The 10 best places for families to stay in South Africa
Our expert's guide to the ultimate family hotels in lodges in the Rainbow Nation
22 Oct 2020
05 May 2021
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Take a glance at the amazing range of places to visit, experiences on offer and places to stay and there is little wonder that South Africa is so popular with families. With almost year-round good weather, little time difference to the UK and direct flights, it is a dream destination for families who want to explore and enjoy some luxury as well.
When it comes to choosing where to stay there are so many options it can be hard to know where to begin so we have put together our top-10 places to stay in South Africa, chosen for location, the range of child and adult activities on offer, rooms available for families and flexibility to look after families as well as possible. They are spread throughout the country, offering the chance to visit some of South Africa’s most iconic areas, as well as some of the hidden gems that will make for truly special places to spend some time together.
Cape Town is a perennial family favourite when visiting South Africa, with a wealth of amazing things to see and do, not least around the famed V&A Waterfront, where you will find the elegant Cape Grace, tucked away on a quiet quay. With stunning views to Table Mountain and the neighbouring Cape Town yacht marina, this is one of the most iconic properties in the city and perfect for families looking for an opulent base from which to explore.
One, two and three-bedroom suites occupy the upper floors and are perfect for families who want to all be in the same space, but still have separate bedrooms and plenty of amenities, including indoor lounges and splendid outdoor dining areas. As one would expect, the service is truly personalised, and this extends to younger guests as well as parents. Rooms are adorned with welcome gifts, child-sized bathrobes and special sweet treats. Children enjoy story time in the evenings, have access to a lounge with DVDs and games consoles to keep them entertained. The heated swimming pool is very popular with younger guests and the concierge can of course help recommend family-friendly days out around the city which will provide an entertaining and educational experience for everyone.
Whilst the Cape Winelands don’t always spring to mind as a place for families to visit, nothing could be further from the truth. Wineries offer child-friendly activities whilst adults are enjoying their wine tasting, whilst the huge range of activities including hiking trails, horseriding, fishing, golf, al-fresco picnics mean there is something for everyone here.
Tucked away at the foot of rugged mountains just outside of Franschhoek, the elegant La Residence is one of South Africa’s most sought-after properties and boasts 4 beautifully designed villas in its garden which are perfect for families. They are wonderful spaces, with up to three bedrooms, their own indoor and outdoor dining areas and private pools where you can sit back, relax and soak up the sunshine. On first glance it may appear the menus are designed with older guests in mind, but children are wonderfully well looked-after with special menus to enjoy throughout their stay. If you are looking for somewhere elegant to spend a few days relaxing with the family there are few better spots than La Residence’s villas – amongst the finest private accommodation options South Africa has to offer.
The Grootbos Private Nature Reserve overlooks the waters of Walker Bay, one of the prime whale-watching spots in all of South Africa and offers one of the most diverse and interesting programmes of activities anywhere in the country. The beautiful Grootbos Garden Lodge is designed specifically for families, with a range of two-bedroom suites offering plenty of space for families to relax and stay in the utmost comfort.
Outdoor decks shaded by milkwood trees offer panoramic views out across the reserve and to the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The spacious main area has its own childs’ playroom and staff to keep children entertained whilst parents enjoy a drink on the deck and the sumptuous dinners for which Grootbos is known. Special meals are prepared for kids, meaning everyone is kept happy and ensures no-one is left waiting around for meals. The activities on offer here are a delight for all of the family, with walks through the reserve, seasonal whale watching trips, horseriding, visits to the Grootbos working farm, exploring deserted coves and caves and even scenic flights over Walker Bay. The guides here have all been specially trained to look after families and make sure everyone can make the most of their Grootbos experience. A truly special place and one not to miss, especially for outdoorsy families with a sense of adventure.
Best for getting out and about on The Garden Route
The Garden Route is synonymous with family trips to South Africa. Its wide-open spaces of mountains, forests and beaches to explore, a diverse range of activities on offer and lovely weather make it a firm favourite with both local families and visitors from overseas. Nestled away on a large polo estate just outside of the holiday town of Plettenberg Bay, Kurland is one of the best properties in the whole country for families and a must-stay when in the area.
There is an elegant, country house feel to the property, with spacious bedrooms able to accommodate adults and children with ease, as well as lovely public areas, a sparkling swimming pool and an excellent restaurant. Activities on the estate are geared towards children, with a focus on horse-related activities that are always popular with children. The many and varied attractions of The Garden Route are just a short drive away, with highlights including the Tsitsikamma Forest, visits to Knysna, boat trips from Plettenberg Bay and excursions to child-friendly attractions such as Monkeyland, The Birds of Eden Project and the Knsyna Elephant Sanctuary. A few days exploring the beautiful Garden Route is an essential part of any family trip to South Africa and Kurland is the ideal spot to base yourselves whilst here.
5.) Atholl Place Villa
Best for contemporary chic in the heart of Johannesburg
Johannesburg is growing in popularity as a travel destination within South Africa, especially for families who want to enjoy the range of activities on offer, excellent restaurants and thriving arts scene. At the heart of the city, surrounded by lush gardens and shaded with towering trees, Atholl Place Villa is a glorious exclusive use properties where families can sit back, relax and be pampered to their hearts’ content by the wonderful staff.
The décor blends traditional and modern touches which really appeal to families and it comes with all of the mod cons which are so appealing and make time relaxing in the property all the more enjoyable. There is a swimming pool where guests can relax and soak up the sunshine, with staff on hand to serve meals and drinks as suits – ideal when travelling as a family, especially those with younger children. There is an on-site concierge who can help book days out in Johannesburg and the surrounding area, including visits to the Apartheid Museum and Soweto, trips to the Magaliesberg Mountains and Cradle of Humankind, or simple day trips to go shopping in Sandton and enjoy lunch in one of its many excellent restaurants.
A stones’ throw from a golden sandy beach, lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, The Oyster Box is one of South Africa’s most beloved hotels, with a history stretching back almost a century. The seaside town of Umhlanga Rocks were it is found has long been a popular destination for locals to enjoy a holiday and is also the perfect spot for a few days R&R in the sunshine after a family road trip through South Africa.
The choice of either interconnecting rooms or larger Garden Villas, the latter complete with their own private pools, mean families can relax in plenty of space and comfort. As well as playing on the beach or in the swimming pool, children are looked after by way of an extensive kids programme, designed to allow them to maximise their time at the hotel. The in-house cinema has children’s movie nights, complete with popcorn and ice cream and there is a kids club on offer between 10 and 7 throughout school holidays. As well as all of these little extras, the whole family will delight in being able to meet the hotel’s renowned feline resident – Skabenga. Whilst the children relax and enjoy all the delights of the hotel, parents can revel in its luxury, enjoy drinks on the terrace overlooking the sea and dine in the superb restaurants for which the hotel is renowned.
7.) Phinda Mountain Lodge
Best for safaris and more in the KwaZulu-Natal Bush
Safaris in South Africa are a wonderful family adventure, offering the chance to explore the bush together and marvel at the incredible wildlife for which South Africa is world-famous. Found in the north-eastern part of KwaZulu-Natal, the Phinda Private Game Reserve is home to 5 separate lodges and ranks as one of the country’s great conservation success stories.
Perched atop a rocky kopje with stunning views out over the reserve, the aptly named Phinda Mountain Lodge is THE choice in the region for families. With both adjoining cottages and a large family cottage, the accommodation options for families are plentiful, with the beautifully designed and equipped rooms offering the chance to stay in the lap of luxury. Around the main area of the lodge there are some lovely spots for private dining, allowing families to enjoy a meal together under the stars, a comfy lounge area for relaxing in the afternoons and a sparkling swimming pool for escaping the afternoon heat. With abundant wildlife and some of the most interesting ecosystems anywhere in South Africa, including a large tract of sand forest, Phinda offers one of the most well-rounded safari experiences families could wish to enjoy. The guiding is excellent, with their family guides able to relate to all members of the family and make sure they get the most out of their time in the bush.
In recent years the Madikwe Private Game Reserve has become immensely popular with families, not least because it offers the chance to enjoy a malaria-free safari whilst still delivering an incredible wildlife experience. Nestled in the lush south-eastern corner of the reserve is the Morukuru Collection, a series of three private houses, with the 2-bedroom Morukuru Owners House perfect for families looking to enjoy a luxurious and private bush experience.
There is a very contemporary feel to the house, with stone walls, high thatched ceilings and bathrooms with panoramic views out in to the bush. A private deck and swimming pool is the perfect place to relax during the afternoons with the sights and sounds of the bush all around you. The beauty of taking a private house is that days can be planned exactly as you wish, with game drives and meal times planned to suit your agenda. This means even the most discerning of travellers will be looked-after to their hearts content and enjoy a truly tailored safari experience. With a full housekeeping team to look after you, as well as outstanding guides who are used to looking after children, this really is the ultimate family safari spot in South Africa.
Best for an ultimate family game viewing experience
For those in the know, the Sabi Sand is the ultimate game viewing spot in South Africa. Sharing an unfenced boundary with the world-famous Kruger National Park it has wildlife in abundance and the landscapes are beautiful. Undoubtedly a high-end spot for safaris, it hasn’t traditionally been one renowned for offering family safaris, however, the outstanding Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge has adapted its offering to make sure families are welcome and make it the go-to place when planning a visit to the bush.
Specially-designed 2-bedroom family units offer a wonderfully luxurious and comfortable place to stay, with each room boasting its own en-suite bathroom and a spacious lounge separating them. There is an excellent children’s centre here, with plenty of space for kids to relax as well as learn more about the bush whilst parents are out enjoying game drives. Older children are able to accompany parents on game drives and enjoy the magic of the bush in the company of the lodge’s outstanding guiding team. Mealtimes can be adapted to suit family needs, whilst the sparkling swimming pool is ever-popular with all members of the family and offers a welcome escape from the heat of the Kruger afternoons.
Best for a unique and innovative family safari experience
Part of South Africa’s great attraction for family holidays is that it is somewhere they can go back to time and time again, with every trip offering a range of new and exciting experiences. There isn’t anywhere in the country that fits the bill of being a new and exciting experience more than the stunning Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, 100,00 hectares of private land in the heart of the Kalahari Desert in the north of the country.
With just 2 lodges, including the 5-bedroom exclusive use Tswalu Tarkuni, it offers the ultimate in luxury and personalised service in one of the most beautiful landscapes that South Africa has to offer. Nothing is off-limits at Tswalu, with guides able to take guests out in to the reserve as and when they which, with wildlife including rhino, black-maned Kalahari lion, meerkats and even the elusive pangolin amongst the common sightings. The guides help to make these drives incredibly educational and enjoyable, with no limits placed on the time vehicles can spend with any one sighting. Older children can also accompany parents on guided walks and horse riding trails – a truly unique experience and one not to be missed. The lodge itself is wonderfully luxurious, with mealtimes and menus planned to suit guests’ needs, plenty of space in which to relax and wonderfully attentive staff always on hand to serve drinks, chat about their life living in the desert and ultimately to offer the home-away-from-home feel that makes Tswalu such a special place.