With its warm weather, family-friendly beaches and eclectic array of outdoor activities, South Africa is a veritable children’s playground. Even the odd rainy day won’t detract from the fun, with museums and aquariums providing ample opportunity for indoor adventure.
t The row of colourful bathing huts that line Muizenberg beach
Within easy distance of Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula is flecked with sandy beaches that offer calm, safe swimming conditions for children (though local advice should be sought on the day). Top choices include Muizenberg, with its trademark row of colourfully painted Victorian bathing huts, Fish Hoek and Hout Bay. For dedicated beach holidays, however, your best bet is the warmer Indian Ocean; firm family-friendly favourites here include Plettenberg Bay and the long line of resorts along the KwaZulu-Natal coast flanking Durban.
Thrills and spills aplenty can be had at Gold Reef City, which combines a re-creation of prospector-era Johannesburg with a dozen roller-coasters and other exciting rides. Alternatively, cool off by shooting down giant waterslides at uShaka Wet ’n’ Wild in Durban or splashing around at Sun City’s Valley of Waves water park.
It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but several estates in the Cape Winelands provide great family-friendly experiences. Make a whole day of it at Spier: visit the fascinating raptor centre, take a two-hour Segway tour through the vineyards, and enjoy tandem tastings of grape juice for kids and wine for adults. Top children’s play areas can also be found in the grounds of the Vergelegen, Tokara and Laborie estates.
Rainy days are rare in South Africa, but it’s always worth having a Plan B. Captivating indoor activities include the theme-park-like Maropeng Visitor Centre in Gauteng’s Cradle of Humankind or a visit to one of the country’s excellent oceanariums, such as Two Oceans in Cape Town.
Get up close to the native wildlife on a visit to the well-run Lion and Safari Park on the western outskirts of Johannesburg – less intense than a full-on safari, this is a great option for young children with low boredom thresholds. The conservation-conscious National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria also offers an array of animal encounters, as well as fun after-hours activities such as night safaris and zoo camps.