It’s coming up to the prime holiday season in Cape Town so we’ve put together our Top 20 Things to do with Kids in Cape Town. It’s focused a little more on older kids (from 6 upwards) but there are plenty of things which are perfect for little ones as well.
We’ve divided our list into four sections. Some activities could have easily fitted into more than one section.
Aquarium * Springbok Rugby Experience * Watershed Arts & crafts * Scratch Patch * Boat Trips
Cable car * Walk on Table Mountain * Abseiling * Kirstenbosch & Skywalk * Red City Bus * Shark Cage Diving
Museums & Indoors activities (Great for rainy days)
Planetarium & Company gardens * HintHunt * Science centre * Heart of Cape Town museum
Seal Island Boat Trip * Imhoffs Farm * Cape Peninsula Lighthouse * Swimming with penguins * Toy Museum
I have focused on activities for children on holiday in Cape Town so I have a preference for things that are uniquely Capetonian or at least that are done particularly well here. So though there are wonderful ice rinks, toboggan trails etc, these are available all over the world. So they didn’t make the cut. (Sorry!). Pricing and telephone numbers were correct at time of press with current exchange rates, but are subject to change.
Price Range Key:
Low typically means less than $20 or £12 for a sample family of 2 adults and 2 kids under 12 years
Moderate is typically less than $40 or £25 for this sample family of 4
OK is typically less than $80 or £50 for a family of 4
Pricey varies and we suggest you check the website for exact pricing.
This Part 1 focuses on the V&A Waterfront and Outdoor Pursuits
1) Two Oceans Aquarium
Enjoyable place for kids of all ages with different areas exploring the unique marine life of the Cape. Probably the most exciting sections are the predator and penguin exhibits as well as the touch pool and interactive centre. The very young ones will enjoy the inter-active Kids Centre. There’s also a Penguin Encounter (at extra cost) which is an informative and exhilarating encounter with these unique birds (ideally for kids over 8 years). Try to time your visit to coincide with their feeding times (see their website).
Opening hours: 9.30am to 6pm daily
Age Range: 3 years upwards. Penguin encounter probably suited to older kids of 8-10 years upwards
Price Range: Moderate
Contact details: 021 418 3823, V&A Waterfront, www.aquarium.co.za or buy tickets online
2) Springbok Experience Rugby Museum
If you are into rugby, this is a must for all the family. And if not all the family shares your enthusiasm, it’s right in the heart of the V&A Waterfront with its smorgasbord of shops, craft markets and restaurants.
The Springbok Rugby Experience is a modern interactive museum telling South Africa’s story through the eyes of its most powerful sport, rugby. It offers a fun and entertaining experience for all sports enthusiasts, taking you on the journey of South African rugby from the 1860’s right up to modern times with over 60 audio visual displays. There are also games for children and adults alike where you can test your kicking, passing, fitness and reaction skills in the ‘Springbok Trials’ games zone.
It also tells the ‘hidden’ story of black rugby history for the first time and pulls no punches in placing rugby in South Africa’s social history as a sometimes divisive, but ultimately unifying force.
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm daily
Age Range: 4 years upwards (5 years and under are free)
Price Range: Low – tickets at the door or online via www.webtickets.co.za
Contact details: 021 418 4741, Portswood House, V&A Waterfront
3) Watershed Craft Market
The Watershed is a really lovely indoor craft market with over 365 boutique shops/stalls selling ceramics, furniture, textiles and fashion including lots of funky kids’ clothes. This may or may not be your family’s cup of tea depending on how much you like ‘retail therapy’. But as with the Rugby Experience, there’s plenty on offer at the Waterfront if only some of the family want to check it out. Really easy to part with your money here!
Opening hours: Open 10am to 7pm
Contact details: 021 408 7600
4) Scratch Patch
This doesn’t really pass the ‘Only in Cape Town’ rule that I set myself. But it is so close to the Aquarium and Watershed; kids love it, so I succumbed…
The Scratch Patch is a touch-feel exhibit where kids can dig for semi-precious stones, paying a varying fee depending on how large a bag of stones they want to collect.
The Waterfront Scratch Patch is directly opposite the Aquarium and Watershed with very easy parking (as one of the main car parks is right beside it). It also offers a mini-golf ‘cave’ course, also under cover. Yes I know it’s kitch. (But you know it’s fun, especially when people’s latent golfing competitiveness comes out.)
Age Range: 4 – 8 years for the Scratch Patch: 4 – 12 (and adults) for the mini-golf. Obviously we wouldn’t recommend babies or toddlers because of the swallowing risk.
Price Range: Free to enter the Scratch Patch (you pay for stones). Low Price for the golf
Contact details: 021 419 9429, Parking Level 2, Portswood Ridge, Dock Road opposite the Aquarium, www.scratchpatch.co.za
5) Boat cruises from the Waterfront
There is a vast array of boat cruises from the V&A Waterfront. These range from a 30 min harbour boat cruise up to a longer 1½ hour sunset yacht cruise (traditional or catamaran). You can also opt for an adrenalin-filled jet boat ride. There’s even a Jolly Roger Pirate boat cruise which promises swashbuckling adventure and surprises during its hour-long cruise.
We recommend checking out the V&A website to get a sense of the sort of boats available. We can pre-book the boat cruises for you, which is recommended in peak season.
Departure: Varies by boat, generally throughout the day, every half an hour
Age Range: No age limit though perhaps not very young kids on the longer excursions?
Price Range: Ok to Pricey
Contact details: www.waterfront.co.za/activities/sea
Also in the Waterfront:
Chavonnes Battery Museum – for all those budding engineers
Outdoor Activities for Kids in Cape Town
6) Table Mountain by Cable Car
Heading up Table Mountain is a must, so I won’t spend too long persuading you. It is very popular especially at the height of summer. You first have to buy tickets (if you haven’t got them online) and then you queue to get into the cable car itself. Queuing for hours with small kids is not pretty, so follow our ‘survival’ tips below.
Our Hot ‘Survival’ Tips
- Book your tickets online (which saves you from the first ticket buying queue). Online tickets are valid for 7 days from your chosen date so that if wind or weather closes the cable car, you can go at another time.
- You can also get an almost full refund minus just a 10% admin fee. (This is not so vital in the winter months but almost essential in the summer.)
- However you still have the ‘getting on the cable car’ queue so either head up there really early so that you are there at least 15 mins before the first car up. (ie ahead of the tour buses who seem to arrive as the cable car starts).
- Alternatively you can head up Table Mountain in the afternoon or early evening in summer. It is sometimes windy and so the cable car can close BUT the queue is much, much shorter.
- There is a sunset special in summer time which is virtually half price if you go up after 6pm. This is a popular option with the locals so expect a bit of queuing around 6pm…
Opening hours: 8.30am from April to October, 8am from November to March. Last car up ranges by season from 5pm in winter to 8pm at the height of summer. See their website for exact times.
Age Range: All ages
Price Range: Moderate to OK, Children under 4 are free. Winter offers substantial family discounts.
Contact Details: Book tickets online! www.tablemountain.net
7) Walk on Table Mountain
I am always amazed at how little people are prepared to walk. Yes there are stunning viewpoints close to the top of the cable car but there are also lots of people! If you are happy to walk just 20-30 minutes away from the crowds you get the feel for the majesty of the mountain.
We recommend the easy walk to Maclears Beacon which is actually the highest point on the mountain at 1088 metres (3,570 feet). Follow the trail marked on the map (which you are given with your tickets) which is signposted with yellow footprints. After about 15 mins, the trail does a slightly tricky little descent (fine for most people but grandparents may struggle). At this point most people give up!
So as you continue to Maclears Beacon, the wilderness of the mountain is apparent. You can come back the way you came or take the ‘front’ trail which heads along the front edge of the ‘table’ with stunning panoramic views of the city below.
The distance to Maclears Beacon and back is approx 5½ km / 3½ miles. It should take around 2 hours at a leisurely pace, quicker if you are all quite active.
Even though it is only a short distance, please remember to take a daypack with sunblock, plenty of water, snacks for the children, the trail map, phone, camera and also warm clothes (as weather on the mountain can be very changeable).
There are several walking routes UP Table Mountain but I wouldn’t recommend them for children. If you have fit teenagers then do some research using the website link below.
Do NOT start this Maclears Beacon walk if there is fog on the mountain as there are many paths and without sight of your destination, it would be very easy to get lost!
Age Range: Depending on your children: 6 years if your children are used to walking, older if not
Price Range: Free (You only pay for the cable car)
Contact Details: Check out the Table Mountain National Park website http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/table_mountain/tourism/safe_hiking.php
8) Abseiling off Table Mountain
This is a great adventure for all the family. Close to the top of the Cable Car station (Upper Cable Car), is the Abseil Africa operation which offers the highest commercial abseil in the world. I have done it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Adrenalin courses through you as they make you lean back over the edge and put your hands in the air, but once you get going, it is fairly easy with epic views (if you are feeling relaxed enough to take them in!) The 112 metre abseil is followed by a 20 minute hike back up the mountain so that you can get a taste of walking the mountain without having to slog up for 2 hours.
In summer I would definitely recommend booking ahead as otherwise you could have to wait a while before they can fit you in. In winter, when the weather is variable, I also recommend ringing them to check that they are operational as they won’t offer abseiling in poor conditions.
Age Range: 10 years upwards
Price Range: Pricey – R995 per person (this excludes your cable car ticket)
Contact Details: www.abseilafrica.co.za or 021 424 4760 or 072 065 1520 (text after hours)
9) Kirstenbosch & the Sky Walk
Kirstenbosch is billed as the nicest garden in Africa and I’ll go with that description. I know when I was a child, looking around public botanical gardens was not really my idea of fun. But here’s three reasons why Kirstenbosch is one step ahead!
1) The 130m skywalk snakes its way through the forest canopy of the arboretum
2) After enjoying the gardens, you can head up the foothills of Table Mountain to walk along the the Contour path through the forest. If you have teenagers you can even get up onto Table Mountain via the steep but shaded Skeleton and Nursery ravine trails. See http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/table_mountain/tourism/safe_hiking.php
3) There’s a choice of eating options in the Garden from Moyos African restaurant to more casual coffee shops. A time-honoured favourite is to take a family picnic
Opening Hours: 8am to 7pm from Sept to March. 8am to 6pm from April to Aug. The conservatory is open from 9am to 5pm
Age Range: All ages
Price Range: Low
Contact Details: 021 799 8783 for info 021 799 8782 for tickets or http://www.sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch
10) Red Topless Sightseeing Buses
Nowadays children love buses as they so rarely go on them. We recommend enjoying one of the two city sightseeing buses – either the red route or the blue route if you prefer not to drive to the various attractions. I like these buses as they remind me of London but with much better weather!
These are ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tours. You buy a ticket for a particular day and can then spend as long as you like at the various attractions en route. The time below is the bus time component but most people spend the best part of the day. You can start the tour at any of the designated bus stops on the route so enquire from your hotel as to where the nearest one is. There are three routes to choose from.
Red City Tour – takes 90 minutes with 11 stops including the V&A Waterfront, Jewel Africa (for the Bo-Kaap quarter), Table Mountain cable car, Camps Bay beaches, Sea Point and back to the V&A Waterfront…
Blue Peninsula Tour – circles the back of Table Mountain, takes 2+ hours on the bus with 14 stops including V&A Waterfront, Company Gardens, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Constantia Nek, World of Birds, Imizamo Yethu Township (for a short guided walking tour), Hout Bay, Camps Bay, Sea Point and back to the V&A Waterfront.
There is also a Purple wine route tour, a shorter city tour as well as a sunset bus trip.
Opening Hours: The first stops start at 8am in summer with the last tour starting at 5.15pm The final pick-up from Camps Bay for example is 7.20pm getting back to the Waterfront at around 7.45pm.
Age Range: All ages
Price Range: OK – 10% online discount
Contact Details: 021 799 8783 for info. Ideally buy your tickets online at www.citysightseeing.co.za
11) Shark Cage Diving
This is an adrenalin-rush of note but only suitable for older kids as the boat cruise is long (generally 4 hours) and younger kids don’t enjoy it. The most ‘famous’ area for shark cage diving is off Gansbaai near Hermanus. This would be our preferred option as the season is much longer, but it is a 1½ to 2 hour drive each way. (We recommend that you stay at least one night in the Hermanus area). If you don’t have time for that, and don’t want to travel so far, the Cape Peninsula also has its own shark dive and whale-watching operators. The False Bay season is shorter, generally from May to mid September, but the drive or transfer is only an hour.
Scheduled Tours: Daily cruises in season, depending on tides
Age Range: Only from 10 years and older
Price Range: Pricey – we recommend pre-booking
Contact Details: You can book through us (at no extra cost) or book direct. We recommend African Shark eco-charters www.ultimate-animals.com
Head to Part 2 of Top 20 Things to do with Kids
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