The Garden Route has become a hive of activity in recent years. This article on Top 20 things to do with children on the Garden Route is not designed to be an exhaustive list for families but rather a collection of our favourite activities, walks, beaches & fun adventures that have appealed most to my family over the years. Some of the activities may be best suited to older children. (This minimum age was correct at the time of writing this article. However please ring to double check age restrictions to avoid disappointment.)

Things to do with kids on Garden Route

I have divided my top 20 things to do with children on the Garden Route into the following categories:

  • Attractions and Activities (5)
  • Boats (2)
  • Adventure (3)
  • Easy walks (3)
  • Beaches (2)
  • Little Karoo (3)
  • Rainy Days (2)

Attractions and Activities

1) Featherbed Nature Reserve, Knysna

Suitable for all ages

The Featherbed Nature Reserve excursion offers you a little taste of everything and so is great for families with a boat cruise, tractor ride, short walk and great views. From Knysna, you take a 20 minute boat cruise across Knysna Lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. From the jetty, you are taken by tractor up to the top of the reserve and from there you enjoy a 2.2 km guided walk down through the reserve back to the lagoon. We recommend the 4 hour lunchtime trip which includes a delicious buffet lunch on arrival at the reserve.

Otherwise there are usually two 3 hour excursions depending on time of year. The walk is not long but because it is through the forest, it is NOT suitable for toddlers carried in backpacks. Booking is essential with the Featherbed Boat Company on 044 382 1693 or www.featherbed.co.za. We can pre-book this tour for you at no extra cost.

At the time of publication the price was R450 per adult (R105 for children 4-15) for the Eco Experience and R635 per adult (R175 for children 4-15) if it includes the buffet lunch.

2) Birds of Eden, near Plettenberg Bay

Suitable for all ages

Birds of Eden is situated next to Monkeyland and is a giant aviary set in the forest – in fact the largest aviary in the world. My family enjoys the Birds of Eden more than Monkeyland as you are not guided and so are free to explore at your own pace. The aviary incorporates the indigenous forest and waterfalls by using elevated walkways. I recommend the small bird identification book on sale at the entrance as this increases your kids’ enjoyment ten-fold as the kids race to identify as many birds as possible. Allow at least one hour and preferably more. There’s a restaurant at the end of the aviary and a shop.

Next door is Monkeyland which younger children may enjoy. Entry to Monkeyland is free, yet this only entitles you to spend time on the forest deck, which also doubles as a restaurant.  You may not access the Monkeyland forest without a guide and guided tours are charged. However personally we find it too contrived and touristy.

At the time of publication price was R230 per adult and R115 per child.  Children under the age of 3 are free. These prices are a day rate per sanctuary (Birds of Eden / Monkeyland / Jukani). Combo tickets (2 sanctuaries) or Triptic tickets (all 3 sanctuaries) are also available and will be cheaper than buying the tickets separately. No pre-booking is required, but you can contact them on 082 979 5683 / 044 534 8906 or get more info at www.birdsofeden.co.za

Directions:
From Plettenberg Bay, travel 16 km east on the N2 and take the signpost for Kurland Village (just before the Natures Valley turnoff) and follow the signs to Monkeyland/Brds of Eden.

3) Puzzle Park, near Plettenberg Bay

Suitable for all ages, but especially older children

Perhaps a surprising choice as it’s a man-made excursion but my family really enjoys it! It comprises two different puzzles – a large wooden maze and a series of puzzle challenges in the forest. What I liked was that it wasn’t too easy so parents can enjoy it as well.

The challenge in the wooden maze is to find your way to all four corners of the maze (to the towers) where you collect a clue. With your four clues you solve a riddle. It is quite difficult so that overall it takes 45 to 60 minutes to complete but there’s a lady on hand to give you helpful tips if needed. (There are also emergency exits if you need to go to the loo half way through!) It is not shaded so take a bottle of water and wear a hat.

The forest puzzle walk was even more fun. There are ten puzzles along the route – word, shapes and general knowledge which test your creative and strategic abilities. Parents will definitely have to help, though older children from 10 upwards will be able to do many of the puzzles themselves. Allow 45 to 60 minutes to complete the route.

On the way back to the gift shop and tea garden, there are some more (optional) word puzzles to solve. Great fun and a great alternative to another day on the beach if the weather’s not completely playing along.

At the time of publication price was R90 per adult and R75 per child for the maze. The same price applies for the Forest puzzle walk. Combo tickets at R165 per adult and R140 per child is also available if you want to do both.

Directions:
Take the N2 from Plettenberg Bay Drive over the Keurbooms River, past the signs to Keurbooms beach and up the hill. Plett Puzzle Park can be found on the right hand side after the cell phone tower. Telephone: 044 534 8853 or www.plettpuzzlepark.co.za

4) The Elephant Sanctuary, near Plettenberg Bay

Suitable for five years upwards

The Elephant Sanctuary is also close to Monkeyland. A variety of tours teach you about the elephants, as well as opportunities to walk with the elephants in the forest, brush down the elephants and even take an elephant ride. This is fascinating as it’s a very hands-on experience. I have said suitable for five years but only older kids can ride on an elephant. It is certainly open to everyone. Booking is essential on 044 534 8145 or www.elephantsanctuary.co.za. We can also pre-book this tour for you at no extra cost.

At the time of publication prices varied from R580 – R1155 per adult and R275 – R705 per child (4-14 years) for the different tours.

Directions:
From Plettenberg Bay, travel 16 km east on the N2 and take the signpost for Kurland Village (just before the Natures Valley turnoff). Follow the signs to the Elephant Sanctuary.

5) Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre, near Plettenberg Bay

Suitable for all ages

The Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre gives children an opportunity to see many different African wild cats in a natural environment and their tours help to fund their rehabilitation centre. You can interact with cheetahs as well as seldom-seen smaller wild cats and learn about their struggle for survival in the wild. There is a one hour guided tour every half hour from 9am to 4.30pm. You can also join the Tenikwa cheetahs on their daily walks through the indigenous forest and fynbos. This is offered at 7.30am and 3.30pm and is combined with the one hour tour (3 hours total length). Booking is essential for the sunrise and sunset cheetah walk on 044 534 8170 or www.tenikwa.com, but not necessary for the guided tour.

At the time of publication prices varied from R230 – R890 per adult and R120 – R150 per child for the different tours. Specialist day tours (at a much higher price tag) are also on offer, and needs to be pre-booked.

Directions:
From Plettenberg Bay, travel 16 km east on the N2 and take the signpost for Kurland Village (just before the Natures Valley turnoff). Follow the signs to the Tenikwa.

Boat Excursions

Whale watching ocean safari from Plettenberg Bay

6) Ocean Safaris, Plettenberg Bay

Suitable for all ages – preferably over 6 years

Ocean Blue Adventures offers close and personal awe-inspiring encounters with the fascinating majestic whales in the bay (in season from July to November with peak season being August to October). It is the original South African company to conduct conservation-orientated boat based whale-watching and dolphin marine eco-tours. Their close encounter permit allows you to experience wild marine mammal viewing. As well as whale and dolphin-watching, you experience the many other wonders of the bay: pelagic birds, seals, sharks, history, geology and lots more.

The boat cruise lasts approx 2 hours and you can choose between an eco marine tour (where boats must stay at least 300 metres from the whales) and a close encounter tour (where the boats are allowed to come within 50 metres of the whales). The cruise circles Plettenberg Bay and around to Robberg Nature Reserve. Dolphins and seals are also often spotted on these trips.

Departures vary according to season so it’s vital to book beforehand on 044 533 5083 or 083 7013583 or www.oceanadventures.co.za

At the time of publication prices varied from R500 – R750 per adult and R250 – R400 per child for the different tours.

7) Yachting on Knysna Lagoon

Suitable for all ages – preferably over 6 years

This is a truly unique experience to be sailing on a 50 foot luxury yacht. Spring Tide Yacht Charters offers the ultimate Indian Ocean sailing experience with the unique opportunity to sail through the famous Knysna Heads on their Outeniqua yacht. We really enjoyed our afternoon on the boat and were able to sail out of the Heads seeing dolphins and three Great White Whales out in the ocean. Daily departures are from 34° South in the Knysna Quays. Choose between a 2 hour morning or early afternoon cruise or a sunset cruise (2½ hours with snacks and champagne). Booking is essential on 082 470 6022 or www.springtide.co.za

At the time of publication prices varied from R670 – R1200 per person for the different tours.

Adventure Activities

8) Treetop Canopy Trail, Storms River Village

Suitable for older children over 9 years

The Tsitsikamma Treetop Canopy tour is ideal for families with older children (though they allow children from 7 years and upwards). Enjoy the unequalled beauty of the indigenous Tsitsikamma forest from high up on ten treetop platforms. Gently glide along in a harness on steel cables 30 metres above the forest floor from one platform to another. Birdlife is abundant (including the Knysna Loerie and elusive Narina Trogan) and your guides will explain the ecology of the lush primeval forest.

Safety is paramount and the system has been built to the highest civil engineering standards. I did this adventure tour with my 7 year old and 10 year old. My 7 year old was a little scared at first and so he did it in tandem with the guide on the first few zip lines, before plucking up courage to do it on his own later on. It is very safe but certainly not for the faint-hearted. The tour takes approx 3½ hours including a snack at the end. Booking is essential on 042 281 1836 or www.canopytour.co.za

At the time of publication the price was R595 per person.

Directions:
Storms River Village in on the N2 highway about 45mins drive from Plettenberg Bay in the direction of Port Elizabeth.

9) Cango Caves Adventure Tour, Little Karoo

Suitable for all ages over 6 years

The Cango Caves in the Little Karoo are some of the largest limestone caverns in the world and are still only partially explored. We much prefer the Adventure Tour to the more ‘touristy’ standard route. This tour takes longer – 1½ hours – and includes the highlights of the main tour. This is suitable for older children (youngest age is 6 years) and people who are not claustrophobic, quite fit and not very overweight.

You squeeze through little passages, crouch down a lot and right at the end there is an optional clambering section which leads to the famous ‘post box’ where you lie flat on the rock and post yourself through a narrow slit. I would say that this is a half way house between a standard walking tour and caving. My family love it! My youngest son did it when he was six and was a little timid at first but got into it. Only go with young children if they are adventurous types and NOT claustrophobic.

Due to a recent increase in visitors, it is essential to book either tour in advance. Telephone: 044 272 7410 or www.cango-caves.co.za

At the time of publication prices varied from R110 – R165 per adult and R65 – R100 per child for the different tours.

10) Adventureland

Suitable for all ages

I was in two minds about putting this in as it could be anywhere in the world but my kids love it and there’s nothing nicer than playing around in water on a hot summer’s day. It is a series of water slides ranging from very gentle to downright scary which children and fun-loving adults will enjoy. There’s also a small play park for younger children and a guided quad bike trail through the forest (for a separate cost). The plus point for parents is that it is not so expensive that you feel you have to spend the whole afternoon there to get your money’s worth. Depending on the age of your children, you can take a good book and lie on the grass whilst the kids amuse themselves. Telephone 044 532 7869 or www.adventurelandplett.co.za

At the time of publication entry to the Water park costs R135 per person.

Directions:
Signposted off the N2 highway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay approx 15km from Plettenberg.

 

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Easy Walks

Things to do with kids on Garden Route

11) Tsitsikamma Storms River suspension bridge, Tsitsikamma National Park

Suitable for all ages, ideally 4 or 5 years

This popular trail in the Tsitsikamma National Park has been completely rebuilt recently. From the information centre you take the boardwalk through the dry coastal forest leading to the mouth of Storms River. Bounded by sheer cliffs, the river mouth is crossed by a dramatic suspension bridge across the river as well as two new suspension bridges built in 2009. The route is 1km in each direction but it does have quite a few steps. So young children either need to be very young to go in a backpack or old enough to manage it on their own without needing to be carried half way through! Allow 40-60 minutes depending on how many photos you want to take! There’s a nice restaurant for lunch here.

Extension to Lookout Point:
A short but very steep climb on the other side of the river takes you up to a point on the bluff where you are rewarded with fine views of the river mouth and over the coastline.
(Allow an extra 45 minutes)

At the time of publication the daily conservation fees for the Tsitsikamma National Park was R196 per adult and R98 per child.

Directions:
Turn off the N2 at the sign for the Tsitsikamma National Coastal Park which is approx 40 mins drive from Plettenberg Bay in the direction of Port Elizabeth. Another 5 mins will bring you to the rest camp info centre and the start of the walk.

12) Jubilee Creek Walk Picnic Site near Knysna

Suitable for all ages, ideally 4 or 5 years upwards

Jubilee creek walk is a pleasant and easy forest walk for children which is more or less flat. Goudveld (gold country) is a large area of indigenous forest behind Knysna and was once the setting for a frantic gold rush, hence the name. This is a gentle walk 1.8km through Goudveld natural forest and back again (3½km in total). The Jubilee Creek picnic site at the beginning is also a beautiful spot. The trail follows a section of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail alongside a tranquil stream. This walk can be easily combined with a visit to the old Millwood mine. The turning point of the walk is a pool and waterfall. The pool is relatively shallow but still deep enough for a cooling swim on a hot day so take your swimming gear and a towel. This is a SANParks area, so you will pay a nominal entrance fee.

Directions:
Take the Rheenendal turnoff and drive for 13km. The turnoff to the Goudveld Forest station is on the right hand side. The entrance (small fee) is 2.3km up this road and the turnoff for Jubilee Creek picnic site is another 5.1km further on.

Afterwards you may like to also visit the nearby Milkwood mine where you can take a guided tour down the old Bendigo Gold Mine shaft or have some refreshments at the tea garden and see the small museum about the gold mine.

13) Robberg Nature Reserve, Plettenberg Bay

Short walk – Suitable for all ages
Longer walk – Either very young (in backpack) or at least 6 years upwards

A walk in Robberg Nature Reserve near Plettenberg Bay offers spectacular coastal scenery where seals, whales and dolphins can sometimes be spotted in the sea. Visit the Information centre before you set out. You can opt to do the short walk to the Gap (30 mins) or the half peninsula walk (2-2½ hours)

The Gap Walk
Take the path signposted ‘The Gap’ and ‘The Point’ to the left of the Information centre. The path drops down through the fynbos and then follows the cliff line to The Gap. From the Gap you can either take the path to the point or down onto Die Eiland beach.

The Half Peninsula Walk (5km, 2 hours+)
Take the path to the point which climbs the rocky slope with one section offering a sheer drop down from the path. On top of the ridge there is a belt of drift sand. Turn off the main path (which continues around the whole of the peninsula) to take the shorter half peninsula route down the sandy gully which goes off to the right. This bisects the peninsula and cuts through to the sandy spit which links Die Eiland and the peninsula. On the other side of the sand spit, the trail crosses the rocks below Guanogat, a large overhang cave. This section can be slippery if the rocks are wet or after a high tide. The trail then leads steeply up the rocks to The Gap and then onto the plateau via some steps.

Note: The half peninsula walk is not for those who suffer from vertigo or people who are not reasonably sure-footed. We advise not to do this walk at High Tide as the rocks will be slippery.

Permits for these walks may be purchased at the information centre or through CapeNature Central reservations at 021 483 0000 or www.capenature.co.za. At the time of publication permit prices were R40 per adult and R20 per child.

Directions:
From the centre of Plettenberg Bay take the road past the Beacon Isle towards the airfield. The road to Robberg branches off this road to the left. It is 7.4km from the town to the gate of the reserve. Another 500m brings you to the parking area and information centre.

Beaches

The Garden Route has many, many stunning beaches but many of the beaches on the Garden Route are NOT suitable for swimming as the current is extremely strong along parts of the coast. If in doubt about a beach, please consult your hotel/guesthouse.

Things to do with kids on Garden Route

14) Plettenberg Bay – Central Beach & Look Out Beach

Plettenberg Bay has a choice of beaches – Robberg, Central and Look Out. The most famous of these, Look Out beach, has been dramatically reduced in size after the epic floods of 2007. Central Beach offers long stretches of white sand and warm waters perfect for swimming. The water is calmest on central beach making it ideal for families with younger children.

15) Keurbooms Strand beach

The holiday village of Keurbooms Strand lies about 10km to the east of Plettenberg Bay. The name Keurbooms comes from the Keurboom tree with its lovely purple summer flowers. The beach is a lovely wide expanse of golden sand with a couple of beachside restaurants.

Also look at Buffalo Bay beach between Sedgefield and Wilderness and Bollard Bay on Leisure Isle in Knysna….

The Little Karoo

Cango Caves
This is one of the main attractions of the Little Karoo and is covered in the Rainy Days and Adventure activities sections…

16) Wilgewandel Farm

Suitable for all ages

My family likes to stop here for something to eat, as it’s only 2km from the Cango Caves, and there’s a lot on offer for children. These include camel rides (not very exciting but good for adventurous younger children), a ‘foefie’ slide which is a 100 metre zip line ride across their farm dam, farm animals to feed and touch (rabbits, pigs, goats, ostriches and sheep), bumper boats on the dam (this is always a big hit with kids), waterslides and trampolines. The latest activity is an obstacle course which is guaranteed to work up a slight sweat and make you wish you’d spent more time in the gym as you race after your kids. Not for the faint hearted but great fun. Telephone 044 272 0878 or www.wilgewandel.co.za.

Entrance to Wilgewandel Farm is free, but you pay for the activities your children wants to do. These vary from R10 per activity to R60 per person for a 90 min session on the water slides.

17) Cango Ostrich farm

Suitable for all ages

The Cango Ostrich and Butterfly Farm, north of Oudtshoorn, is one of the smaller and more personal farms. Tours only take 45 minutes to 1 hour but you don’t see the handlers racing on the ostriches (not a big deal in my opinion). This is the first farm in Oudtshoorn who has stopped the riding of ostriches. The Cango Ostrich farm is on the R328 heading towards the Cango Caves. Tours start every 15-30 minutes and the last tour is at 4.30pm. Contact them on 044 272 4623 or www.cangoostrich.co.za

At the time of publication the price for the guided ostrich tour was R100 per adult and R60 per child.

18) Meerkat Adventures

Suitable for older teenagers (with lower pitched voices)

This is a very cool thing to do in the Little Karoo, for older kids and teenagers who are able to relax and just enjoy this remarkable wildlife activity. (The youngest age allowed is 10 years old). You head out at the crack of dawn (actually before dawn so it helps if you stay close by) with some chairs and coffee and head to watch the sunrise. You then hike to the burrows of some meerkats to observe them wake up and go about the start of their day. The tour takes about 2-3 hours and I would say it’s ideal for teenagers who are really into their wildlife. Telephone 084 772 9678 or www.meerkatadventures.co.za

At the time of publication the cost of this tour was R600 per person.

Rainy Days

Most of the activities on offer on the Garden Route are out of doors. So what to do if it’s raining, apart from hitting the shops and restaurants?

Tip: If it’s raining in the Garden Route and you are staying on the western side e.g. Knysna, Wilderness, George or Mossel Bay, we recommend checking the weather over the mountain in the Little Karoo. Often the Little Karoo is still bathed in sunshine when the rain clouds have gathered on the coast. Ring Oudtshoorn tourism on 044 279 2532 or check the weather on www.yr.no

19) Cango Caves

Suitable for all ages

The Cango Caves are some of the largest limestone caverns in the world and are still only partially explored. There are guided tours every hour in season and every other hour during off season starting at 9am. Please wear trainers and cool clothing as it gets very humid in the caves. You now have to pre-book a tour on 044 272 7410 or www.cango-caves.co.za

Directions: The Cango Caves are just off the R328 towards the Swartberg pass.

However if your children are over 6 years and none of you are claustrophobic, I recommend doing the Adventure Tour – see earlier.

At the time of publication prices varied from R110 – R165 per adult and R65 – R100 per child for the different tours.

20) Bartholomeus Diaz Museum, Mossel Bay

Suitable for all ages

The excellent Diaz Museum consists of three parts, the maritime museum which has a full scale replica of Dias’ caravel ship; the shell museum and the local history museum. Telephone 044 691 1067 or www.diasmuseum.co.za
At the time of publication entrance fees to the museum complex and the replica of Dias’ ship was R40 per adult and R10 per child.

If you’d like to start planning a family holiday in the Garden Route, why not click on the link below to send us your thoughts…

 

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