This Easter, I set off together with Mr Mule and three not-so-little mulettes to see what there is on offer in South Africa for families.

The answer is… MASSES! Safaris, zip-lines, fish and chips, penguins on the beach, wine, deserted coastline, vineyard hikes, meerkats at dawn and more. So very much more!

We started in Port Elizabeth and finished in Cape Town, taking in the highlights of the Garden Route along the way.

First stop was the Amakhala Game Reserve just outside Port Elizabeth. It may not be the size of Kruger National Park but the wildlife viewing was fabulous.

On safari at Amakala, photos of South Africa for families blog

Moments after the picture above was taken the tusker took a sharp left and meandered over to us. I was far too scared to take a picture as he gazed eye to eye and tusk to nose with my 9-year old daughter!

Spotting giraffe on a South Africa for families itinerary

A bit of sibling love?

After a couple of hours bouncing around in the back of the jeep, a morning ‘hot drink with a view’ is a huge pleasure. Beneath us we could see a rhino lumbering across the plain but the children only had eyes for their hot chocolate.

Family having refreshments on a game drive, while on a South Africa for families holiday

And, in the evening, as any parent knows, for the formula for harmonious family life: Child + Marshmallow = Happy Child.

Teeneager and toddler enjoying toasting marshmallows on fire pit - South Africa for families
South Africa for families glamping is fun and very comfortable

Our accommodation at Woodbury Tented Camp

From Amakhala, we headed down the coast to Tsitsikamma and the spectacular Storm’s River for a spot of zip-lining.

It’s fair to say that a hair-net isn’t going to make it onto my ‘must-have fashion item’ list any time soon, but, hair-net aside, zip-lining has to be one of the most fun things to do in South Africa for families. Whizzing through the forest canopy from one high platform to another generated enough adrenaline to keep us all going for days.

South Africa for families photo of family ready to go zip lining
South Africa for families holiday, Sam zip lining in Tsitsikamma Forest

Fun for the big kids as well as the little ones…

In Tsitsikamma we stayed in Hog Hollow, perched in an idyllic location in the hills above the coast. The hotel is just perfect for families with sublime food, gorgeous rooms and wonderful staff. And the best breakfast in South Africa. Exactly how many times is it normal for your child to return to the buffet table?

Hog Hollow pool, South Africa for families holiday

Hog Hollow pool

Heading away from the coast, our next stop was Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo, home to several populations of meerkat. It is no mean feat trying to keep a 4-year old quiet for over an hour whilst we waited for the meerkats to emerge from their burrows but we managed. And oh, so worth it, when they finally bob up, standing alert and scanning around to see what is going on.

Meerkat on duty outside burrow, South Africa for families

From Oudtshoorn we headed back to the coast for a day on the beach at Walker’s Bay, near Hermanus. It was a glorious day right in the middle of South Africa’s Easter holidays but within 10 minutes we were on a stretch of beach that we had completely to ourselves. Aside from a momentary lapse when our 4-year-old threw his Mr Happy pants into the sea (no idea why) and was mollified only by the thought that a whale would have a new Mr Happy ‘hat’, this was an incredible day. Pack a picnic as there is NOTHING here apart from sun, sea, surf and sand-dunes.

Kids playing on the beach at Walkers Bay South Africa

Deserted beaches at Walkers Bay

It may not feature on most standard Garden Route itineraries, but Elgin is firmly on our ‘must-include’ list of things to do in South Africa with families because of the opportunity to stay in an old airstream caravan at the marvellous Old Mac Daddy. This was the children’s hands-down favourite place to stay.

Old Mac Daddy Airstream cabins, South Africa for families

Old Mac Daddy Airstream ‘cabins’

Two children paddle boarding on a South Africa for families holiday with Stubborn Mule Travel

There’s a man-made lake for paddle boarding…….

South Africa for families itinerary - teenagers zorbing on lake in Western Cape

And zorbing.

Franschhoek is a real highlight. The winelands town of Stellenbosch might be better known but we loved Franschhoek with its old-world charm and beautiful views. Encircled by mountains there are endless opportunities for hiking and biking with older children, a tram for younger children, and wineries and world-class restaurants for Mum and Dad.

Swimming pool at country lodge on South Africa for families itinerary

A pool with a view in Franschhoek.

Father and son looking over a sensational South African landscape on a family holiday

Gentle hike outside Franschhoek.

One of our highlights was the Cederberg Mountains to the north of Cape Town. This is a bit out of the way for many Garden Route itineraries but we loved the vast remoteness of this area. We stayed in a little house with our own private bit of river and kayaked during the day and sat out on the veranda at night. Braai (barbeque) packs are provided so you can cook for yourselves under the stars. Bliss.

Liddy and daughter canoeing near Elgin, South Africa for families holiday

Kayaking on our private bit of river

Okay, confession time. We spent three nights in Cape Town but we didn’t make it to the top of Table Mountain. We should have done but we just couldn’t quite bear the thought of a 2-hour queue. Top Tip, book your tickets in advance to avoid the big queues!

As an alternative, we drove to the top of Signal Hill, just underneath Table Mountain and I have to say, it was fabulous. Incredible views over the city and towards both the mountain and the ocean. Highly recommended for those who don’t remember to book their cable car tickets.

Three kids in from of Table Mountain posing in a frame - South Africa for families

View of Table Mountain from Signal Hill

Our favourite restaurant in Cape Town was Cafe Paradiso. Mum and Dad can enjoy delicious food and a chilled glass of white whilst the kids are whisked away to a back room to make their own pizzas and gingerbread men. Can someone in the UK do this too please?

Kids making Pizza in Cape Town, South Africa for families itinerary
A four year old plays a drum in Cape Town street market, example of south Africa for families

Mummy, I want a drum.

The Kirstenbosch botanical gardens are some of the finest in the world. The finer horticultural details may have been lost on my three, but the attraction of a large stretch of grass on a steep slope was not. Cue an hour spent doing roly-poly down the hill. There is also a tree-top canopy with gorgeous views both of the birds in the tree canopy but also the city beyond.

Kids on holiday in Cape Town South Africa

The canopy walkway at Kirstenbosch.

When planning a trip to Cape Town, keep a whole day aside for a trip down the coast to Boulder’s Beach. This is one of the only places in the world where you can swim with the penguins and an absolute must for any trip in South Africa for families. The water looks wonderfully turquoise and inviting but is very cold….ooh so cold…but there’s nothing for it. The penguins can do it and so can we.

Young boy looking at a penguin on Boulders Beach Cape Town

Playing on Boulder’s Beach

Old kids climbing at Boulders Beach Cape Town

Warming up again by climbing the boulders.

Smiles all round - South Africa for families itinerary

Verdict on our South Africa for family holidays itinerary… smiles all round!

A picture says a thousand words, or so they say. Certainly, looking back over these pictures I’m instantly reminded of all that is great in South Africa for families. There’s amazing wildlife, beautiful scenery, sensational food and wine and lovely hotels. Self-drive is a breeze with an excellent network of good roads and you can just head off with a picnic and see where the mood takes you.

If you are inspired by the pictures here we would love to help you create your perfect South Africa family holiday.

We travelled at Easter which is the perfect time for our Classic Cape & Garden Route itinerary. Christmas is also a great time of year for travel in this area.

If you are visiting South Africa during the UK summer holidays, it will be wet and windy in Cape Town and along the Garden Route. Far better at this time of year is Kruger National Park and the beaches of KwaZulu Natal as on our Kruger and Beach Family Safari.

Interested? Get in touch to talk to me about my trip or any aspect of our a tailor-made South Africa for families itinerary.

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
I alway love to hear about your travel experiences so do email me with your feedback at [email protected].