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South Africa with Young Kids 20 Day – Road Trip Itinerary

South Africa with young kids

Enjoy a trip with Packed Again and discover the amazing Garden Route of South Africa with young kids

This was not our first visit to South Africa; my husband and I have enjoyed this country already three times before and have simply fallen in love with it.

We knew when the kids came along, that as soon as we felt they are ready to enjoy the nature and the versatile scenery this amazing country has to offer, we will return as a family of four.

The day had arrived when we made the decision to book our flights for November 2018. The kids were 3.5-years-old at the time of travel.

Kids we’re going to South Africa!!

Is this South Africa with young kids road trip itinerary for you?

We all have different ideas on how best to visit a country so this itinerary will be suitable for you if you

  • love the outdoors,
  • try to explore the less touristy attractions
  • love to involve your kids in pretty much everything
  • prefer to stay at great comfortable self-catering accommodation
  • are not afraid to have some action-packed days but also some lazy relaxing days.

If this is your first trip top South Africa with young kids, then you might want to read this first  FAQ & MORE

Self drive

We love a good road trip and this is definitely without a doubt the best and the only way you should travel South Africa with young kids. There are several car rental companies available to choose from. The prices vary a lot from a normal limousine to a larger family car. For this trip I do not believe that you need a fancy large car. Of course, you can hire one but if you wish to save some of your holiday budget to use for other great fun things during your travels, you can now do this. Get a good 4 door car such as a Toyota Corolla as you do not really need more. You will not be driving on any 4×4 roads, trust me on this.

South Africa self drive along the amazing Chapmans peak

South Africa Misty Beach :: Self drive is the best transportation when visiting with kids

Planning South Africa with Young Kids

Travelling South Africa with young kids needs a bit more investigation on where to find young kids friendly areas and activities, and a well-planned or should I say well-organised itinerary. At least this is my suggestion for you to make the most out of your trip.

South Africa is huge and distances are sometimes not really what they seem to be. You might find yourselves on a gravel road and the 20 km from A to B which normally would only take you 20 minutes or so of driving time, may take you over one hour. Suddenly your journey becomes much longer than planned, which leads to cranky and hungry kids and the stress level  is suddenly rising because of a gravel road.

Let’s not go there. I have put this itinerary together to 100% suit families travelling South Africa with young kids.

And on a 20-day trip we felt that the Garden Route would be a great area for travelling South Africa with young kids. We knew the area pretty well from previous travels and therefore knew the roads are good and the whole stretch pretty safe.

Our itinerary was carefully put together to suit the whole family whilst travelling South Africa with young kids. I have even omitted some of the main tourist attractions which were planned before travelling, but at that moment and in situ, we have opted out and changed our plans. We felt for the kids that at the time, other options were much more appropriate. 

Choosing the perfect accommodation

When travelling South Africa with young kids, I suggest to have if possible several bases and organise day trips, rather than packing up every day and introducing another new environment and bed to your kids.

The Garden Route is perfect for this. The accommodation we have chosen on our itinerary was amazing, comfortable and apart from one, I would strongly recommend all of them. We do prefer self-catering accommodation, so you will not find any hotel recommendations on this Travelling South Africa with young kids Itinerary.

South Africa perfect Accommodation

South Africa perfect Accommodation for a Garden Route Road Trip with kids

When to visit South Africa with Young Kids

We always have visited South Africa in November and believe it is a great month. The African winter months are over, spring is well and truly blossoming and summer may already have started in some areas.

It will not be too hot so your daily activities can easily be completed during the day and do not need to be scheduled for an early morning departure. Plus, for wildlife viewing this is a great time as the babies are born and already strong enough to be playing in the sunshine. But if you have school age kids then I understand that this will not be possible. My 2nd choice would probably be the Europe autumn holiday break which is full in the spring time.

What to pack for a November visit

If you just stay on the Garden Route you can pack pretty much summer clothing plus 1-2 fleeces and one pair of long trousers. It never harms to bring a raincoat as well. In some places it can get quite windy so I always have some thin hats with me for the kids, just in case. For this trip we packed our waders as well. The kids love to play in the water, but in November the rivers, streams or even the Atlantic can still be very cold. This is when the waders come in handy as they can play by the waterfall after their hike or collect the shells at the beach and in the rock pools without having freezing feet and risking a potential cold. We do not want one of those during our holidays…

Photo equipment

My photo camera equipment travels with us to any destination where wildlife is on the itinerary. And South Africa is no exception. There are so many photo opportunities on the whole route, that it is great if you have the option of having two cameras set up with two different lenses. And if you have a friend with a great zoom lens, you might want to invite them for a drink and ask if you can borrow it for your trip.

I ALWAYS travel with my external hard drive to upload the photos daily. I would be devastated to have a memory card lost and all our family photos gone…. Gosh I do not even want to imagine this. When you upload them daily it helps later on when you want to create your family travel book as they are already sorted into the different days.

Apart from the great SLR cameras, if you’re as guilty as I am, and sometimes just cannot be bothered to bring them because you have an amazing new iPHONE, (smile) then you might want to bring an external charger with you so you do not run out of  battery just as the perfect moment occurs.

Do not forget your binoculars! Our suggestion , Winner of 2019 review

South Africa Photo Gear

South Africa :: Bring your right Photo gear and have it ready at all times

20 Day Road Trip Itinerary :: Travelling South Africa with Young Kids

All the areas we visited are listed on this map so you can see where they are. I have included some other scenic points we have not visited on this trip as alternatives.

I have decided to present this ultimate 20 day travel Itinerary guide “South Africa with young kids” in four parts, so you can pick and choose each section that interests you and go in to more details on the relevant post.

South Africa with young Kids !!

Day 1 to 4
Arriving at Cape Town and Driving to Gansbaai – Hermanus area for our 1st base.

Driving time and distance from the International Airport :: 150km / 2h along the N2 and then down to the R43.
Accommodation :: Amazing Ocean front  Royal Albatros Apartment

Once you have picked up your car head straight for the N2 direction Somerset West. On the top of the pass stop for your first amazing South African view. This is if your passengers are not sleeping after the long flight.

The reason why we’re starting our road trip in Gansbaai rather than in Cape Town, are the whales. November is still a good month to see them, but it is the end of the whale season and we did not want to take our chances on missing them by visiting Gansbaai later on.

Gansbaai is a bit of a secret tip from a local. It is much quieter then Hermanus and the whales are literally in front of your bedroom window. You can find small quirky restaurants, food shops and even some great sport shops in the village. It is a much less developed village than Hermanus and this is why we love this place.

Our suggestions on what to do in the area:
  • Whale Watching along the Gansbaai De Kelders coastal path or straight from the comfort of your accommodation
  • Dip your toes into the Atlantic Ocean in Walker Bay Nature Reserve. Definitely a must visit. Walkers Bay is a wild stretch of beach between Hermanus and Gansbaai De Kelders. You can walk along the beach as long or as little you like.
  • Explore the Klipgat Caves, just outside of De Kelders Gansbaai, in the Walker Bay Nature Reserve, which offer dramatic views over the ocean and the Walker Bay Reserve.
  • Hiking in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve
    A beautiful area in the Kleinrivier Mountains above Hermanus with many different hikes which suit the whole family.
  • Visiting Hermanus, enjoy some more whales breaching whilst the kids play at the playground and have an ice cream.
  • Climb the stairs at Danger Point Lighthouse

around Hermanus / Gansbaai area with kids

South Africa :: 5 days around Hermanus / Gansbaai area with kids

For a more detailed itinerary on this section read Part 1 here. 

Part 1 * 5 Days – South Africa Garden Route road trip with kids – Whale watching in Hermanus Gansbaai & more

Whale watching Hermanus

PART 1 :: 5 Days – South Africa Garden Route road trip with kids – Whale watching in Hermanus Gansbaai & more

Day 5 to 10
Driving to Knysna – Plettenberg Bay Area for our 2nd base

Distance & Driving time from Gansbaai :: 410km / 4.30h along the scenic N2
Accommodation ::  
Luxury house A touch of Africa:: Midrange Apartment Pezula Gold Estate

This is a beautiful drive which brings you to the start of the famous South Africa Garden Route at Mosselbay. There are plenty of stopping opportunities along the way if you want to break down the journey. One suggestion would be the picturesque little town Swellendam.

Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are in the heart of the Garden Route and still situated in the Western Cape Peninsula and are a 30 min driving distance apart from each other. There is so much to explore in the surrounding areas that you could easily stay here for 2 weeks and more.

Our suggestions on what to do in Knysna:

  • Visit the view point “Map of Africa” and have a picnic across the road with the most stunning view.
  • Hike in the Knysna Forest, the “Jubilee Creek Walk” is the perfect hike for a family with young kids. Before the trail starts there is a great picnic place with tables, benches and fireplaces dotted left and right of a stream, which can easily occupy everyone for the day if hiking is not your thing.
  • Visit Tenikwa Wildlife Centre, enjoy a very educational rehabilitation centre and join one of their tours to get some more insider information and learn about the whole rehabilitation. Great family programs, photography tours and a full day wildlife education experience are possible.
  • See the Elephants close by at Knysna Elephant Park
  • Run around the deserted beach in Robberg Nature Reserve
    This is a must visit. You can easily spend the day here or just a few hours. Different hikes offer the chance to explore the whole area including the Robben beach or just a smaller circuit, ideal for families with younger kids. This hike brings you to an amazing deserted beach, which you simply have to go down to, take your shoes and socks off and have some fun. I still cannot believe we were there all alone for over 2h.
  • Organise a Game Drive at Plettenberg Private Game Reserve
    Not all private Game Reserves allow kids in their vehicles. Plett Game Reserve does and you won’t be disappointed. Such an amazing experience and super family friendly in all aspects. And this is how we prepare the kids for a Successful Safari Game Drive 
  • Taking some photos at the Knysna Heads viewpoint
  • Let the kids explore Timberlake Adventure park

Also in the area which you may be interested in (not visited by us)

  • Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary, is the world’s first free roaming multi-species primate sanctuary.
  • Birds of Eden, is the world’s largest free flight aviary and bird sanctuary
  • Plett Puzzle Park, an amazing life size 3-D Maze, as well a Forest Puzzle Walk through the natural forest, and a fun Rope Maze for the kids

6 Days Knysna and surroundings with kids

South Africa :: 6 Days Knysna and surroundings with kids

For a more detailed itinerary on this section read Part 2 here. 

Part 2 * 6 Days – South Africa along The Garden Route with kids– Knysna & Plett area

South Africa along The Garden Route with kids

PART 2 :: 6 Days – South Africa along The Garden Route with kids– Knysna & Plett area

Day 11 to 14
Driving to Port Elizabeth Eastern Cape for our 3rd base

Distance & driving time from Knysna :: 260km / 2.50h along the N2
Accommodation :: Luxury Hopewell Estate (a must stay) Midrange Kragga Kamma

As this is not such a long drive we suggest to stop at Storms Rivier Tsitsikama National Park and spend the day here before heading all the way to Port Elizabeth area. As the weather was not perfect when we drove past, we skipped it and penciled it in for when we’re heading back to Cape Town.

This whole stretch around Tsitsikama of the N2 has badly suffered from the fires in 2018. You may still see it depending on when you visit.

Port Elizabeth, the city itself, is in our opinion not a place where you want to spend the next 5 days of your holiday. But there are several nice places around the city, to make a base and centred enough to explore the surroundings.

Our suggestions on what to do in and around Port Elizabeth:

  • Build some sandcastles at the Nelson Mandela Beach
  • Have a delicious lunch at “Something Good” with a great play area and bike track for the kids
  • Visit the Boardwalk Entertainment area. The kids will love this place. Lots of restaurants, ice cream shops, fairground attractions and even a Casino.
  • Enjoy a self-drive game safari through the Addo Elephant Park. Top Tips on how to have a Successful Safari Game Drive with kids 
  • Self-Drive safari and overnight at the Kragga Kamma Game Park. This is a must! Yes, it is not the Krüger National Park, but believe me you will have an absolutely amazing time whilst self-driving through the park and spotting lots and lots of animals in a very short time.
Also in the area which you may be interested in (not visited by us this time)
  • Climb the Alexandria Sand Dunes in Colchester

South Africa :: Wildlife viewing with Kids

South Africa :: Wildlife viewing with Kids :: Addo Elephant park & Kragga Kamma

For a more detailed itinerary on this section read Part 3 here. 

Part 3 * 4 Days – South Africa with kids – Wild life encounter at the Eastern Cape Port Elizabeth

South Africa with kids

PART 3 :: 4 Days – South Africa with kids – Wild life encounter at the Eastern Cape Port Elizabeth

Day 15 to 20
Driving back to Cape Town for our 4th base, with an overnight stop at Mosselbay to break down the journey.

Driving time and distance to Mosselbay :: 370km / 4h along the N2 with a stop at Tsitsikama / Storm Rivers Mouth
Accommodation :: B&B The Cove Guesthouse
Driving time and distance from Mosselbay to Cape Town :: 370km / 4h along the N2 with a D-tour to Stony Point Penguin Reserve.
Accommodation :: Midrange Apartment at the Dolphin Beach Hotel

Stops on the way

This is the longest stretch of our road trip and to break it down we have decided Mosselbay is a good half way point and not too far from Storms River Mouth where we planned to stop and do the Suspension Bridge Hike.

South Africa :: Storms River Mouth Hike with kids :: Tsitsikama NP

South Africa :: Storms River Mouth Hike with kids :: Tsitsikama NP

On the 2nd part of the drive back to Cape Town we suggest to visit Stony Point Penguin Colony at Betties Bay. As you’re nearly passing it anyway it would be a shame not to stop.

South Africa :: Stony Point Penguin Colony at Betties Bay

South Africa :: Stony Point Penguin Colony at Betties Bay

Continue your drive along the scenic coastal route from Betties Bay to Gordons Bay. You will not be disappointed with his most amazing stretch of road. Simply stunning.

South Africa :: The Whale Drive between bettie's Bay and Gordons Bay

South Africa :: The Whale Drive between bettie’s Bay and Gordons Bay

Our suggestions on what to do in and around Cape Town

  • Make some Insta-pics in Bo-Kaap. The community known best for its coloured houses.
  • Enjoy the view and hike at Signal Hill. Great spot to also do a paragliding flight or simply just watch the pros taking off.
  • Ride the Revolving Cable car up to Table Mountain and spend the day up there
  • Watch the Kite surfers at Bloubergstrand or Dolphins Beach and enjoy the best view of Table Mountain
  • Visit the up-market area of Camps Bay with its large white sandy beach.
  • Go for a scenic drive along Chapmans Peak Drive
  • Swim at the family friendly  St.James Beach and pose in front of the coloured Beach Huts.
  • Savour the amazing ice cream at The Farm Village in Noordhoek, and let the kids enjoy the great play area.
  • Visit beautiful Hout Bay beach
  • Spend your departure day waiting for your evening flight at Bugz – family Amusement Park, and guarantee to have sleepy kids on the plane.

Also in the area which you may be interested in (not visited by us this time)

  • Hike up Lions Head for sunset if your kids are older and used to hiking. Otherwise skip it.
  • Stroll along the V&A Waterfront, where the city meets the sea.
  • Drive along to Cape Point
  • Wine tasting in Franshoek or Stellenbosch

South Africa :: Cape Town with kids

South Africa :: Cape Town with kids

For a more detailed itinerary on this section read Part 4 here. 

Part 4 * 5 Days – Cape Town with kids

5 Days - Cape Town with kids

PART 4 :: 5 Days – Cape Town with kids

Well that’s it. Are you ready to pack and visit South Africa with young kids ?

South Africa Tips & FAQ

Itineraries & Road Trips

If you like the read please do share it, thanks. Never forget to travel.

Hi, my name is Corina, a mum of twins, a wife and founder of Packed Again – a Family Travel & Adventure Blog. We live in the most amazing mountain valley in Switzerland, the Valais.

Being out there as a family, either locally or whilst travelling is super important for our whole well-being and sanity. It is outdoors where we feel the most connected and happy with each other.

The Blog will give you lots of information on Swiss Adventures and Beyond.

Take your kids and go out there. Do it once and you will not regret it!

Never forget to travel!
Thank you Corina

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Comments 11

  1. Hi Corina, this is such a comprehensive and well written post. Evenone traveling to South Africa with children (or without) must use it as reference. On our trip we only visited Cape Town and Kruger, and with your posts I’ve learnt that there is so much more, we should visit again for a month.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you so much Jyoti, and believe me there is even much more to discover. A few years back we drove back to cape along the inside road rather then along the N2 which I have not covered at all in this post.But also there are some nice places to stop and to discover.

  2. South Africa was the first international trip I ever took, and it made me fall in love with traveling. I would love to take my kids there when they’re a tiny bit older! Awesome write up.

    1. Post
      Author

      Dear Dani, Thank you so much for your comment. I am glad you like it. I guess once South Africa, it is hard to go elsewhere.

  3. That’s a brilliant, comprehensive itinerary and all a family would need to plan an awesome trip to South Africa. I lived in SA until I was 9 but have been wary of returning with my hubby and son because we left just as the troubles were starting. But I’ve read and heard great things about the Garden Route from Cape Town that I’m starting to think we might just need to go!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Cath
      oh yes you have to go back. It is all sad that the troubles are still ongoing, but honestly us as tourists have not felt it at all. It is only as we know locals and sometimes ask how it is that we are aware of the troubles. For us still an amazing country…

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Rebecca
      I am glad you like the itinerary. there are so many activities along the road that we could only feature some of them. Cool you liked the penguins..

  4. Thank you for sharing this awesome itinerary! I did a similar tour two years ago. And even though I didn’t travel with any kids, I was jsut as fascinated seeing the penguins as the little visitors there 🙂 South Africa is such an amazing country!

  5. I have young kids and therefore your guide for South Africa is very helpful to me. Whale watching and watching penguins in their colony at Bettie’s Bay is an interesting thing to do here.

  6. Thanks for so detailed guide! It’s helpful for everyone planning a trip to South Africa, no matter with kids or solo. So many amazing places to see and to try <3 Definitely a must destination for all nature lovers.

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