We recently returned from a short trip up South African’s beautiful Garden Route. Before we left I did some research for ideas of things to do with kids on the Garden Route and while we were there we also discovered some gems… So here is my list of top 10 things to do with kids on the Garden Route of South Africa!
It was our first holiday to this part of the country with kids in tow so before we left I tried to do some research for ideas of places to go and things to do that would be kid-friendly. This area has an abundance of natural beauty with long, unspoilt sandy beaches and cool, quiet indigenous forests but apart from these I have lists some great family friendly places to visit. As we were there out of season everywhere was much quieter than usual but so much easier to enjoy that way. Not much traffic, or crowds, a pleasure!
We decided to take a more scenic drive than the usual N2 and choose to explore the R62 from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn and benefited from a lovely smooth, stress-free drive with hardly any other cars on the road and beautiful flowers lining the route. (To get to this road from Cape Town you have to take the N2 to Worcester and then go through Robertson, Montagu, Bonnivale and on to Oudtshoorn). There are lots of little towns and farm stalls to stop at for lunch or a bit of exploring. We had lunch in Bonnievale.
Here are some ideas for your next holiday with kids along the Garden Route…
1. The Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn was great for an afternoon of adventure after a few hours of travelling. There was a tour which took you through the main sections including the crossing over the crocodiles on a rather rickety suspension bridge! The snakes were a hit with our son and the petting zoo and wallaby walk were popular with our little girl. The ranch serves as a breeding centre for endangered cats and they have cheetah, leopard, tigers and white lion. We were lucky enough to see their 8 week old baby cheetah cubs – and for a fee you can even play with them! Too cute!!
2. We happened to be in the area over the weekend when the annual Strawberry Festival is held at Red Berry Farm just outside George. We had a day of fun in the sun picking strawberries for R25 for 1 kg! (although the toddler could not understand why she could not eat them then and there!), riding ponies, bouncing on bouncy castles and – the highlight – watching and riding on the small steam powered locomotive engines which run on a miniature track through the farm. There is a well stocked shop and lots of space for kids to run, jungle gyms and a maze to explore too. You could spend a lovely afternoon eating under the umbrellas while your kids are entertained for hours! A great find!
3. The Powervan in George is a small van similar to a train that departs from the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George and heads up into the Outeniqua mountains on a scenic journey (R100 for adults and R80 for children) Phone for times and to book as a minimum of 20 people is required per trip.
4. Take a boat ride on the Paddlecruiser (R150 for adults, R65 for children) or the John Benn across the Knysna Lagoon and enjoy a different perspective (R120 for adults, R50 for children). Or you can head across to the Featherbed Nature Reserve for a day trip that includes lunch and a game drive at R395 per person and R80 for kids.
5. Stop at a kid-friendly farm stall – some great ones include Timberlake between Wilderness and Sedgefield which has a fantastic play area (the slide was a hit), a secret garden to explore and a variety of little shops to browse in as well as a restaurant. The Heath located between Knysna and Plett is another good one. Lots of adventure activities for slightly older kids such as zip lines through the pine trees. You can also find Radical Raptors here which is a Bird of Prey sanctuary (Flying show times are 11am, 1pm and 3pm, entrance is R65 for adults). The Mill in The Crags was recommended but we didn’t get to that one on this trip – next time!
Natures’ Valley Farm Stall – on the road from the N2 down to Natures’ Valley – was a highlight of our trip, we stopped in here by chance at milking time and as my son has been asking for months to milk a real cow he was super excited to get his opportunity with a stroke of luck! We were invited in to the dairy and experienced a “real” farm first hand so to speak! This was the place he kept asking to go back to every day…
6. Adventureland located between Knysna and Plett (R70pp, under 3 free) is a water park with a 75m long supertube and a 25m supertube for the little ones as well as a kamakazi slide and a 12m high free fall slide – not for the faint hearted. For the toddlers there is a little slide that plunges into a baby pool, plus a play park with swings, trampolines, jungle jym and lots more. There are also quad bike rides through a scenic forest route for an extra fee.
7. Plett Puzzle Park is located in The Crags just past Keurbooms near Plett offers plenty of entertainment for kids including a 3D maze and a puzzling forest walk! Entrance to both activities is Adults R100 and Children under 12 R80 or pay R55 and R45 respectively for just one activity.
8. Visit one of the elephant parks (Knysna Elephant Park or The Elephant Sanctuary at The Crags) and learn about, touch, feed or even ride an elephant. This was a wonderful experience when we went a few years back and one I hope to repeat when my children are a bit bigger and able to remember touching these amazing creatures and seeing their trunks, eyelashes and skin up close! Just remember than even though tamed these are wild animals and there have been some incidences when the elephants have turned on their trainers – be respectful and careful – but enjoy this special opportunity.
9. Birds of Eden and Monkeyland are both found in The Crags just outside Plett and are 2 of the best places for a special treat outing for the kids. They are not cheap, entrance to each costs R125 for adults and R62.50 for children so choose one or take advantage of the double deal and get into both for R200 per adult and R100 per child. They are definitely worth a visit during your trip. Birds of Eden is the largest free flight aviary in the world and has wooden walkways that are pram-friendly (but a bit bumpy) which take you right down to the bottom of the forest, where you can see colourful pheasants, and then up again into the canopy where a variety of parrots, cockatiels and knysna loeries can be seen. There is also a lovely water feature at the end with swans, ducks and flamingoes. We then went across to Monkeyland for our lunch and spotted a number of cheeky squirrel monkeys trying their luck at our leftovers as well as a few other species. I decided to take my son on the tour and we saw all of the 11 species which was very fortunate. I think after the morning at the Birds of Eden he was quiet tired so lost interest in the tour guide but still enjoyed the forest walk esp acting like a monkey himself!
10. Finally enjoy a day on the beach or next to a lagoon – there are so many to choose from but some favourites include Herolds’ Bay and Victoria Bay near George, Sedgefield lagoon – we hired a canoe here and paddled around with the kids – just make sure they can swim or have flotation devices on! Buffels Bay Beach just before Knysna is a hit with families. Also Keurbooms and Natures’s Valley lagoon are lovely. Just always be mindful of sharks, riptides and the sun!
Best kid-friendly place to eat on the Garden Route
East Head Cafe – this was a great spot in Knysna located as the name suggests on the East Head. We enjoyed a lovely lunch with a view while the kids enjoyed the small outside play area. This restaurant has the right idea – they served the kids’ their meals when we got our drinks and that way they were done when our meals arrived and so we escaped the nagging about when their food was coming and were able to eat ours in (relative) peace without having to cut up fishfingers or dish out yet more tomato sauce! Recommended.
Here are a few other suggestions I received when gathering info prior to our trip – we were too busy to get to all of these places but let me know if you have experienced them and what you thought so I know for next time!
Rafikis in Keurboom
The Mill, The Crags
Poortjies in Plett on the lagoon
So there you have it – 10 things to do with the little people that will keep the big people happy too! Hope you find this list useful. Please let me know of any other ideas you have or feedback by leaving a comment!
Here are few more articles I have written about “Things to do with kids”.
Free things to do in Cape Town with kids
More free things to do in Cape Town with kids
Things to do in Cape Town for a special treat
Things to do in Cape Town that won’t break the bank
images: Kathryn Rossiter