Ash Jarvis, director of the Best of South Africa Travel and a TRUE South African family specialist, shares some of the best places to visit in Cape Town. Also find out more below about an exclusive offer for My Tunbridge Wells readers!
With South Africa’s continued value for money and growth in Brits visiting, it has become increasingly popular with the family market and those wanting to tick a box on the bucket list. Close to 450,000 visitors from the UK explored the country last year, attracted by its multi-centre combinations, with families in particular benefitting from no time difference and areas that are completely malaria free.
I travelled extensively throughout South Africa with my own children, now seven and eight, from when they were babies. South Africa is without doubt, the easiest country in Africa to explore with a family. The fact that self-drive is so prevalent makes it perfect for family flexibility rather than following strict itineraries. Families don’t need and don’t experience the best of a country by following inflexible schedules but should take advantage of tailor-making what is right for them as a family. More and more people are personalising their holidays in accordance with their own interests and needs and to ensure everyone in the family is catered for.
With most flights coming in overnight, you put the kids to bed and wake up in South Africa. Our VIP meet and greet right from the aircraft door helps ‘free up hands’ for the kids, with someone else to worry about the bags! It also skips queues through immigration which can take hours. A trip to South Africa with young kids can be wonderful as well as with older kids and teens too. I am keen to show families the very best of South Africa which is why I have documented some of the best spots and some of my own family’s favourite places in my Insiders Guide to Cape Town.
DAY TRIPS FROM CAPE TOWN
♥ Noordhoek / Sun Valley
Located 33km’s from Cape Town and close to the Chapmans Beak Drive, Cape Point Vineyards is a great place to go with kids. The wine farm is in a beautiful setting, high up on the hills above Noordhook Beach, which is one of the most spectacularly white, wide and un-spoilt beaches of Cape Town. Weekly on a Thursday afternoon the Estate holds a Food Market which plays host to a range of food stalls serving everything from freshly caught local fish to delights served up by the Lamb Man and the Oyster Lady. The winery takes the opportunity to sell its wares, including one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs’ The Splattered Toad, coming in at around a whopping £3.00 a bottle on today’s exchange rate. Keep an eye out for the Pocket Money Market where young entrepreneurs from 3 to 16-year old’s’ take a stall to sell everything from crafts and home-baking to jams and relishes.
For a longer day head out via the Eastern Seaboard (Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Camps Bay) into Hout Bay, where you can stop and visit the little harbour. You can take boat trips out to Seal Island from here and it is also home to one of our family favourites, Dunes Restaurant. Enjoy brunch at this casual little restaurant nestled in the sand dunes, right on the beach. The kids have a ball in the sandy play area, whilst you have a light lunch or just a drink stop. They have a great kids menu too. From there, head over Chapmans Peak drive to Cape Point Wine Farm for about 4pm to get your spot for the sunset show.
Alternatively, Imhoff Farm is a great place to stop and get a bite and somewhere the kids will be well entertained. Kids can ride camels and pet farm animals.
♥ False Bay / Cape Peninsular
If planning a trip to False Bay then a visit to The Brass Bell in Kalk Bay is a must. It is a very relaxed fish restaurant that is located on a tidal pool, with its own little beach. It also has a tidal paddling pool for the kids, plus a proper tidal pool for the adults. Sun loungers and deck chairs are all provided and the children are totally contained in the walled off “beach area”.
Lined with colourful red, blue and yellow beach huts, St James Beach in Kalk Bay is incredibly picturesque and also has a stunning tidal pool that kids love to swim in. It has rock pools which can be safely explored with a fishing net and bucket in hand. This beach is perfect when the South Easterly wind is blowing in Cape Town, as it is sheltered by the mountains.
Another great beach for kids is Fish Hoek Beach. It has a wide expansive beach with steps that can be used to sit on if you, or the kids, don’t fancy the sand! There is also a grass area and a really lovely play park for the kids. A little restaurant, The Fish Hoek Galley, has three different types of food under one-roof and serves fresh fish, cold drinks and ice creams as well as basic snacks.
♥ Simon’s Town is nestled on False Bay and is rich in history, character, atmosphere and warmth. The neighbours are whales, penguins and seals with world heritage status bird life. There is a great craft market, where kids can visit the ‘Scratch Patch’ and dig for their own semi-precious stones. Older kids (8+) can explore and learn what it takes to be a submariner. A guided 50-minute tour is a walk-through of the history of the South African Navy and is a lot of fun for children and a unique chance to explore inside an actual submarine. Guides, some of whom are ex-submariners, explain how the submarine dives, surfaces, and how it generates fresh air. It is techy and lots of climbing up and down steel ladders, hence our recommendation for older kids.
In Simon’s Town, there is a casual restaurant on the harbour called Berthas, which has a small outdoor play area. Harbour House, offers fancier fair and is probably a nicer experience without the kids!
♥ Boulder Beach is a must with the kids. Parking is best if you head towards the carpark for the penguin sanctuary as its closest to the beach. It is worth the entry fee as it is quieter and you can swim with the penguins. The kids love the beach as its in-between massive boulders (hence the name) which create these gorgeous rock pools. Be warned though, the tide comes right up to the top of the beach, so you need to go in LOW tide. There is a wooden platform built into the cliff wall to avoid the rising tides. This beach is also great when it is windy.
The Constantia wine route is a great day / afternoon out with the kids. You might get away with two or three different wine farms as there is something different for the kids at each one of the below:
A great brunch spot is Jonkershuis on the Groot Constantia Estate – book a table outside and the kids can run amok.
♥ Buitenverwachting is a lovely spot for a wander around the gardens. They have a stunning a la carte restaurant for families with older kids and the views are literally jaw dropping. At lunch they also serve sharing platters on the lawn and have great wine tasting.
♥ Beaux Constantia is an absolute favourite. It is situated at the top of Constantia Nek overlooking False Bay. They have a grass amphi-theatre where kids love to play and also have some kitchen gardens and a few ponds with panoramic views right across the Stellenbosch and Helderberg Mountain ranges.
♥ Kirstenbosch Gardens is great for kids where you can take your own picnic as well as eating in their own restaurant. The Boomslang walk is a lovely walk up in the trees. They also have great outdoor concerts here, so check online for your dates to see what is happening; The Vamps play 2nd February 2018!
As you would expect from a city, this is a more commercial experience and offers brilliant trips out on the Jolly Roger pirate ship during the day or at sunset, as well as Zulu dancers and local singers, an aquarium and mini-golf! There is a full event schedule throughout the year including Open Air Cinema, concerts, Salsation Sundowner for the salsa lovers amongst you, Art Fairs and High School Band Slam!
For rugby loving families, The Springbok Experience is a world-class, modern interactive museum telling South Africa’s story through the eyes of Rugby. There are more than 60 audio visual displays where visitors can watch the history of South African rugby unfold, set among cases displaying historic objects such as famous trophies, jerseys, boots and other memorabilia. The kids (and parents) always love to test their skills in the interactive “Springbok Trial’ zone.
Slightly away from the V&A waterfront, The Mount Nelson is great for breakfasts and for high tea in the garden. Both are served by the pool, so the kids can swim and have a bit of fun whilst you gorge on cake and fizz.
♥ Camps Bay
A trendy suburb, close to the center of Cape Town, it is set against the stunning backdrop of the Twelve Apostles mountain range and has one of the largest and most beautiful beaches in the area. It is the only beach where you can hire sun loungers, but being the Atlantic Ocean the water is cold for swimming. If you want to swim, head to Fish Hook where they have shark nets, and St James which has a tidal pool.
♥ The Bungalow is a great spot for an adult and kid late afternoon session. Right next to the Atlantic they boast about their gorgeous sunsets and quite rightly so. Sassy, with a laid-back vibe, great cocktails, simple but quality menu, with lots of space for the kids to run around. Ticks a big box.
♥ The Cod Father is another favourite. There is no menu as such; they’ve a fresh fish bar, you choose your fish from the counter, choose how you want it cooked, choose your sauces, chips / baked potato and salad. There is also a great sushi conveyer belt for snacks. It is up from the beach, but it is elevated and the views are lovely.
Options are endless from the extreme to the gentlest of strolls. For families, the best bet are private guides so you go where you want, when you want and most importantly for kids, at the speed you want. Our favourite trails include Lions Head Hike which is available during the day, evenings or sunrise and the Shipwreck Hike. Both are great for active 6+ kids.
New for 2017 is a team of off duty firemen who are amazing guides and can do kids hikes up to Elephant Eye with a picnic or along the coast following the Shipwreck trail. Our guests have fallen in love with the walks as well as the firemen!
♥ The Obvious!
The Table Mountain cable car is fun as it rotates at the same time as ascending / descending. Get there early to avoid queues. Go on the first day you get a clear sky and are up early, as the weather can be changeable.
♥ Robben Island
An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the museum is suited to older children. Since the 1960s, it was used by the South African government as a prison for political prisoners. Three of the inmates have gone onto be Presidents. Since the end of apartheid, the island is very popular for tourists and many of the guides are former prisoners. Take the ferry from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.
Finally, there is a midday gun salute that goes off every day at noon. It is called the NOON GUN and is a canon charge that is shot off from Signal Hill. The kids can go and watch and there is a little ceremony each day. You can also head up to the top of Signal hill (drive up) where there is a great big picture frame that the kids can climb into to get a photo with Table Mountain in the “frame”. It’s a really good holiday snap.
Based near Tenterden, Ash offers face to face chats in mutually convenient coffee shops and even home visits if necessary. She can help you to come up with an itinerary completely designed around you and your family, taking into consideration budgets, age of children and special interests. contact
Like the sound of all of this? I can’t wait to visit South Africa one day soon. If you love travel too, have a look at Zen Moments for some super destination guides including a one week Zanzibar itinerary.