Whether you’re planning a dream vacation to South Africa or a local family looking to explore your country of birth a bit more, this post is for you…
Writing and publishing a list like this in the midst of lockdown might seem counter intuitive, however I believe that there will come a time in the future when we will all be able to travel again… and when that happens NONE of us will take for granted the beauty of South Africa, especially not us locals!
International travel may take some time to get back to usual levels, but what is wonderful about living in South Africa is that there is SO MUCH to see and do. This series of Best in SA posts is about inspiring local families to get out again and to start exploring more of their country than they ever have.
To inspire our family to see and do more I asked a group of top travel bloggers to share their very best South African experiences for families and I’m thrilled with how this list came together. There are some of our firm favourites… but then there are also experiences on this list that we have not yet enjoyed so they are going to the very top of our own local bucket list!
Read on below for a round up of the very best experiences for families in South Africa
Best South African Experiences for Families
Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, Plettenberg Bay
Nominated by: Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World
Visiting Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best things to do in Knysna, from where it can be you can easily go by car. There are three main sanctuaries there – one dedicated to big cats, one to monkeys and one to birds. The big cat and the monkey sanctuary are visited on guided walks during which the guide gives a lot of insightful information about the way the animals were rescued and about their typical living environment, which is as much as possible recreated in captivity. These are animals that have been rescued from dire situations – ie zoos or circus or who were kept as pets – and freeing them in their natural environment would put them in danger. What’s important, is that Jukani is run in a responsible and sustainable way and that its ultimate objective is to teach children to respect animals.
Babylonstoren, btw Franschhoek and Paarl
Nominated by: Annika from Midnight Blue Elephant
A huge garden, farm animals including friendly donkeys, and fresh ice-lollies in summer – what more can you want for a family excursion? How about a climatized glass cube for the grown-ups where they can enjoy wine tasting with a view, a charming country shop with fresh products, and one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the Western Cape?! Thanks to Babylonstoren‘s amazing garden which offers endless options to explore, learn, and play hide ’n seek it is the perfect farm for the entire family which even the little, non-wine drinking ones will appreciate!
The Apartheid Museum, Soweto
Nominated by: Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting
Any Johannesburg itinerary should include a visit to The Apartheid Museum – it’s heavy, but important. Throughout the museum you learn of South African history from the origins of man to tribal times, colonial intrusion and the resulting government that inflicted apartheid on South Africans. The history weaves through the long struggle for freedom from apartheid including multiple uprisings and slain leaders. Eventually you walk through the final struggle of South Africa to expel the apartheid government and draft an inclusive Constitution to build a new society. Then you consider how healing, punishment and prevention of future atrocities should be considered.
Robben Island, Cape Town
Nominated by: Rai from A Rai of Light
Robben Island, an island off the coast of Cape Town, is a focal point of South African heritage having served many purposes over the years. Since the end of the 17th century, it has been used for the isolation of political prisoners. Many freedom fighters spent a number of years in prison for their beliefs during apartheid, the most famous of those being the former President Nelson Mandela. The island now serves as a museum and is a must visit in order to understand the history of the country.
!Khwa ttu San Experience, West Coast
Nominated by: Janine Avery from 5 Star Stories
Located on the West Coast, !Khwa ttu aims to protect and promote San culture in the most authentic way possible. Their guided tour gives a glimpse into the life of the San people that once made their home in this area and a I learnt a lot about what contemporary life means for modern day San people. !Khwa ttu also has an interesting cultural museum as well as an amazing restaurant where traditional home-made meals are served – eland bobotie anyone?
Boulders Beach, Cape Town
Nominated by: Claire Stokes from Stoked to travel
Just an hour or so outside of Cape Town, on the stunning Cape Peninsula drive is the popular Boulders Beach. Famous for its huge penguin population, a visit to this beach offers the unique opportunity to see the penguins in their natural habitat. At the adjacent beach, called Foxy Beach, you can even swim and sit near (but not too near) the penguins as they relax and play between the boulders. It’s magical!
Chimp Eden, Nelspruit
Signal Hill, Cape Town
Located a short 10 minutes drive from the centre of Cape Town, Signal Hill is the ultimate spot to have a picnic and watch the sunset with your family in tow. This stunning spot is located just next to Lions Head and has views of the entire city and its beaches from 360 metres high. On summer evenings you’ll find yourself amongst locals enjoying the views and a bite to eat with their friends and family.
A Big 5 safari at Pilanesberg Nature Park and Game Reserve
Nominated by: Tracy Collins from tracystravelsintime.com
One of our favourite game reserves in South Africa is located in malaria free North West province only 2 hours drive from Johannesburg. The Pilanesberg is the perfect destination for families and/or those planning their first safari experience. There are 5 luxury game lodges to choose from for your safari, with our personal favourite, Kwa Maritane, offering self catering units perfect for families. As far a game viewing this is a reserve with all of the big 5 animals in situ. Expect to see elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo as well as a myriad of other species of game. The bird life is pretty special too and if you take an organised game drive you will learn lots of interesting information from your guides. My daughter still talks about hearing the roar of the lions and learning about the night sky on an evening game drive we took some years ago. Another advantage of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is its proximity to Sun City which offers entertainment for the whole family – I highly recommend taking afternoon tea at the Lost Palace. If you want a day off from game drives Sun City is literally on your doorstep. The Pilanesberg is an affordable option for visitors wishing to experience the wonderful wildlife South Africa has to offer.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek
Nominated by: James from The Travel Scribes
The kids amusing themselves on brightly-hued playgrounds while you sip your chardonnay, admiring the rolling vineyards? It’s the absolutely blissful experience of the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a hop-on hop-off tram journey set in the world-acclaimed winelands outside of Cape Town. The best way to explore the picturesque valley of Franschhoek, the wine tram operates two routes – Orange and Purple. This fleet of forest-green tinted trams and busses stops at eight estates including Noble Hill, Backsberg, Vrede and Lust, Allee Bleue and Boschendal to name just a few, with a typical trip allowing you to hop off at about six. It’s great for families as the adults can enjoy a few glasses of their favourite tipple while nearly all of the wine estates have child-friendly activities – from swings to boules and even a petting zoo! The perfect sauvignon-fuelled South African experience!
Zipline Adventure in Elgin Valley
Nominated by: Jen from The Married Wanderers