When we visited South Africa for the first time in 2013, we had no idea that we would fall head over heels with the country. We love visiting so much that we have just booked our fourth trip there. Yep, that makes it four years in a row now. I told you we love it. And South Africa with children is almost the perfect holiday destination for us.
Just look at this. What’s not to love about scenery like this? And there is so much more to love about the country.
♥ Beautiful landscapes: I know I’m repeating myself here but this country is seriously beautiful. And the landscape changes constantly. You only need to drive an hour or so and everything starts looking different. That photo above is south of Cape Town and here is Stellenbosch, only 40 minutes’ drive away.
♥ Amazing weather: We’ve visited after Christmas twice now and also at the end of November. For us, it’s the perfect break from the cold, dark Swedish winters. We return tanned and refreshed and revived and ready to face what January and February can throw at us. Typically, the temperature is around 26-28°C in Cape Town in early January and around 30-32°C in the surrounding areas.
♥ Minimal time difference: For us, the time difference is just one hour. If we take an overnight flight (via Frankfurt or London), then we arrive just a little tired from not sleeping so well. And no jetlag = happy children and happy parents.
♥ Amazing food and wine: We have eaten some truly incredible food in South Africa. The fish is fresh and delicious, and we’ve tried carpaccio of kudu (a type of native antelope) and oysters and biltong (dried meat). The wine though. Oh my. I am a big fan of New World reds, so it’s perfect for me. Plus a bottle there costs less than the eye-watering amounts we pay for a glass of wine here.
♥ Gorgeous beaches: The coastline around Cape Town is stunning but you have to remember that the sea water there can get pretty cold, even in the height of the summer. Pop around to the other side of Cape Point, however, and the water is just that little bit warmer and it is still just as beautiful.
♥ Language: This one is a bonus really, but we find the boys’ English is so much better when we come back. They hear it so much more there than they do on an average day in Stockholm and have to speak it more than they are used to doing.
Our favourite things in the Western Cape – South Africa with children
Cape Town and Cape Point
♣ Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is brilliant for children, with a great playground, a little train, a ferris wheel and lots of entertainment all day, pretty much every day in the summer months.
♣ One of the biggest attractions at the Waterfront is the Two Oceans Aquarium, which focuses on the sea life around Cape Town. The boys love this place. Penguins! Sharks! Being allowed to stroke a sea urchin!
♣ The Cape Point Nature Reserve is huge and you can easily spend a day or two exploring it. For us, though, it’s the beaches and the wildlife that are the biggest hits. The boys love that the baboons will climb all over the car and they are fascinated by the ostriches roaming around.
♣ Imhoff Farm at Kommetije, south of Cape Town, is so much fun. There’s a maze with flags to find, a petting zoo, craft shops and even camel rides. The cafe is also well worth a visit.
Stellenbosch and around
♣ Spier is one our favourite places to stay in the Winelands. It is just outside Stellenbosch (itself only 40 minutes’ drive from Cape Town) and is brilliant for children, with a great swimming pool, a kid’s club, grape juice tasting for children and a bird park.
♣ Just down the road from Spier is another winery, Vredenheim, which has a wild animal park with big cats, which was brilliant for the boys, who have been too small to go on safari.
♣ Also just outside the town is Blaauwklippen winery. We spent a good few hours here eating a fantastic lunch, playing in the excellent playground and petting alpacas.
♣ As home to Southern Rights, humpbacks and many other whales, Hermanus is the perfect place to learn more about these creatures. If you are there at the right time of year (June-November), you can see them start their migration. There are countless different boat trips available.
♣ Out of season, you can visit the Whale museum to learn more about these incredible animals and the history of whaling in South Africa.
♣ Gansbaai is the shark diving capital of Western Cape and there are numerous different tours you can take. One thing to bear in mind is that the water can be murky in the warmer months. (Husband said he saw more from the boat than in the cage under the water. But then they lucked out and saw a huge Great White.)
♣ I am fascinated by sharks but don’t fancy being in the water with them. So I took the boys to explore Danger Point Lighthouse, along the coast from Gansbaai.
There is still so much of the Western Cape that we want to explore. The country is a wonderful mixture of beauty and charm. There are negative aspects to it – often highlighted in the media – because of its turbulent past. W, but we have found that it is all about being sensible. Don’t wander around at night, don’t leave anything in your car (especially not valuables) and don’t flash expensive jewellery, clothes, phones etc. And if you want to visit a township, do so in the daylight and with a guide or on a tour.
Have you visited this amazing country, or are longing to visit? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.