South Africa, with its rich culture and heritage, unparalleled natural beauty, and amazing adventure opportunities is not just an adult’s playground. It's also a wonderland for children of all ages. From exciting wildlife safaris to enchanting beaches and exhilarating adventures, South Africa boasts a multitude of activities that will entice kids away from their electronics and make a family holiday unforgettable. Here are some of the best things to do in South Africa with kids:
Taking your kids on a safari can be one of the most enriching and memorable experiences a family can share. It's an opportunity for children to connect directly with nature, witness the majesty of wildlife in their natural habitats, and develop an appreciation for nature conservation. Safaris can be both educational and entertaining, as children learn about different species and their behaviours.
Beyond the wildlife, the adventure of staying in the wilderness, hearing the sounds of the night, and gazing at a sky full of stars can leave a lasting impression on young minds, fostering a lifelong love for adventure and the great outdoors. My kids have been going on safaris since they were little and they have forged some indelible memories.
You can opt to self-drive in a national park like Kruger National Park or stay at a private lodge. While all safari lodges do not allow kids of all ages, there are many that welcome them and cater for them, such as:
South Africa's coastline has a plethora of pristine beaches that are perfect for families. With its warm waters, golden sands, and diverse marine life, these beaches provide a wonderful playground for kids to splash, build sandcastles, and discover tidal pools.
Here are some of the best beaches in South Africa for kids:
Known for its colourful beach huts and gentle waves, Muizenberg Beach is another favourite among families. The warmer waters of the False Bay, the surfing lessons and the play areas make it popular with kids.
Renowned as a top surfing destination, Jeffreys Bay has a range of beaches perfect for families. Dolphin Beach has a Blue Flag status and there is a shell museum nearby that kids can visit.
Durban and the KZN South Coast offer kids warm, inviting waters and golden sandy beaches, perfect for swimming, building sandcastles, and exploring lively tidal pools.
Using the Aerial Cableway, families can reach the summit of this iconic mountain. Kids will enjoy the rotating cable car which showcases panoramic views during the ascent. Once at the top, kids can enjoy easy walks, and spot local wildlife like dassies.
The Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway offers families a scenic ride up the Magaliesberg Mountains, overlooking the beautiful Hartbeespoort Dam and surroundings. Interactive displays at the top delve into the area's rich history and biodiversity. The spectacular views, coupled with amenities like a play area and restaurants at the summit, ensure that children and adults will have a fun experience. My kids enjoyed it.
South Africa's botanical gardens are verdant havens that showcase the country's rich flora and are great places for family picnics. Children can enjoy the vast open spaces, water features, play areas and interactive educational zones. Many gardens also have themed trails and bird-watching activities, ensuring a blend of fun and learning amidst nature.
Two of the most popular botanical gardens are:
Nestled at the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town, Kirstenbosch has enchanting treetop canopy walks and diverse flora exhibitions, making nature exploration a true delight.
Hop-on hop-off buses are a family-friendly way to explore big cities. Children can enjoy the views and feel the breeze from the open-top decks while engaging audio guides narrate captivating stories on the kids channel. In South Africa, you can do this with City Sightseeing Cape Town and City Sightseeing Johannesburg.
South Africa may not have many theme parks but it does have a rather unique one. Built on an old gold mine, Gold Reef City transports visitors back to the gold rush era. You can watch a gold pouring demonstration, pan for gold, and visit gold miners’ houses which haven’t changed in over 100 years. Kids will have endless entertainment with the roller coasters and other exciting rides.
Africa’s largest marine theme park, uShaka Marine World is also home to the 7th largest aquarium in the world, which is set in a shipwreck, Africa’s highest slide waterpark and much more. Whether your kids want to slide down water tubes or watch the sharks, uShaka will ensure a fun day.
Located at the V&A Waterfront, this aquarium provides insights into marine life from both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. From mesmerising jellyfish displays to hands-on touch pools, children can experience the wonders of the underwater world.
Interactive science centres give children a hands-on approach to learning, sparking curiosity through engaging exhibits and experiments. Scientific concepts are explained with colourful and interactive gadgets, devices and experiments and kids are encouraged to experiment to their heart’s content.
Ziplining through the country's lush forests offers a bird's-eye view of the landscape, allowing children to soar over treetops and ravines, feeling the rush of the wind. There are many places to zipline in South Africa, including Magaliesberg, Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Graskop.
Tobogganing on scenic tracks gives youngsters a thrilling descent, combining speed and beautiful vistas. Both activities not only promise fun but also help instil a sense of bravery in young adventurers. Two of the most popular places to toboggan in South Africa are Cool Runnings in Cape Town and Long Tom Toboggan in Sabie, Mpumalanga.
Acrobranch provides kids with an exhilarating treetop adventure, combining obstacle courses and ziplining amidst natural canopies. Tailored for various age groups, it consists of zip lines, tightropes, ladders, swing bridges and other obstacles which will take them from tree to tree and seriously test their balance, strength and endurance. There are different levels of courses, and the guides are on hand to assist when required. They have branches all over the country.
Mini Town is a must-visit attraction in Durban with kids. It is a Lilliputian version of Durban with miniature versions of prominent landmarks in the city. There are great (Godzilla-style) photo opportunities here and the kids will love running after the moving boat and train.
While the list above captures some of the best things to do in South Africa, the truth is, every corner of this nation has a story, an adventure, or a wonder waiting to be discovered. What are your favourite things to do in South Africa with kids?
Things you must do in South Africa
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