One of the most well-established yet exciting destinations we offer, South Africa has been ‘doing tourism’ for yonks – and it shows. With its winning combination of stunning scenery (think lofty, craggy mountains in the Drakensberg, stunning Indian Ocean beaches, lush winelands, and vast wildlife-rich plains) and family-friendly activities (zip-wires, penguins, safari, boat rides, kayaking, and more) this is a superb place to take the kids.
As a southern hemisphere destination, South Africa makes for a wonderful Christmas/ Easter choice, whilst even in the UK summer (South African winter), temperatures are pleasantly warm in Kruger and the north of the country. Travelling to South Africa with kids has always been a wallet-friendly option, thanks to a favourable exchange rate compared to other safari destinations, which makes it even more attractive for family travellers. It’s a big country and you can’t do everything in one trip, but browse our top 10 activities to see what whets your appetite.
South Africa with kids – Our Top 10
In a country of superb safari experiences, this vast expanse of wilderness (the seventh-largest national park in all of Africa) is top of the list. A number of paved roads allow for self-drive safaris, which can keep costs down, but there are also private wildlife concessions fringing the park, with intimate private drives exclusive to those staying there. Either way, this is a dream place to see lions roar, elephants trumpet, hippos wallow, leopard stalk and crocodiles snapping IRL, rather than through the lens of a David Attenborough documentary. Read more in our sample Kruger Safari & Beach itinerary.
With its narrow river gorges, this region is a great place for kayaking, canyoning, cliff-jumping and other adrenaline sports beloved by older kids. And though you may not have even heard of kloofing, you’ll want to check out this South African phenomenon, which takes its name from the Afrikaans ‘kloof’, a steep-sided, wooded ravine or valley, and which basically involves descending a canyon through a mix of activities – walking, climbing, jumping, abseiling, swimming and bouldering. Among fantastic places to do it is The Crags, near Plettenberg Bay – a hotspot for family adventures.
The Garden Route can be built up in places, but the Robberg Peninsula just south of Plettenberg Bay is a glorious, World Heritage-listed rocky nature reserve, with Cape fur seal colonies and enticing spots for picnics. This is perfect hiking terrain, with circuits of differing degrees of difficulty, including the 9km Point Circuit trail with its rock pools and marine and bird life. The peninsula also has seal viewing points, a lighthouse, and even a Stone Age archaeological site, Nelson Bay Cave. Plettenberg Bay is also known for its great whale- and dolphin-watching.
A lively harbour town on the Garden Route in Western Cape Province, Mossel Bay is a great base for family adventures and beach life in the region – with the unique added attraction of its ‘Dragon Dune’, South Africa’s biggest and longest sandboard ride (170 metres in height and 350 metres long). You don’t have to be a whizz on the slopes to enjoy it – snowboarders love it of course, but it’s fun for beginners too, and if you can’t stand up on your board, you can belly-board down instead!
Cape Town is a brilliant place to start or finish your South Africa family holiday. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, with the chance to hike or cable car up Table Mountain and scooter back down, and swim or paddle with the famous penguins at Boulders Beach. Then travel back in time and learn about history with a trip to Robben Island, and otherwise just generally hang out by the lovely waterfront, feast on fabulous food, and even strike out for (family-friendly!) vineyards within easy reach. Read about what you can do in and from Cape Town with a look at our Classic Cape & Garden Route itinerary.
The hiking in South Africa is simply superb, with two exceptional areas being the Drakensberg (‘Dragon’) Mountains, South Africa’s highest, in KwaZulu Natal, and the Tsitsikamma (‘place of much water’) Mountains in the Garden Route region. In the Drakensberg Mountains, your efforts will be rewarded by spectacular views, including sea eagles and vultures so close that you can almost touch them. You might hike for hours and not see another soul. In Tsitsikamma, there’s also excellent zip-wiring, including at Tsitsikamma Falls with its lines between platforms attached to huge Outeniqua yellowwoods. Check out our Kruger & Beach Safari, which includes hiking in the Drakensberg, a family favourite when holidaying in South Africa with kids.
This aptly named route – brilliant after a Kruger safari – is one of the continent’s great natural wonders, centred on the third-largest canyon on the planet, the Blyde River Canyon, and offering phenomenal views of the Lowveld from the Mpumalanga highlands. It’s a place of waterfalls, ochre cliff faces, raging rivers, forests, spectacular boulders, and the unique Bourke’s Luck Potholes, where whirlwinds of water have carved huge cylindrical dents in the sandstone, which you can explore by walkways and bridges. There are also lots of stunning viewpoints, including God’s Window and the Three Rondavels.
This non-malarial safari option in the Eastern Cape is great for families, with masses of elephants, rhinos and African buffalo. In fact, Addo is South Africa’s third-largest national park and is not only home to the classic Big Five but to the ‘Big Seven’, since its coastal portion includes the Southern right whale and great white sharks. Several excellent private reserves surround Addo, including favourites such as Amakhala and Shamwari. Wherever you stay, there’s nothing better after bouncing around in the back of a Jeep for a few hours, than a sundowner of chocolate for the kids and G&Ts for the parents. Bliss! See our Cape Town & Garden Route itinerary, which includes time on safari in the Eastern Cape as the grand finale.
If your kids can’t be persuaded to go hiking (see above), the Drakenberg Mountains are also great for horse riding – but these are rides with a difference. Not only do you get the glorious views, but you also get to immerse yourselves in local history by visiting some of the battlefield sites from the Boer War. Rorke’s Drift is a standout example, as seen in the 1964 British movie epic Zulu with Michael Caine. With younger children, we recommend pony-trekking routes on the western or northern side of the mountains, which shelve gradually into the interior plateau and offer a gentler challenge.
You might not think of South Africa as an Indian Ocean destination, but that’s exactly what you get around Durban – with the accompanying warm waters. The Natal Coast is stunning, but this is no classic beach holiday option – it’s quite remote and windswept, with wild waters that make it great for surfing. One of our favourites is Zinkwazi Beach, perfect for bodyboarding, playing in rockpools, fishing off the rocks and flying kites. When the tide’s out, the river estuary transforms into a calm lagoon, ideal for paddleboarding or swimming. See our KwaZulu Natal Luxury Itinerary.
Why not add on the iconic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe? Not only one of the world’s largest waterfalls, but also Africa’s adventure capital, tempting you with a whole array of thrilling activities such as whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, gorge high-wiring, zipline and canopy tours, canoeing, rafting, and micro lighting.
More about holidaying in South Africa with kids
Has this piqued your interest? If you’d like to know more about what to expect on a Stubborn Mule family holiday in South Africa, simply call us on 01728 751752, or get in touch using our website contact page. We have first-hand experience exploring South Africa with kids of all ages.
You can also check out our South Africa family holidays section and our South Africa for Families photo blog. Or see our sample South Africa itineraries to give you an idea of what you can fit into a two-week trip. All our holidays are tailor-made and can be adjusted to exactly match your family’s interests and ages.