If you’re visiting South Africa there’s one spot you don’t want to miss… The Kruger Park! This beautiful nature reserve is an incredible place to reconnect with nature, but what if you need a little bit of civilisation to or from the park? When travelling with kids it’s often a good idea to break up long drives with pit stops or overnight stays and a great spot to do just that near the Kruger is Nelspruit. (and if you’re not up for the long drive then you may like to note that Nelspruit has an international airport!)
Today I’m thrilled to share my space with Helene, a Nelspruit local and blogging mom of 2, who writes over at Pretty Belle.
Here, as part of the My City (with kids!) series she shares her top tips on things to do in Nelspruit – with kids!
Life in Nelspruit
Five years ago, we moved to Nelspruit. My husband grew up there and always wanted to go back. I was a true city girl and, to put it mildly, I was not convinced!
Fast forward a few years and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We love exploring the Lowveld with our kids – Minki (3) and Joshua (4 months old).
Nelspruit is famous for its fabulous weather. It rarely gets cold, but it gets very hot! The locals say you’re only truly a “Nelspruiter” if you forget to pack a jacket when you go away and it has happened to me (twice), so I guess I’m officially a local!
Did you know? Temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius are the norm in Mbombela during summer. Dress light and comfortable when visiting Nelspruit and when the heat gets too much take the kids to Brewers Feast (their soft serve ice-creams are to die for)!
Nelspruit is made for families and it seems like people here take parenting very seriously. When you stop at Spar (The Spars in the lowveld are amazing by the way), you will see moms and dads with strollers, kids running around and grandparents walking along – it’s a family affair.
The locals are laid back and around here everything happens at a slower pace. It’s called the “slowveld” for a reason!
There are so many things to do in Nelspruit such as the famous Kruger National Park, stunning gardens, crocodiles and caves, hiking- and biking trails, good food, great shopping and a mountain of outdoor activities – we love living in our vibey little city!
Things to do in Nelspruit with kids
Gateway to the Lowveld
The biggest tourist attraction right on our doorstep is The Kruger National Park. Only an hour’s drive away it’s perfect for a day trip and something the whole family will enjoy. Before kids we used to get excited about The Big 5, but now we stop and stare at impalas, zebras and even a tortoise crossing the road. We had our fair share of stage brown drives (code for an explosive diaper in the car) and we couldn’t get to Skukuza because wait for it, there was a leopard on the bridge! And that’s what makes the Kruger so amazing!
Make sure to stop at Skukuza around lunchtime. You can enjoy lunch on the spacious deck, overlooking the Sabie River and there’s a play area for the kids. Eat a burger or enjoy The Cattle Baron’s buffet on Sundays, while you watch elephants rushing to the water. Just make sure to keep an eye on the opportunistic monkeys!
When the weather is good (which is most of the time), pack a picnic basket and head out to another local gem: The Lowveld National Botanical Garden. The garden lies just outside of town and is spectacularly beautiful. Explore the garden with the kids (make sure to wear comfortable shoes) and be rewarded with the sight of a tumbling waterfall. Exhausted from exploring? Lay down on the luscious green grass, underneath the branches of huge trees, devouring your snacks. If you are not in the mood for a picnic there’s a tea garden nearby. You can easily spend 2-3 hours in nature. We love it because it’s away from the hustle and bustle, it’s affordable (R22 for adults and R10 for kids), it’s perfect for strollers and there’s a huge jungle gym. Do not miss out on this must-see tourist attraction!
Best Nelspruit restaurants for families
Our favourite spot to visit as a family is Friends Café. Situated on a riverbank, it’s a beautiful restaurant with a play area, great cappuccino and ice-cold sauvignon blanc.
Another favourite is Hall’s Farm stall. Don’t forget to say hello to Charlie (the chatty African Grey) at the door. This farm stall is also the official halfway stop for mountain bikers, so make sure you get there early to order their freshly baked pie and gravy. If you snooze you lose! Minki loves chatting to Charlie and she always gets an extra slice of banana bread or a free doughnut from the friendly staff. Dad gets to sip on his filter coffee, and I get to buy some plants (Yes, it’s a nursery as well)!
What to do in rainy weather in Nelspruit
On a rainy day we head out to Ilanga Mall to play! The new entertainment area is larger than life and you can choose from bowling and arcade games, to bumper cars, a ninja warrior course, a trampoline park and even a bona fide ice rink and 4D Theatre.
There is also a train going around (just be prepared to pay for the ride – R20 per person). Minki loves watching the older kids skate (and fall) at the newly built ice rink!
Insider tip: Nelspruit is an agricultural hub and with mango, pawpaw, avocado and citrus farms on the doorstep, you can enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables throughout your stay.
The Top 5 Things To Do In Nelspruit (With Kids)
- Kruger for the day
- Be brave and visit The Croc Grove Crocodile Farm
- Venture to The Sudwala Caves (there’s a Dinosaur Park too! Kids will love the life-size monsters guarding the cave entrance)
- Swing by The Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Eden Sanctuary
- Go play at Ilanga Mall
To find more things to do in Nelspruit visit Helene’s blog, Pretty Belle, where she shares all about living the slow(er) life in the Lowveld and blogs about their adventures, finds and even some fashion inspo. Or follow Helene on Instagram: @prettybelle.co.za