The 10 Best Family-Friendly Things To Do In South Africa
South Africa is easily one of our favourite destinations to travel with kids. Each time we visit, we find new family-friendly things to do in South Africa. It’s also vast with an incredible variety of landscapes and wildlife and we can return to do something new each time.
South Africa holidays will be on our radar for a good few years to come.
We also have a great list of reasons to visit South Africa with kids which may be of interest if you are considering a South African family holiday.
We were drawn to South Africa by Cape Town and the animal viewing first and foremost and then fell in love with the rest of the country. Cape Town is one of the best cities in the world with world-class beaches.
We love the sun-soaked white sandy beaches of Cape Town and discovering interesting corners of the city like Bo-Kaap with the kids and, of course, the majestic Table Mountain which overlooks everything.
Once you leave Cape Town, you can discover beaches running all the way up the Garden Route to the Eastern Cape where they become wild and rugged. Inland you’ll find the soaring peaks of the lush green wine regions and the craggy cliffs and valleys of the Drakensberg.
It doesn’t stop there though. There are wetlands of the west coast with abundant birdlife and dry desert landscapes in the Karoo.
We should also mention that South Africa has the biggest, bluest skies and the sunsets are something else which we find are best enjoyed with a delicious bottle of wine we picked up from one of the many stunning wine farms!
The kids always have a blast in South Africa because there is so much for them to do and most of it is outdoors, which we love.
Here are the most family-friendly things to do in South Africa.
1. Climb Table Mountain
Table mountain is one of the world’s most iconic landmarks and Cape Town’s number one attraction. You can hike up but this might be quite a challenge for smaller kids. With kids aged 3 and 18 months, we opted for the cable car but we did see families with slightly older children hiking.
The views from the gondola as you ascend or descend are magnificent. The gondola rotates to give you a good 360 view. There is usually one window open so try to stand close to that one for the best photos.
Once at the top, you can wander around and enjoy the magnificent views of Cape Town and further afield. There are some places where there is a vertical drop and there’s no fencing so please watch your little ones closely!
The weather can be very changeable on the top. We went prepared with extra jumpers. As you can see from the pics, it was very windy and the kids complained of being cold, despite it being 30 degrees at the bottom.
Tip – buy your ticket online before you go. It is cheaper and you will avoid the queues.
2. Visit the South African beaches
One of the most family-friendly things to do in South Africa, I’m sure you’ll agree, is heading to the beach.
Everyone loves a great beach and there are so many amazing beaches in South Africa. Some of the most popular beaches in Cape Town are Clifton (1-4), Camps Bay, Llandudno and Muizenberg (where they also have Planet Kids which is an indoor play area in case you encounter bad weather).
Beware, the water around Cape Town looks gorgeous but it is very cold!
Heading up the east coast you’ll find long stretches of sandy beaches that are popular with surfers like Plettenberg Bay and Jeffries Bay.
If you want warmer water, you need to keep heading up towards Durban. Some of the best beaches around there are Umhlanga and North Beach. Head to Tiger Rocks beach if you like a bit of rockpooling away from the crowds.
If you are on the west coast of South Africa, there is a hidden gem in the West Coast National Park Marine Reserve where you’ll find the most gorgeous lagoon.The water is crystal clear, the sand is white and there are no waves so it is perfect for families.
3. Kite surfing
Kite surfing in South Africa is huge and there’s no better place than Bloubergstrand for watching kite surfers with the iconic Table Mountain in the background. Prepare to be blown away yourself though as it can get very windy!
We loved watching the kitesurfers as the kids were too young to try it. If you want to give it a go with the kids, it is suitable from around age 6+.
Many people focus on the beaches in Cape Town but as you carry on up the coast on the garden route, the beaches start spreading out into longer stretches of sand.
If you get as far North as Kenton-on-Sea, you will start to see very wild and deserted beaches. They are really stunning. The further up the coast you go, the warmer the water gets, with the Durban beaches having the warmest water.
4. Take a family-friendly South African Safari
Going on a South African safari with kids should be on everyone’s family travel bucket list. It’s amazing for them to see the animals in the wild and also very educational for them. An African safari is, without doubt, one of the most unforgettable family-friendly things to do in South Africa.
Can you imagine how excited little kids get when a lion gives off an enormous roar or a huge elephant wanders right by the jeep with ears flapping and trunk swaying on its way to find water?
Our boys get excited about any animal spotting, whether it be a dragonfly hovering over a pond or an ant gathering leaves, so we knew a safari would be a hit with them.
There are many places to go on a family-friendly safari in South Africa. If you want a malaria free safari, stick to the game reserves of the Western and Eastern Capes. If you’re prepared to take precautions against malaria, the Kruger National Park is well worth a visit.
Read more about family-friendly accommodation in the Kruger and what to expect from an African safari with kids. We’ve also written a quick guide to spotting wildlife on safari to help increase your chances of seeing the Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Cape Buffalo and Rhino) and what to take on safari.
South Africa is the best country in the world to take a safari with kids as it has the largest number of family-friendly safaris and safari lodges. There are also lots of self-drive options (essentially DIY safaris), which means you can plan a reasonably budget African safari.
4. South African wine farms
Due to the increase in families travelling to South Africa, the wineries now include child-friendly wine tasting alongside their standard tastings.
This is a great activity for the kids as they don’t know they are having grape juice and they feel very grown up being included in an adult activity.
Many of the wineries in the main wineland areas of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek have children’s playgrounds as well as family-friendly restaurants.
It’s one of our favourite family-friend things to do in South Africa because it’s something that the whole family can enjoy, not just the kids.
For more info, see our post on family-friendly wine tasting in South Africa for the best places to go wine tasting in South Africa with kids.
5. South African wine estate picnics
Taking a picnic on a wine farm is a great activity to do with the family. It is much more relaxing than a sit-down meal in a restaurant. It is a novelty for the kids and they can get up and run around when they are done and leave the adults in peace to finish at a leisurely pace.
The picnics include some of the best locally sourced food and, of course, can be paired with a lovely bottle of wine from the wine estate.
As mentioned above, many of the wine farms have children’s play areas and other activities, so you can really make a day of it.
For more info, see our post on family-friendly picnics on wine estates in South Africa.
6. The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town
A very popular place to go when in Cape Town is the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. It is packed with shops and restaurants, and has amazing views of Table Mountain.
There are usually street performers and the little Hamleys Express train that drives around the waterfront. At the waterfront you’ll also find the Two Oceans Aquarium which is a good place to go if you encounter bad weather in Cape Town.
Make sure you schedule your visit to coincide with penguin and shark feeding. There is also a touch pool with anemones, starfish and seaweed.
7. Boulders Beach Penguins
Head to Boulders beach to spot the colony of African penguins. There are around 2,000-3,000 living there now. There are wooden walkways that allow you to wander around the colony and get close to them without disturbing them too much.
You may also see them wandering around the neighbourhood. It’s best not to get too close though as they have sharp beaks!
Boulders beach and its surrounding beaches now form part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area so the penguins are protected. As the name suggests, there are also lots of boulders which are great for little rock-climbing enthusiasts.
8. Visit the ostriches and crocodiles in Oudtshoorn
There are several great family-friendly activities in Oudtshoorn, a small town in the Klein Karoo. The area is extremely arid and is famous for ostrich and crocodile farms.
If you are doing the garden route, it is worth taking a little detour inland to visit Oudtshoorn as there are many ostrich and crocodile farms offering tours.
Some will be more commercial than others. Some offer tractor rides and have gift shops with an array of ostrich products.
The visit allows you to get very close to an ostrich. Interestingly, ostrich meat is very healthy for you and did you know an ostrich egg is the equivalent of about 24 chicken eggs?
You may see ostriches running freely as you drive around South Africa (which is how we prefer to see all animals really) but if you don’t and you would like to get up close and personal with them, then Oudtshoorn is the place to go.
There are also a few crocodile farms that you can pop into where you can see baby crocodiles through to huge adult crocodiles. You may even get the chance to hold one of the little guys!
If you’re in Oudtshoorn to see the ostriches and crocodiles, you’ll be very close to the Cango Caves, about 30km out of Oudtshoorn.
Kids can visit the main chamber and go on the Heritage (easy) tour, but under 8s can’t go on the ‘advanced’ tour. I tried the ‘advanced’ many years ago and I think my claustrophobia started right there and then when I got stuck in the devil’s postbox, squeezing myself through a 27cm gap.
Don’t say you weren’t warned! If you still want to do it, you need to book in advance due to their popularity.
9. Whale watching in South Africa
In most countries you will usually find that you will need to go out on a boat in order to see whales – sometimes for hours, bobbing up and down. We have two members of the family who suffer from sea sickness so this isn’t really an option. We tried it once in Sri Lanka and vowed never again.
If you would like to have a chance of seeing whales without taking a boat trip, Hermanus is a great place to visit. Sightings from land are not guaranteed (neither are they if you take a boat trip), but it is one of the best whale spotting destinations in the world.
If you go between July and November, your chances of a sighting are better as this is the best whale spotting season.
If you prefer to take a boat trip, here are a couple of options.
10. Sun City
Sun City Resort is as close as you can get to Disney in South Africa. Located just outside of Johannesburg, it is a huge family vacation destination in South Africa.
If you’ve been to the Kruger National Park and are looking for a resort for a few days before flying out of Johannesburg, you will not be disappointed with Sun City.
There are so many things to do here including water parks with slides, kids arcade, wildlife tours, golf courses and a big choice of hotels and restaurants.
We hope you have been inspired to give South Africa a go. We have a lot more information in the South Africa section of our blog and please do get in touch if you have any questions.
Make sure to check out Booking.com for your accommodation. It has the largest selection of accommodation to suit all budgets.
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