A self-drive tour in South Africa is the best way to experience this country with your family. Driving distances are limited to about 300km per day and you can stop anywhere you want. Here are some tips on what to do with your kids while touring the Highlights of South Africa in a rental car.
Your tour will most likely start off at OR Tambo international airport – from here you will drive north to Pretoria. You will stay at Brooks Cottage in a leafy suburb. Walk around the block or jump in the pool. On your way north to Hoedspruit you will drive past a few farm stalls. Stop at Pure Plaas Padstal for a bathroom break. There are antique farm tools and a cactus nursery. Blyde Mountain Country House is on a fruit farm and has a huge garden, trampoline, giant swing and a dog that will be too happy to play. The lodge also has a pool and a small dam for fishing.
Spending a few days the Kruger National Park? You will go on game drives in your rental car or join a game drive in the park’s 4×4 vehicle with a real game ranger. The minimum age for these drives is 6. Most of the rest camps in the ‘Kruger’ have children’s play areas, huge lawns and a pool.
Durban is an excellent destination for families. The colourful city is situated on the warm Indian Ocean and has clean and safe beaches. Add to this the watery wonder of uShaka Marine World and you have kid heaven.
The fun park has an excellent aquarium and a water slide park and you can spend at least half a day there. There is a section suitable for toddlers and babies and a variety of restaurants. Also visit the Moses Mabida stadium, Fun World and Mini Town on the beachfront, Umgeni River Bird Park or the Botanic Gardens.
Port Elizabeth is also a coastal city with lovely beaches. Walk along the promenade and visit King’s Beach – there is also a water park with giant slides next door. Addo National Park is within 40 minutes drive and can make a good day trip. Join a game drive, self-drive in the park or visit the interpretive centre with fun interactive displays. During the June and December holidays, Addo has children’s programmes.
Further south along the Garden Route are many farm stalls and interesting stops. Near Plettenberg Bay is the new Plett Puzzle Park, a 3-D maze and forest puzzle walk. Adventure Land just off the N2 has exciting water slides, tube rides and lawns to play on.
Tsitsikamma National Park and in particular Storms River Mouth, is an excellent place to spend a day or two. Beaches, a forest and a river provide a variety of activities. Walk along the 77m suspension bridge, explore rock pools. Hike in the forest or go kayaking or on a lilo tour in the river. Stop at Monkeyland and Birds of Eden (buy a combo ticket) for a few hours and join a boat cruise on the Knysna lagoon. Stop at the Red Berry Farm outside George for berry picking (seasonal), mini train and pony rides, ride the bumper boats or let the kids loose in the huge playground or hedge maze. Stopping in Mossel Bay? Visit the Point – there is beach, tidal pool, play area, aquarium and restaurants. The Maritime Museum is interesting, but for more energetic endeavors, go kayaking, fishing or surfing.
Further along the N2 towards Cape Town, there will be even more places to stop – farm stalls (often with tame farm animals), seaside towns with beaches and family restaurants with kids’ meals and indoor entertainment.
Cape Town has loads of outdoor things to do for the family – hiking on Table Mountain, in Kirstenbosch and the forests, playing on the beaches, Ratanga Junction theme park, horse riding and kayaking. Indoor options include go-karting, ice skating and visits to the planetarium, Cape Town Science World and the Two Oceans Aquarium in the V&A Waterfront. Hop on (and off) the ‘red bus’ for a Cape Town city tour, see the firing of the Noon Gun, visit Green Point Park or Intaka Island. So many things, so little time…
It is also a good idea is to let lodges know the age of your children and ask if they have toys available. Pack a ball, Frisbee for outdoors and bring a tablet with movies for indoor entertainment. Stop every 100km to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs and rest.
Ultimately, the best way to make your kids happy is to spend time with them.