The 5 Best Family Holiday Destinations In South Africa

As the second-largest continent in the world, Africa is one of the most ecologically and culturally diverse places on the planet. It has a myriad of landscapes, from deserts to rainforests and is brimming with incredible wildlife that cannot be seen roaming freely anywhere else in the world. Not to mention the continent’s tradition and culture, home to around 3000 native tribes, it’s a place with a host of different, beautiful communities that bring colour and vibrancy to its landscapes. 

Visiting every country in the continent may be something you’ve added to your travel bucket list, but, if you’re looking for somewhere to start then Africa’s most popular country is undoubtedly South Africa.

Located on the southernmost part of the continent, South Africa is a destination with limitless opportunities. It offers stunning coastal landscapes, rich history and culture, mesmerising wildlife, and adventure activities galore for those who can’t deny themselves an adrenaline rush! It’s no wonder it is often referred to as ‘a world in one country’.

But most importantly, South Africa is one of the best holiday destinations for families. With plenty of child-friendly destinations and activities on offer, families looking to make memories that will last a lifetime together should consider South Africa as the top destination on their list. 

We’ve created a round-up of 10 of the best family holiday destinations in South Africa, so that on your next family holiday adventure, you don’t have to worry about figuring out where the best places to visit in South Africa are, with plenty of family-friendly activities available. 

1. Cape Town

A destination that you have no doubt heard of before, Cape Town is one of the best places to visit in South Africa with family.

Located on the southwest coast of the country, it’s one of South Africa’s three capital cities and is the location of parliament, both of which contribute to it being a hub for tourists visiting the country.

It is also the oldest city in the country, making it one of the most perfect places to go in South Africa for those wanting to learn more about its rich culture and history. However, what takes the cake with this already diverse location is the breathtaking scenery.

The city is wedged between towering mountain ranges and the surrounding Atlantic and Indian oceans, so no matter where you look, you’ll find yourself surrounded by stretches of jaw-dropping natural beauty. 

To really connect with the landscape, you could plan a family day trip to Table Mountain, an iconic landmark that shadows Cape Town below, it is a popular tourist attraction for visitors flocking to Cape Town. One of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, the mountain has an aerial cableway that hoists visitors high into the sky to overlook the ‘Mother City’ from above, with sensational 360° views stretching out onto the horizon which your kids can admire in awe. 

A rainbow of picturesque pastel-coloured houses amongst cobbled streets, it is a beautiful location that is considered to be the heart of Cape Town and boasts a diverse cultural heritage with roots in African, Sri Lankan, Indian and Malaysian cultures. Whilst you’re here, you can visit the Bo-Kaap Museum to get a glimpse into the area’s past socio-political and cultural climate. 

With so much more to see and do, Cape Town is marked as one of the most amazing family holidays in South Africa in our books.

2. Mpumalanga

Translating to “the place where the sun rises”, Mpumalanga is a province located in Eastern South Africa, which borders both Mozambique and Swaziland. Formerly referred to as Eastern Transvaal, the province is a firm favourite for those visiting the country, particularly among families. 

An exceptional scape of natural beauty, the province offers tumbling waterfalls, thriving forestry and stretching savannahs in which you can observe wildlife roam and graze amongst the shrubbery with your very eyes. And with magnificent displays of flora and fauna, you’ll be stunned by the sheer expanse of this province’s enchanting scenery. 

So, for families who love the opportunity to immerse themselves in wildlife abroad, this destination is for you. Mpumalanga hosts the southern half of Kruger National Park, the largest National Park in South Africa and one of the continent’s largest game reserves. 

It hosts a multitude of wild animals of varying species, and is one of the destinations in Africa where you are lucky enough to see the ‘Big 5’, some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife species: lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalos and leopards, which kids will simply adore!

The Park offers 2 million hectares of open space in which diverse species can roam freely and remain protected. Day visitors to the park can opt for the ‘Park & Ride’ option, which involves being taken around the park to view the Big 5. This option is available in the Marula Region of the park, at the Numbi, Kruger and Phabeni gates. Or, those wanting to explore the park for longer can stay in the park’s available accommodations to delve deeper and explore its tropical forests, mountainous areas and bush plains. 

Mpumalanga makes for a nature-lovers dream, and so for families who love to explore our natural world, this is one of our favourite options as one of the best family holiday destinations in South Africa.

3. KwaZulu-Natal

A coastal province located on the eastern part of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal is a gorgeous area with beautiful shoreline locations, safaris and bustling cityscapes – making it the most varied and eclectic family holiday destination in South Africa that we’ve touched on so far.

The province is home to the Zulu Monarchy, and there is ample opportunity to visit some of the indigenous Zulu people in cultural villages in KwaZulu-Natal for families interested in learning about their traditions and roots in African culture. Given its coastal location, a trip to the province would not be complete without checking out one of its gorgeous beaches, perfect for families looking to feel the hot sand, cool waves and relax during some downtime lazing under the African sun for at least some of their trip! 

Some of the most iconic and renowned in KwaZulu-Natal are located in Durban, a coastal city well-known for its bustling cityscape as well as its Indian and African cultural and colonial influences. For families looking for a seaside getaway, Durban is the place to be. 

Its seafront promenade known as the ‘Golden Mile’ stretches along the city’s coastline, featuring wonderful family-friendly attractions that will keep the kids entertained all day long. The uShaka Marine World is a theme park hosting Africa’s largest aquarium and highest slide waterpark. Also featuring a mall and numerous dining options, you’d have everything you need to spend a day at uShaka, making it a fun destination for the whole family. 

For families who fancy a venture into the wilderness to a more off-grid location, but still have the opportunity to embark on plenty of amazing adventures, KwaZulu-Natal is also home to one mountain range that you won’t want to miss.

Literally translating to ‘Dragon Mountains’, Drakenberg mountain range is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, elevated to higher than 11,400 feet and extending roughly 700 miles from the Northeast to the Southwest of the province, making it parallel with the Southeastern coastline. The mountain range forms part of the Great Escarpment, which separates the highlands of the region from the lower land coastal areas. 

The region offers sensational sites for families to view when visiting this province of South Africa. World-renowned, the North Part of Drakensberg has its Amphitheatre, which is one of South Africa’s most astonishing cliff faces, stretching over 5km in length and cliffs that rise around 1220 metres along its stretch. Meaning that its cliff face is over 10 times the size of the world-renowned El Capitan in Yosemite – amazing, right!?

Interestingly, South Africa’s original colonies, known as the San, or Bushmen, inhabited the Drakensberg Mountains before they disappeared in the 1800s for thousands of years. What remains of the inhabitants is their amazing stone-age rock art. 

Over 600 rock-art sites and thousands of paintings can be found across the region, but one of the best locations to view some of the best art is at Games Pass Shelter, located near Kamberg.  

Learn more about the iconic rock art in Royal Natal National Park at Didima Rock centre, which has an informative museum to teach visitors about the San people and their artworks.

4. Eastern Cape

A province that boasts phenomenal coastline and beautiful scenery, the Eastern Cape is definitely worth adding to the list as one of the best family holiday destinations in South Africa.

Often overlooked by tourists due to its positioning between both KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, which are two of the country’s most popular coastal provinces, the province remains a less popular, but equally scenic, gem that is perfect for families looking to explore some of South Africa’s lesser-visited locations. 

The province is dotted with traditional African villages and holds a whopping 1000km stretch of undeveloped coastline that is begging to be explored by visitors, rewarding them with some of the most phenomenal landscapes you’ll find in the country. 

The Wild Coast, which stretches north of East London, is a stretch that symbolises real African coastal beauty. Dappled with subtropical rainforests, golden sand beaches and jagged sea cliffs, the landscape is also home to the Xhosa people, and other lesser-known tribes whose villages can be found amongst the landscape.

The coastline can be explored by car, a four-wheel-drive is highly recommended due to its remote location, or, if you’re looking for an active adventure as a family, you can hike some of the stretches on walking tracks that weave local villages together and take you along some breathtaking stretches of coast. 

One popular tourist spot you can view along the route is Hole in the Wall, an arch carved out by the beating waves on a coastal island, which is a fantastic natural phenomenon. Another popular tourist spot in the province is the city of Gqebera, formerly named Port Elizabeth, located on Algoa Bay. The location is another coastal spot of unrivalled natural beauty. 

A fantastic family activity one can do in Gqwberha is to go whale spotting. The city is a hub for marine life, with schools of bottlenose dolphins and different species of whales being viewable during the year. Between August and December are the best times to view different species of whales during their migration season. 

Families can venture out into the ocean on a whale-watching tour from Algoe Bay to see these gorgeous marine mammals frolic in the water up close, and learn more about them.

5. Gauteng

With a name meaning ‘place of gold’ in Sotho-Tswana, Gauteng holds roughly a quarter of South Africa’s population in only 1.5% of South Africa’s land area, making it the most populous province in the country. It is a popular business and tourist destination and is termed the ‘economic hub’ of Southern Africa.

It is not one of the most affordable family holidays in South Africa, but there are a few spots that you’ll want to cross off your list on your next family holiday to South Africa, specifically, in the city of Johannesburg. The capital of Gauteng, this location is an energetic destination with plenty of appealing opportunities for families to make amazing memories on their next vacation. 

The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens is one of these locations. Showcasing some of the finest botanical collections in the world. The gardens boast everything from exotic and indigenous trees to succulents, herbs and flowers and also hosts the Emmarentia Dam, which is popular amongst boaters and canoeists. 

Families are often found walking around the garden’s paved paths, bird watching some of the beautiful species of birds and picnicking in some of the garden’s beautiful picnic locations. The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset, and there is designated safe parking available for visitors.

Summary

With so many beautiful destinations to see, your family holidays to South Africa won’t be lacking in plenty of choices and opportunities to admire breathtaking landscapes, adore gorgeous marine and land mammals and visit some of the best holiday spots in South Africa for fun-filled family activities. Children big and small will be highly entertained and enthralled by the beauty, history and culture that the country has to offer.