South Africa: adventure and fun for everyone at any age
‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ certainly came to mind when planning our February half term holiday with our six and three-year-old kids. Our maiden voyage to South Africa last summer was such a huge success we felt we just had to go back to explore this wonderful ‘world in one country’ some more.
As before, we started with a few days in Cape Town staying in the same apartment in Camps Bay. This area suits us really well; it’s close to a beach but within walking distance of some great restaurants. It is also conveniently placed for getting to central Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula and into the Winelands.
Not one to hang around, Olly set off at 5am on our first morning and repeated his hike up Table Mountain, climbing the India Venster route with Hike Table Mountain. The route follows the cable car, with a fair bit of scrambling (but not requiring ropes) before traversing to the back of the table top to summit. There are great views of the city and Lions Head as the sun rises, and then of Camps Bay and 12 Apostles in latter part of the climb. It isn’t a busy route (like Platterklip Gorge) with mostly locals rather than tourists, so for those who don’t mind a scramble it is perhaps better than the ‘stair climber’ that most do.
The kids and I arrived at the cable car just before 8am and queued for about half an hour before getting onto the second car of the day. By the time we were back at the bottom (around 10.30am) the queue was very long so I would advise getting there early, and by taxi so you avoid the long walk from the car park.
We had a great day on the Cape Peninsula – we did the penguins last year but didn’t get as far as Cape Point. We walked to the old lighthouse and although it is just under a kilometre it is a steep path and certainly gets the heart racing. The kids managed fine though and there are viewpoints along the way. Many turn back at the lighthouse but we carried on down a narrow path along a sheer cliff-face to the new lighthouse where there are fabulous views back along the cape. Although it is not geographically Africa’s most southerly point (that’s Cape Agulhas), it certainly felt like it was. On our way home we took in Scarborough, a coastal town beloved by kite surfers. We had a delicious meal at Camel Rock with pizza cooked in the quirky camel-style pizza oven.
Cape Town is famous for its restaurants and we certainly enjoyed our fair share. We weren’t able to sample some of the delights of the top culinary restaurants with children in tow but we did eat extremely well. The Lawns at the Roundhouse overlooking Camps Bay is still one of our favourite places to hang out and we had a fabulous evening there. The kids ran wild with new friends and we ate delicious burgers and drank rose wine whilst watching the sun go down. Surf Shack in Camps Bay was a new find and where we had some yummy ‘share-ables’.
We went for breakfast one morning in Constantia, before exploring the Kirstenbosch Gardens, and ate at Chardonnay Deli which was a delight. A farm style deli with a fantastic shop selling homemade produce – good for tasty nibbles to bring home.
From Cape Town we made our way to the Winelands where our second visit to Boschendal was just as magical as our first. Our three days were spent in a happy daze soaking up the sunshine, enjoying delicious food and sampling fabulous wines. The children made friends at The Treehouse kids club where they went on nature walks and had fun being creative, making signs for the chicken run and posters for an upcoming full-moon picnic. When we went to pick them up, they were enjoying a David Attenborough documentary. It was a struggle to persuade them to come back to our cottage for a braai.
We spent a wonderful afternoon at Rhodes Dam where we ate one of Boschendal’s famous picnics before diving into the dam to cool off – we had the whole place to ourselves, bar some farm staff working in the vines nearby. It was magical.
I just cannot express how wonderful this place is for families and when we go back (it’s already on the list) we’ll have to try the new tented camp.
Something new this year was going to the carnivore evening at Babylonstoren. It was so entertaining – everyone sits together on long tables, entertained by the hilarious waiters who dance and sing around you whilst serving course after course of prime cut meat from the estate’s herd of Chianina cattle.
We ended our time in the Winelands with a night at Grande Provence, a boutique guesthouse on the edge of Franschhoek, where Olly and I had a wonderful evening in the fabulous restaurant. The food was outstanding and in such a beautiful setting in a courtyard amongst trees lit by fairy lights. The children were kept entertained by a lovely babysitter back in our villa and George took a particular fancy to her security walkie talkie!
Our final two days were spent on the coast at De Hoop Nature Reserve. The drive from Franschhoek, over the Franschhoek Pass, down into fruit farm territory and onto the coast, was stunning. Even the last 30 miles on bumpy, dusty dirt roads was an adventure.
We stayed in a self-catering cottage run by the De Hoop Collection and although we only had one full day, we certainly packed it in.
Straight after breakfast we set off to the beach where I reverted back to my teenage self, running and jumping amongst the dunes – the kids were in their element. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a glorious coastline before; tall, soft white dunes running down to a rock pool strewn beach, incredible blue water, and very few people around to spoil the serenity.
After a quick lunch at the Fig Restaurant and a dip in the pool, we were taken out on a nature drive giving the kids their first taste of safari. They spotted the Cape 5 – ostrich, baboon, mountain zebra, bontebok and tortoise. And like all good safari experiences, it was finished off with a sundowner! The perfect end to our last day in South Africa.
I hadn’t been sure what to expect at De Hoop but loved the wildlife and stunning scenery. It was a great spot to end our trip and highly recommended either as a stop off on a self-drive down the Garden Route or to combine with the Winelands.
En-route back to Cape Town we stopped at The Spier Farm which, just 20 minutes from the airport, is a perfect place to spend the day before jumping on the plane home. The grounds are lovely and as well as another delicious picnic we went to Eagle Encounters which the children loved, they were particularly amused by the owl which perched on my head (it was a meerkat in Botswana last year!)
Have we ticked Cape Town and its surrounds off our list? Oh no – not only will we be back to explore more; we are sure to revisit some areas that have become very special to us all.
If this has inspired you to think about a family holiday in South Africa, please do get in touch – we would be delighted to chat, no matter how early in the decision making process you might be. Email is probably the best way to contact us right now and we’ll respond as quickly as we can – usually on the same day. We very much look forward to talking to you.