cheese or a jar of homemade jam. And it’s also a great place to stock up on picnic supplies before heading out to the reserve.
Valley Of a Thousand Hills
One popular activity for tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve is taking a scenic drive through the picturesque Valley of a Thousand Hills. The route starts in Durban and takes you through Krantzkloof, Monteseel, and the Valley of a Thousand Hills, with stops at Midmar Dam and Nshongweni Dam. Along the way, you’ll be able to take in the stunning views of the valley, including Kloof Falls in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, and the wild kloof in Monteseel, which is home to rare cycads.
In Monteseel, visitors can also enjoy climbing on one of the many routes available, or simply take in the views from the edge of the cliff. As you continue on the route, you’ll pass through the towns of Hillcrest, Hilton, Howick, and Kloof, each offering its own unique charm and attractions. The route is roughly 250 km and takes at least a day to complete, with overnight options available in any of the towns along the way.
With so much to see and do in and around Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve, visitors are sure to have a memorable and enjoyable experience.
In conclusion, Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve is a beautiful and diverse destination that offers visitors the chance to see wildlife and plants in their natural habitat. Whether you’re a nature lover, a hiker, or just looking for a relaxing day out, the reserve is a must-see destination in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.