South Africa Garden Route Road trip with Kids
Whale watching in Hermanus & More
Welcome to the South African Garden Route with kids. This is part one of four, of a 20-day road trip itinerary. To make it easier for you I did not want to bundle the whole 20 days into one blog post. This way you can choose which area interests you and get a closer look and more information on that section.
If this is your first time to South Africa you might want to read our FAQ & MORE.
You will find Part 2-4 below
Part 2 * 6 Days – South Africa along The Garden Route with kids– Knysna & Plett area
Part 3 * 4 Days - South Africa with kids - Wild life encounter at the Eastern Cape Port Elizabeth
Part 4 * 5 Days - Cape Town with kids
Read our full itinerary list Travelling to South Africa with young kids
Enjoy our South Africa Garden Route road trip with kids - Part 1
Day 1 :: Travelling to South Africa with young kids
My strongest suggestion would be to find an overnight flight especially if you travel with young kids. We packed our bags and flew out from London / Heathrow as none of the Swiss flights offered an overnight flight to Cape Town. Shop around for your flights, we had massive differences in prices of more than £1000.- between the different airlines.
Day 2 – 5 :: Based in Gansbaai
Driving distance :: Airport to Gansbaai along the N2 and then the R43 150km / 1h50
Accommodation :: Amazing Ocean front Royal Albatros Apartment
We arrived in Cape Town in the morning after a 12 hour flight. A quick collection of our rental car and we were on the road. Head towards the N2 and start to enjoy your South Africa adventure. You will drive over a beautiful lookout pass called Sir Lowry's Pass at Somerset West. If your family is not all sleeping (smile) make a stop and admire the amazing view down over Gordons Bay. Depending on how your flight was and on how you’re all feeling, you could already do some sightseeing on the way to your accommodation. Stony Point Penguin Colony was on our original itinerary, but we skipped it and penciled it in for when we’re driving back to Cape at the end of our trip.
The kids slept well, D and I not so much, so this is why we decided to drive straight to Gansbaai to our accommodation which was a good 2h drive away.
The reason why we decided to skip Cape Town at the beginning of our trip was the whales. November is the end of the Southern Right Whale season and Gansbaai is a pretty much guaranteed place to see them breaching and floating from your beach front accommodation. We were in luck! Every day we enjoyed seeing them within a close distance from the terrace or on the beautiful coastal path which was accessible straight from our accommodation.
Gansbaai is a fishing town in the Overberg District, Western Cape, South Africa. It is known for its dense population of great white sharks and as a whale-watching location. You can find everything you need in the local village. Many tourists choose Hermanus over Gansbaai but we prefer the lesser touristy area and you can find accommodation in Gansbaai right at the shore front which is difficult in Hermanus. Plus, the wild and amazing, Walkers Bay National Park is right next door.
After we entered our new home and admired the view - wow it could not have been better, we went food shopping and had a stroll along the coast path towards Walkers Bay. There were at least 10 whales with their calves to be spotted. Along the path there are some great pools which were ideal for the kids to play in, seek shells and throw stones, whilst my camera was on the tripod ready to take the next great shot of a breaching whale.
Day 3 :: Fernkloof Nature Reserve & Hermanus
It was quite windy at the beach so we decided to go inland and visit Fernkloof Nature Reserve, in the Kleinrivier Mountains above Hermanus. The reserve harbours a great number of fynbos species, and if you are a flower lover this is a must place to visit. Different hikes are on offer and as we’re having our 3.5-year-olds with us we did a 3 hours hike, to the very small waterfall, and up to the view point where you will be rewarded with an incredible view over the whole coastline reaching well beyond Hermanus and past Walkers Bay Nature Reserve. The time indicated included several stops at the information signs which you can find all over, picking up sticks and of course a good break at the waterfall. Once leaving the forest and climbing up to the view point, there is not much shade so be prepared for this.
A well-deserved ice cream in Hermanus and some more whale watching whilst the kids played on the playground was just what we all needed. If you have a GPS you can add the Whale House Museum or the Marine DR as a destination point. This will bring you right into the centre and the place you want to be. There is a secure and controlled payable parking lot ideally situated by the sea. An overpriced (for South Africa) ice cream shop is right at the corner of the parking place. The ice cream is great though and for us Swiss still not as expensive as at home. Walk to the beach front and if the whales are in the bay you will realise this very soon, as all the tourists are congregating with their cameras and massive great lenses pointed in the same direction.
Several restaurants on this strip give you a great view as well and a lively holiday atmosphere. I don’t think you must see more of Hermanus as this is the place where it all happens, and after having seen it, you may agree with me that Gansbaai is a great choice of place to stay.
Day 4 – Walkers Bay and the Klipgat Caves
The kids started to get the hang out of spotting the whales from the accommodation terrace and started to ask for the binoculars. Quite cute really and maybe a good holiday present for the kids to have.
Our mornings are always quite slow and relaxing. After everybody had their own little time on their favourite toy whilst slurping hot chocolate or a great coffee, it is often well past normal breakfast time. But this is exactly why we love to have a self-catered place.
We made our way over to Walkers Bay, a coastal nature reserve in the south-western CapeNature reserve. You will find the entry gate at the end of Gansbaai De Kelders area. The park is administered by CapeNature and a small entry fee needs to be paid at the gate when entering with your car.
Next to the parking are some steep steps guiding you down to this beautiful, mostly deserted and sheltered beach in the photo below. If you fancy a dip in the South Atlantic Ocean it is now all yours. For us it was a bit too cold so the waders came out which gave the kids great comfort to play right at the waters edge. There are quite a lot of sharp shells on the beach so we were happy that the kids had the waders.
Walkers Bay is also home to the historically relevant Klipgat Caves. The caves were once home to ancient humankind dating back around 80’000 years. Some fascinating and important artefacts about the origins of mankind have been recovered.
The Klipgat Caves themselves are beautiful and the views that are offered from them exquisite.
The entry to the caves is not that obvious, see on the photo below the direction which passes over some rocks. It is a bit of a climb but nothing too strenuous.
From the small beach you can climb over to the MASSIVE, imposing and wild beach at Walkers Bay. Wow I love this stretch, it makes you feel so small. The kids wanted to be barefoot and chasing or getting chased by the big waves with dad.
This was such a great moment and it made me super happy to see the kids and my husband loving the environment.
ALWAYS, always have an eye on the waves, as suddenly 2-3 larger ones can come in easily covering half of the beach and the kids can suddenly be in waist deep water. And don’t forget it is cold water. Again, nothing to be worried about, just be observant.
Walk as long as you like. We did see some whales breaching in the distance and even some dolphins.
Day 5 :: Danger Point Lighthouse and relax
Danger Point Lighthouse on the southern point of Walkers Bay, in Gansbaai, was our focus point today. It is a white octagonal 17 metre masonry tower that has been in use since 1895. The lighthouse is not at all touristy and you might find you will have the place to yourselves like we did. The kids loved climbing up the tower and seeing the large light. You pay a tiny fee, it was so small I do not even remember how much it was.
This is a great place if you would just like to do something to get out and about but nothing too strenuous. We spent the afternoon on our great terrace enjoying the view of some breaching whales and the kids used the pool for the 1st time.
There is always the coastal walk if you really feel you need to go out and walk a bit, but we were quite happy at home.
TIP Gansbaai and surrounding:
Also in the area which you may be interested in (not visited by us this time)
You may have heard of Cape Agulhas - Southernmost Tip of Africa. We have visited Cape Angulhas on a previous trip without the kids and felt it was not worth the very long drive to say we have been on the most southern point of Africa where the official dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans passes. If you have enough time then why not, but I suggest not to stress and cramp another long day in the car, especially as the next day will be a more or less a car day as well.
If you liked the read head straight to Part 2