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Family Friendly Towns in South Africa

While other Southern African countries offer splendid family trip ideas, South Africa stands out as an essential destination for family vacations. Known for its beautiful scenery and warm-hearted people, it remains the most popular choice for memorable family holidays. In South Africa, accommodation options span from luxurious hotels to cozy guesthouses, catering to all budgets. The country’s rich cultural heritage and diverse ecosystems provide a multitude of experiences. From pristine beaches and majestic mountain ranges to a wide array of wildlife, South Africa offers both adventure and relaxation. Its well-maintained roads facilitate easy travels to family-friendly towns, each offering unique experiences that ensure fun and enriching stays for visitors of all ages. Here, we explore 10 family friendly towns in South Africa that are perfect for every member of the family.

1. Hermanus

Hermanus Old Harbour

Hermanus Old Harbour. Picture: Flickr Commons/ Robert Wallace

Ever dreamed of spotting a whale while chilling on a cliff? Hermanus is your go-to spot. First on our list of family friendly towns in South Africa and renowned for its vibrant marine life and breathtaking vistas, Hermanus is not just a whale-watching paradise but also a treasure chest for nature enthusiasts. The Fernkloof Nature Reserve is accessible to all, welcoming even the littlest legs or wheels to venture through a wonderland of Fynbos—South Africa’s unique floral kingdom.

The Cliff Path is where the ocean puts on a spectacular show, with Southern Right Whales making regular appearances. Stretching approximately 12 kilometers from the New Harbour to Grotto Beach, this path not only offers stunning ocean views but also frequent whale sighting opportunities, especially during the whale season from June to December.

Grotto Beach is the family’s sandy lounge room, boasting a Blue Flag status that guarantees top-notch cleanliness and safety. It’s an ideal spot for sunbathing, swimming, and beach games, complete with lifeguard services and amenities like restrooms and food stalls.

For a touch of local flavor, follow the sounds of the Whale Crier or meander through markets packed with crafts that tell tales of this coastal corner. Hermanus perfectly blends the great outdoors with local lore, providing a rich, cultural experience alongside natural exploration.

2. Knysna

Family Friendly Towns in South Africa - Knysna

A panoramic view of the lagoon of Knysna, South Africa. beach in Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa.

Knysna, where lush forests fringe the ocean, offers an idyllic setting for family outings, blending serene landscapes with vibrant cultural events. The town provides a perfect backdrop for a variety of relaxing and adventurous activities, ensuring a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.

The is a highlight, offering an eco-friendly experience that includes a scenic ferry ride across the lagoon to the Western Head. Here, families can enjoy a guided 4×4 drive up the headlands with stops at spectacular viewpoints, followed by an optional 2.2 km walk through coastal forest and fynbos. The experience concludes with a delightful buffet lunch under ancient Milkwood trees, making it accessible and enjoyable for all family members.

Knysna Elephant Park provides a unique opportunity for up-close interactions with rescued elephants. The park emphasizes elephant conservation and offers educational tours that allow families to learn about these magnificent creatures in a controlled and safe environment, enhancing their connectivity with nature.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Goukamma Nature Reserve is the perfect locale. It offers an array of activities including hiking, boating, and canoeing through diverse habitats such as beaches, dunes, and forests. The reserve is ideal for families looking to immerse themselves in nature and partake in active adventures.

The town’s atmosphere peaks during the Knysna Oyster Festival, a vibrant event that extends beyond the enjoyment of oysters to include sports activities, live entertainment, and family-centric events. This festival is a fabulous time to experience the lively local culture and community spirit of Knysna.

3. Plettenberg Bay

Family Friendly Towns in South Africa - Plettenberg Bay

Robberg in Plettenberg Bay. Photo: Lorraine Kearney

Plettenberg Bay is a prime holiday destination on the Garden Route, celebrated for its excellent beaches, diverse family activities, and a relaxed small-town vibe. This coastal gem is perfect for both adventure seekers and those looking to unwind.

Robberg Nature Reserve is a highlight, offering three distinct hiking trails that vary in length and difficulty, accommodating all fitness levels. These trails provide stunning views and the chance to encounter a wide array of wildlife. The reserve is accessible from early morning to evening, making it a flexible option for family outings.

Adventure Land keeps the excitement high with its array of water rides and slides, suitable for all ages. This waterpark is an ideal spot to cool down and enjoy endless fun in a safe environment.

At Birds of Eden, the world’s largest free-flight bird aviary, families can marvel at the indigenous birds flying overhead in a natural-like habitat. This immersive experience is both educational and captivating for visitors of all ages.

Monkeyland continues the focus on conservation with its award-winning, sustainable tours. Here, families can learn about various primate species in an environment that promotes animal welfare and responsible tourism practices.

For thrill-seekers, canyoning trips offer adventurous rides through Plettenberg Bay’s pristine natural settings, providing an adrenaline rush in stunning landscapes.

The town’s Mediterranean climate means that Plettenberg Bay is an appealing destination almost year-round, with its summer months particularly popular among families looking to soak up the sun and enjoy the coastal atmosphere.

Additional Activities in Plettenberg Bay:

  • Beach Tours: The beautiful beaches of Plettenberg Bay are perfect for relaxation, sunbathing, and water sports.
  • Cultural Markets: Experience the local culture and purchase artisanal crafts at the town’s vibrant markets.
  • Whale Watching: From June to November, the waters around Plettenberg Bay are among the best places in the world to watch Southern Right Whales.

4. St Lucia

Family Friendly Towns in South Africa - St. Lucia

St. Lucia stands out as a premier family vacation destination with its remarkable blend of thrilling wildlife encounters and serene beach activities. Serving as the gateway to the , this town offers families the unique opportunity to experience close encounters with a diverse range of wildlife including hippos, crocodiles, and an array of birds. The area perfectly marries the excitement of the wilderness with the peacefulness of coastal life, creating a well-rounded destination for families.

Boat Tours on the St. Lucia Estuary are a highlight, providing educational and exhilarating experiences where families can see aquatic animals in their natural habitats. Snorkeling at Cape Vidal is exceptional, offering a glimpse into the vibrant underwater world in a safe and protected environment.

Adventure Activities such as quad biking and paragliding allow for unique perspectives of the region’s stunning landscapes, catering to thrill-seekers within the family. For a more relaxed pace, the St. Lucia Boat Club offers a welcoming atmosphere where families can unwind, with facilities including a jungle playground for children and delightful pizza with an ocean view.

Current Operations and Activities in iSimangaliso Wetland Park:

  • Game Drives and Safari Tours: The park’s varied ecosystems are home to the Big 5, with guided tours available to explore these rich habitats.
  • Boat Cruises: These cruises are ideal for spotting hippos and crocodiles along the estuary, providing an up-close view of these majestic creatures.
  • Snorkeling: Cape Vidal’s protected bays are perfect for snorkeling, especially during low tide, to explore the teeming marine life.
  • Turtle Tours: Available from November to February, these tours offer a rare opportunity to witness the nesting practices of loggerhead and leatherback turtles.
  • Whale Watching: During the breeding season from June to November, visitors can observe southern right whales along the coast.
  • Horse Riding: A tranquil way to experience the park’s scenic landscapes, suitable for all ages.

The park is open year-round, with gates operating from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM during April to October, and from 5:00 AM to 7:00 PM from November to March, accommodating early risers and those who wish to enjoy the full day in nature.

St. Lucia’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park not only provides a tapestry of activities but also ensures a safe, accessible, and unforgettable holiday experience for all family members. Its combination of adventure and relaxation captures the essence of a South African family vacation perfectly.

5. Clarens

Family Friendly Towns in South Africa - Clarens

Photo by Tyson Jopson

Clarens, affectionately dubbed the “Jewel of the Free State,” is a haven for families seeking a mix of cultural immersion, art appreciation, and outdoor excitement. Nestled near the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, this picturesque town is a treasure trove of activities suited for a rejuvenating getaway.

The park is a gateway to adventures with easy-to-navigate trails such as Echo Ravine and Brandwag Buttress, offering breathtaking views and a chance to connect with nature. The town itself is a vibrant hub of creativity, with streets lined with art galleries and craft shops that invite exploration and the discovery of local talent.

For those craving a bit of adrenaline, the Ashgar Equestrian Centre offers horseback tours and mountain biking trails that weave through scenic landmarks, presenting opportunities to spot wildlife in its natural habitat. Meanwhile, golf enthusiasts are drawn to the Clarens Golf and Trout Estate, where the game is played against the stunning backdrop of mountain vistas. The addition of more hiking trails in the vicinity ensures that families have an abundance of options for outdoor exploration and adventure.

Latest Updates and Activities:

  • Golden Gate Highlands National Park: A stone’s throw from Clarens, this park is a spectacle of eroded sandstone cliffs and diverse wildlife, perfect for day hikes and exploration.
  • Art and Craft Shops: The town’s bustling arts scene offers a chance for families to engage with local artists and craftsmen, enriching their cultural experience.
  • Outdoor Adventures: From horse riding at the Ashgar Equestrian Centre to thrilling activities offered by Clarens Extreme, there’s no shortage of ways to immerse oneself in the natural beauty surrounding Clarens.
  • Clarens Village Conservancy: This conservancy provides well-marked trails for walking, bird watching, and enjoying the tranquil beauty of the mountains.
  • Clarens Golf and Trout Estate: Offers a serene setting for golfing and trout fishing, catering to enthusiasts of all levels.
  • Titanic Rock: A notable landmark near Clarens, offering stunning photo ops and an easy visit for families looking to capture memories.

6. Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha)

Gqeberha Family Friendly Towns in South Africa

Port Elizabeth, affectionately known as ‘The Friendly City’, offers a wealth of activities perfect for families. At Sardinia Bay Beach, families can enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling, experiencing close encounters with diverse marine life in clear waters. The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World offers a wide range of activities, from arcade games to live entertainment, ensuring fun for all ages.

SANCCOB’s penguin rehabilitation center provides a valuable educational experience about marine conservation, particularly focusing on endangered African penguins. The Route 67 art and culture trail is a vibrant celebration of South Africa’s history, featuring 67 public artworks representing the years Nelson Mandela dedicated to public life. The trail offers families a cultural journey through the city’s heritage.

Bayworld remains a highlight, featuring a museum complex with marine and dinosaur exhibits and a snake park, providing interactive and educational activities that engage children and adults alike. Additionally, Port Elizabeth’s King’s Beach offers pristine conditions for sunbathing, swimming, and sandcastle-building, making it a top choice for a family day out.

7. Drakensberg

Family Friendly Towns in South Africa - Drakensberg

A small farm situated in a valley in the Drakensberg Mountains, just outside the small village of Clarence in the Free State, South Africa

Drakensberg is a cradle for adventure-minded families, offering dramatic sceneries and a wide range of activities that cater to all ages. The Drakensberg Canopy Tour presents an exhilarating zip-lining adventure suitable for kids, teenagers, and adults alike. This energetic activity spans approximately two hours, providing a thrilling aerial view of the highlands.

At the Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Centre, visitors can enjoy scientifically accurate and engaging raptor shows. These demonstrations are not only fun but are also educational, offering insights into the behaviors and conservation of these magnificent birds. The centre hosts daily flight displays that include an informative talk and demonstrations of the birds’ flying and hunting skills, offering a unique educational experience in a spectacular setting.

Drakensberg Scootours offers a unique adventure with family-friendly trails where participants glide down the mountains on non-motorized scooters designed for rugged terrain. Suitable for the entire family, children aged 4-9 can ride as passengers, while older kids and adults can navigate their own scooters. The tours typically last between 90 minutes to 2 hours, providing a fun and different perspective of the area.

The Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens Golf & Spa Resort is an all-encompassing facility that provides superb amenities to satisfy the diverse needs of the whole family. The resort offers a variety of activities including golf, spa services, and hiking, making it a perfect spot for both relaxation and adventure.

8. Jeffreys Bay

Family Friendly Towns in South Africa - Jeffreys Bay

Picture: Facebook / @Wacky Waterpark

Jeffreys Bay is celebrated for its exceptional surfing conditions and shell-dotted beaches, making it an ideal family getaway. Wacky Waterpark in Marina Martinique, which operates seasonally from September to April, offers a floating obstacle course and a wipeout zone, providing endless entertainment for all ages. The park is open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, and school holidays from 09:00 AM to 5:00 PM, enhancing the area’s appeal as a top destination for family fun.

The beaches here, like Dolphin Beach, are perfect for surfing lessons, leisurely horseback rides along the shore, or simply relaxing and soaking in the sun. Families can also explore the Jeffreys Bay Shell Museum, open Monday to Friday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM and Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. This museum houses a vast collection of over 600 shell species, making it a fascinating visit for nature enthusiasts.

For accommodations, the Mandyville Hotel provides cozy family lodgings with easy access to the beach and local dining options, ensuring a comfortable stay. The hotel’s central location and renowned service make it a preferred choice for visitors to Jeffreys Bay.

9. Sabie

Sabie Water Falls

Sabie, nestled in the picturesque Mpumalanga Highlands, serves as a prime destination for families who revel in outdoor activities and natural beauty. This town offers an idyllic setting for an escape that combines the thrill of adventure with the serenity of nature.

Bridal Veil Falls, Mac Mac Pools, and the Forest Falls Nature Walk are among the top attractions where families can indulge in picnicking or cooling off in inviting natural waters. The trails, especially those at Forest Falls, are family-friendly and provide a safe and enchanting environment for children of all ages.

For those seeking relaxation after a day of exploration, the Floreat Riverside Lodge is perfectly equipped with family-oriented amenities such as pools and playgrounds, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay for all visitors.

Latest Attractions and Activities in Sabie:

  • Bridal Veil Falls: This stunning waterfall cascades over a 70-meter cliff and is accessible via a relatively easy hike, making it a perfect spot for families to enjoy nature’s splendor.
  • Mac Mac Pools: Renowned for its clear waters and scenic surroundings, this spot offers excellent swimming and picnicking opportunities, set within a lush landscape.
  • Forest Falls Nature Walk: Offering a less strenuous trail that winds through a dense forest, this nature walk is ideal for families with young children and provides a gentle introduction to the area’s natural beauty.

Additional Family-Friendly Sites in Sabie:

  • Lone Creek Falls: A short drive from Sabie, these falls are a national monument and provide a picturesque setting for family outings, surrounded by indigenous forests.
  • Sabie Falls: Just outside the town, these falls are part of the Sabie Waterfall Route, offering easy access and a beautiful backdrop for a leisurely day out.
  • Horse Shoe Falls: These falls offer a tranquil spot for a family hike through beautiful scenery, ending at a stunning waterfall.
  • Long Tom Toboggan at Misty Mountain: For an adrenaline-pumping experience, this toboggan ride on a 1.2 km track offers thrilling fun for the entire family.
  • Komatiland Museum: This museum provides insightful tours about the forestry industry in South Africa, ideal for educating children and adults alike about the region’s ecological and industrial history.

10. Franschhoek

Franschhoek, often referred to as the “wine and food capital” of South Africa, is a haven for lovers of the good life, with its picturesque vineyards, rich history, and gourmet offerings. This charming town is not only perfect for culinary enthusiasts but also for families looking for a culturally enriching experience surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.

Travel through the heart of Franschhoek on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, offering a hop-on hop-off tour that meanders through some of the most prestigious wineries in the region. Engage in the vibrant tales of the Huguenot settlers as you enjoy the lush landscapes that frame this historic area.

Latest Attractions and Activities:

  • Franschhoek Wine Tram: Operating daily from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, this tram tour is an exquisite way to explore the valley. Families can enjoy the journey from either the Franschhoek or Groot Drakenstein terminals, with options for curated wine experiences that cater to all tastes and interests.
  • Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve: A paradise for hikers and bikers alike, offering trails with varying difficulty levels that are suitable for all ages. The reserve promises stunning views and a perfect picnic spot amidst nature.
  • Huguenot Fine Chocolates: Dive into the world of chocolate making at this local gem. A tour here is educational and delicious—ideal for families and chocolate aficionados.
  • Franschhoek Motor Museum: Car enthusiasts will find a treasure trove of vintage cars and learn about the evolution of the automobile through a well-curated display.
  • Museum van de Caab: This museum provides a profound insight into the rich cultural tapestry of the region, offering stories from the early days of the Cape Colony.

Additional Family-Friendly Experiences:

  • Rickety Bridge Winery: Known for its welcoming atmosphere for families, it features a playground and various child-friendly activities, ensuring the little ones are entertained while adults enjoy the wine tasting.
  • La Bri Vineyard: Offers delightful chocolate pairings that can be enjoyed in a beautiful setting, making it a sweet spot for families.
  • Grande Provence: This estate combines fine dining with stunning garden tours, providing a relaxing and luxurious experience for all visitors.
  • Chocolate Tasting Tours: Apart from Huguenot Chocolates, multiple venues offer chocolate tastings and workshops which are both informative and enjoyable for families.

Franschhoek is a destination that blends scenic beauty, fascinating history, and mouth-watering culinary experiences, making it a perfect getaway for families looking to indulge in the finer things in life while also enjoying the great outdoors. Whether you’re exploring the vineyards, enjoying gourmet dishes, or learning about the area’s history, Franschhoek promises a memorable and enriching holiday experience for visitors of all ages.

South Africa’s towns are brimming with activities and sights that are perfect for families. Each town offers its own set of unique attractions, ensuring that whether your family enjoys lounging on the beach, embarking on nature adventures, or delving into cultural excursions, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s interests. With options ranging from the serene shores of Plettenberg Bay to the historic allure of Franschhoek’s vineyards, a family trip to South Africa is bound to be filled with delightful experiences and adventures against the backdrop of the country’s spectacular scenery.