- Play pirate off the coast of Cape Town on the Jolly Roger
- Zip over ravines at Cape Canopy Tour Adventure Park
- Dive in to a caged great white shark experience
- Sip milkshakes along Route 62
- Safari at the Shamwari Game Reserve
|Day 1||Arrive in Cape Town, Family Time on the Beach||Cape Town|
|Day 2||Mountain Peaks & Pirate Ships||Cape Town|
|Day 3||Peninsula Day: Cape Point, Penguins, & Playgrounds||Cape Town|
|Day 4||Family Fun in Franschhoek||Elgin|
|Day 5||Elgin Adventures: Zip Lining, Vineyards Maze, & Beach Zorb-balls||Elgin|
|Day 6||Marine Big 5 Meander, Village Stroll, & River Cruise||Stanford|
|Day 7||Big Cats & Big Milkshakes: Stanford to Oudtshoorn||Oudtshoorn|
|Day 8||Oudtshoorn: Ostriches, Biking, and the Cango Caves||Oudtshoorn|
|Day 9||Meerkat Morning, Sandboarding & Strawberries, Ocean & Oysters||Knysna|
|Day 10||Garden Route: Waterways & Wildlife||Knysna|
|Day 11||Arrive at Shamwari Game Reserve||Eastern Cape Game Reserve|
|Day 12||On Safari at Shamwari Game Reserve||Eastern Cape Game Reserve|
|Day 13||Transfer to Cape Town or Johannesburg via Port Elizabeth, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town, Family Time on the Beach
Welcome to South Africa! Arrive at Cape Town International Airport and transfer to your accommodation to unpack and unwind. After you settle in, spend the rest of your day exploring the city.
Known as the 'Rainbow Nation,' Cape Town and South Africa have a long and complicated history involving a multitude of ethnic and cultural groups. The area's history starts with the indigenous Khoisan and Bantu people, who were the primary residents of the area until the Portuguese and Dutch arrived in South Africa, beginning a centuries-long occupation.
These days, South Africa is home to a diverse population. Roughly 80% of South Africans are of Bantu ancestry from a variety of ethnic groups, each with a distinct language. The remainder of the community is made up primarily of European, Asian (Indian, Chinese, and others from the formerly enslaved and indentured population), and mixed-race (Cape Coloured) ancestry.
After checking in to your accommodation, spend the afternoon relaxing, taking in the views, and exploring the town. Shop for art and crafts at the expansive Watershed Market, visit the Two Oceans Aquarium to explore underwater life, or enjoy a harbor cruise as you watch the sunset. Other options include the Diamond Museum, which explores the history of the diamond rush in South Africa, or a helicopter flight to see Cape Town's sights from the sky.
In the evening make your way to one of the family-friendly beach bars to enjoy your first sunset. Let the kids swim in the centrally-located pool or beachfront, then dig into gourmet pizzas and giant milkshakes.
Day 2: Mountain Peaks & Pirate Ships
In the morning, head out to for a hike on the 'Mother of all Mountains': iconic Table Mountain. A popular choice is to hike up (a four-hour medium fitness hike with a few steep sections), then take the cable car down after taking in the views from the top.
Keep in mind that hiking to the top might not be suitable for younger children. Give little legs a rest with a cable car ride up and down the steep slopes. Strong winds and rain can make the hike more challenging, so be sure to check if "mother" is "setting the table" before you go—the local phrase for the blanket of white clouds that occasionally engulfs the top.
If time and energy levels allow, head to nearby Lionshead to enjoy views of the entire Cape Town landscape below you. Break for lunch at the restaurant at the top of Table Mountain, or bring a packed picnic lunch with you to Lionshead. The V&A Waterfront, located just a few minutes from the mountain base, offers a variety of cafes and restaurants.
In the afternoon take to the seas in the Jolly Roger pirate ship, an authentic replica of the real thing. The young and young-at-heart will love seeing Cape Town and Table Mountain from the water on the hourlong sail around the bay. Return to the waterfront in time for a sunset ride on the Cape Wheel ferris wheel. Other afternoon activities include the Planetarium and Science Center.
Day 3: Peninsula Day: Cape Point, Penguins, & Playgrounds
As the saying goes, "the early bird gets the worm"—or in this case, the penguin. Get an early start for the best views of Cape Point, an hour south of Cape Town on the Cape Peninsula. Here, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, creating a unique ecosystem where flora and fauna flourish. Fynbos, baboons, Cape mountain zebra, ostriches, eland, and sugarbirds all reside here.
Bring a snack to share on the rocks next to the lighthouse, then head to Simon's Town (half-hour to the north) for a seafood lunch with a view.
In the afternoon, head to the nearby Boulders Beach to explore the African penguin sanctuary from the comfort of elevated platforms. To see the charismatic birds up close, rent a sea kayak and bob on the waves as you watch the penguins dive deep for the catch of the day.
Other afternoon activities include visiting the Kommetjie Imhoff Village farm animals, playing a round of paintball, going for a horseback ride along the beach, or enjoying a coastal train ride from Simon's Town to Muizenberg.
Afterward, take in views from the Cape Point Vineyards with a glass of wine for the adults and a gourmet picnic dinner for the whole family.
Spend the evening strolling through the Noordhoek Village Market. Adults will love shopping for crafts and foodie delights, and kids will love the nearby playground. As the sun sets, finish your day with a drive along Chapmans Peak Drive on your return trip to Cape Town.
Day 4: Family Fun in Franschhoek
Leave the city behind today as you drive out of Cape Town into the Winelands countryside. The drive to Franschhoek ("French Corner" in Dutch) takes 1.5 hours, winding through rolling vineyards and orchards as you near your destination.
Your first stop today is the Babylonstroen Winelands and Gardens, one of the oldest examples of a Cape Dutch farm. Join a garden tour to learn about the techniques that have transformed this restored property into a botanical masterpiece. Kids and adults are encouraged to touch, taste, smell, and fully experience the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that flourish in the garden beds.
From here continue to Boschendal, South Africa's second-oldest wine farm. After a period of neglect, the farm is bursting at the seams with new life and biodiversity. Grass-fed cattle, forest-fed pigs, and free-range chickens graze among the fruit trees. Alongside the farm, over 600 species of fynbos and protected nature reserve thrive. Send the kids off for a free-range afternoon at the new educational play center, with farm learning experiences for kids ages 4-14. While the kids play, sneak off for a glass (or three) of award-winning wine at the cellar.
For added fun throughout the day, take the Wine Tram between wineries. Although the region is famed for wine, there's plenty of options to keep the whole family entertained. Learn to make chocolate at the Hugenouts Chocolate Shop or spend the afternoon at the Franschhoek Motor Museum.
In the afternoon head up the Franschhoek Pass towards the cooler climate of the Elgin Valley. Nestled between surrounding mountain peaks and streams at the top of the Hottentots Mountain Range, the valley is rich in vineyards and fruit orchards. Continue to spend the night in Elgin, roughly a 40-minute drive away.
Day 5: Elgin Adventures: Zip Lining, Vineyards Maze, & Beach Zorb-balls
Enjoy a relaxing breakfast with the family, then head out to explore the adventurous side of the Elgin Valley. Start the day with a zip line ride at the Cape Canopy Tour Adventure Park. Zip from peak to peak as you soar above the steep ravine on a series of crisscrossing zip lines. This five-hour activity is suitable for children over the age of six.
After an adrenaline-filled morning, enjoy a luxurious lunch at one of the Elgin Valley's many restaurants. Stop at the family-run and family-friendly Southhill Vineyards for hearty country tapas, then let the kids run around in the Southern Hemisphere's largest vineyard maze.
After lunch head to the mountaintop lake beach at the Old Mac Daddy for an afternoon of fun in the sun. Go paddleboarding on the lake, channel your inner hampster in a zorb ball, or go on a tractor ride around the property. If the evening is chilly, cozy up by the fire with a glass of wine. Stay onsite for dinner at The Barn, then turn in for the night.
Day 6: Marine Big 5 Meander, Village Stroll, & River Cruise
Spend the day exploring the coast and getting up close with marine wildlife. Start the morning with a two-hour drive south along the coast to the town of Gansbaai.
Here, you'll launch for the adventure of a lifetime: a dive in the water with South Africa's sharks. Adults and older kids can come nose-to-nose with the incredible animals from the safety of a reinforced cage. If you would rather stay on board, you can hang out with the younger children as you watch from the boat.
In addition to the sharks, other members of the "Marine Big 5"—whales, dolphins, seals, and penguins—live in these waters. Look for migrating whales during the winter months, and make sure to visit the penguin sanctuary after you return to shore.
Stop for lunch in town, then continue to the Klein River for an evening cruise on the water aboard the Lady Stanford. Snacks and drinks will be available onboard as you travel to the Hermanus Estuary and back. If you would rather spend the evening in town, there's no shortage of small art boutiques, craft stores, bakeries, and cheese stores to explore.
Spend the night in the town of Stanford.
Day 7: Big Cats & Big Milkshakes: Stanford to Oudtshoorn
Get an early start this morning for your half-day adventure at the Panthera Big Cat Sanctuary, which is located just outside of Stanford. The sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing big cats and educating visitors on the realities that big cats face in captivity. As a true sanctuary, no cub petting, breeding, or trading takes place here. Instead, they aim to reach people through tours of the rescue, one-on-one conversations with the staff, and educational programs for the kids.
The sanctuary has a variety of tour options. Join the standard tour to see the leopards, lions, cheetahs, and others as you learn about their histories and how they came to live at the rescue. For a kid-friendly option, opt for the children's tour—a similar experience that focuses on stories and touches on the big cat industry but omits most of the adult topics from the regular program. Kids will love the enrichment tour, where they'll work with a Panthera animal keeper to make a small handmade toy for the cats. After, watch the animals play with the toys you made.
Depart the sanctuary around lunchtime and hit the road for the drive to Oudtshoorn. You drive today takes you along the iconic Route 62, which takes its inspiration from America's Route 66. Grab a snack, but don't fill up—you'll want to be hungry for your lunchtime destination, Diesel and Creme. The vintage diner and motel is a two-hour drive from the cat sanctuary in the town of Barrydale. Feast on a gourmet milkshake and burger, then continue to your Karoo accommodation in the land of "go slow."
Day 8: Oudtshoorn: Ostriches, Biking, and the Cango Caves
Enjoy a slow start to the day in Oudtshoorn, known as the "ostrich capital of the world." The relaxed town relies primarily on ostrich farming for its economy, with plenty of farms offering tours to meet and interact with the birds. Just be sure to look and not touch, and avoid any offers to ride the ostriches—although the popular tourist attraction may seem appealing, it ranks high on the animal cruelty spectrum.
After spending the morning coming face-to-beak with the ostriches, hit the trail to explore Karoo's landscapes. The area's arid climate and cloudless skies make it the perfect place to explore by mountain bike. Rent bikes for the whole family, then spend a few hours cycling around.
If you prefer a slower-paced morning, opt for a hot air balloon ride over the Oudtshoorn region instead.
After a full morning, reward yourselves with a wagyu beef burger and twice-fried potato wedges at the Marbled Wagyu in the countryside oasis of the De Kombys Winery. After lunch, parents can enjoy a wine and olive tasting while the kids explore the vineyards.
Nearby lie the Cango Caves, an extensive underground system of tunnels and rooms. Spend the afternoon exploring the underground limestone chambers with one of two guided tour options. Choose the Heritage Tour to check out the cave's stalactite and stalagmite formations, as well as remnants of Khoikhoi paintings. If you're up for a thrill, take the Adventure Tour instead, which navigates a series of tight squeezes and narrow limestone chimneys.
Day 9: Meerkat Morning, Sandboarding & Strawberries, Ocean & Oysters
Start your day before daybreak today at a game reserve for a meerkat encounter. This is an optional activity, particularly for those who aren't early risers. Those who choose to wake up early, however, are rewarded with up-close interactions with the local meerkats.
This tour is dependent on fair weather, as the little creatures will not venture outside the burrow on cold and rainy days. Watch the sunrise as you quietly observe the meerkats going about their morning meerkat business. Together with the bat-eared fox, aardvark, porcupine, and aardwolf, meerkats are part of the "Shy 5," a group of hard-to-spot animals.
Eat breakfast in the bush as you watch the meerkats meander about, then head to the coast for your next stop of the day. Drive an hour to the town of Mossel Bay, home of the largest sand dune in South Africa. Rent a sandboard or opt for a private lesson for hands-on attention for the whole family.
Once you've mastered the lessons, spend a few hours cruising down sandy slopes. Smaller kids can sit on the board with mom or dad, but give them a chance to spread their wings and you'll be surprised at how easily they take to sand surfing (and beating you in all the races).
Go from dunes to farmlands as you travel half an hour to a local strawberry farm for lunch. Kids can pick their own strawberries, test their navigation in a hedge maze, and bike around the farm.
With full bellies drive the remaining hour to the seaside town of Knysna, famous for their annual oyster festival. Settle into your accommodation and go for a stroll along the beach before sitting down at one of the many seafood and oyster restaurants on Thesen Island.
Other options today include an archaeology tour in Mossel Bay, paddleboarding and hiking in Knysna, or a sunset yacht cruise along the coast.
Day 10: Garden Route: Waterways & Wildlife
In the morning, head into the thick forests that gave the Garden Route its name. You'll spend the morning adventuring in the Tsisitakama Forest which lines the Garden Route from the Western to the Eastern Cape. The best way to see the area is from the water, so get ready to get a bit wet as you venture onto the Stormsriver Gorge. Take a kayak or lilo (inflatable water mattress for easy floating) to explore the rivers, lagoons, mountains, and wildlife along the river.
Afterward, head upland to the Stormsriver Suspension Bridge for a scenic stroll. Work up an appetite, then visit the Fynboshoek ("Fine Bush Corner") Cheese Farm to see the old-school farm, meet the flock of sheep, and fill up on award-winning cheese samples.
Next, it's on to the Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (a 40-minute drive from Knysna) for an afternoon of education. The center rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, with an emphasis on educating the younger generation about conservation and ecology. Join the EcoKidz Challenge, which focuses on challenging the kids' minds to develop an awareness of the natural world. Private tours are also available.
Other options for the day include a horse-drawn cart tour of the Plett Winelands and a Plettenberg Beach walk.
Day 11: Arrive at Shamwari Game Reserve
After breakfast by the beach, drive three hours to Shamwari Game Reserve, a luxury reserve in the Eastern Cape. Here, the Big 5 (and many others) roam the open landscape freely. You can choose to stay at one of the reserve's seven lodges or the explorer camp.
Enjoy game drives, birding, walking safaris, and more. Register the kids for the Kids on Safari Adventure and let them explore the landscape on a series of kid-friendly activities. For kids younger than four, on-site child-care service is available.
Check-in and settle into your accommodation, then head out for an evening game drive before sitting down to a traditional African-style boma dinner. Fall asleep to the nighttime sounds of the bush.
Day 12: On Safari at Shamwari Game Reserve
Spend your time at Shamwari Game Reserve enjoying nature with the family. Activities include:
- Visit the Born Free Foundation Big Cat Rescue Center to learn about big cat conservation and educate the kids about protecting nature and approaching animals with compassion
- Let the kids go wild at the Adventure Center, then cool off at the swimming pool. Other kid-friendly activities include the climbing wall, zipline, treehouse suspension walkway, and adventure slides. Children under four are not permitted on the safari drives, but childcare is available on-site
- Enjoy sunrise and sunset game drives to spot local wildlife, including lions, elephants, giraffe, and leopards
- Take a walk on the wild side on a bushwalk. Follow a guide through the dense brush as you learn about animal tracking, bush survival, and medicinal plants. You may see a herd of wild buffalo, but look out for the tiny oxpeckers on their backs—their presence in the park indicates a truly healthy ecosystem.
For a fully immersive safari experience, stay at the Explorer Camp where the focus is on bush walks rather than game drives
Day 13: Transfer to Cape Town or Johannesburg via Port Elizabeth, Depart
Transfer to Port Elizabeth, then catch a flight to Johannesburg or Cape Town for your connecting flight home.