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South Africa with a Toddler

As a local South African mom, and together with my 2-year-old daughter, we have travelled all over South Africa. Here is my favourite South Africa itinerary including insider tips and tricks for visiting my home country.

South Africa is a beautiful country filled with rich culture, great food, gorgeous nature, architecture, activities and so much more. You will love visiting South Africa with a toddler!

South Africa with toddler - Itinerary

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How Much Time to Spend in South Africa

First things first that you need to keep in mind when planning your trip to South Africa is that a very big country so you will probably not be able to see everything in one trip. I have lived in this beautiful country for 24 years and even though I’ve seen quite a few things, I still haven’t seen it all.

If you have a decent amount of time, say 2 to 3 weeks in South Africa then I have the perfect itinerary for you. While 2 weeks in South Africa still isn’t enough time to see it all, it will certainly give you a taste of what South Africa has to offer.

Toddler at Hartebeespoort Zoo South Africa

If you are short on time, I’ll recommend going to a resort or game farm to get a well-rounded experience of what the country has to offer. The Sun City Resort is a perfect example of this.

They have a water park, including a very large pool mimicking the sea, water slides, 4 hotels on the property (one for every budget), casino, entertainment centres for the kids, wildlife, safaris, a spa and more! So if you don’t have as much time in South Africa as you’d like, this can make for the perfect family holiday with a toddler in South Africa!

2 week South Africa Itinerary with a Toddler

Day 1 – Arrive in Cape Town

I’ve heard people refer to Cape Town as the Europe of Africa. I can see why people say that as this is South Africa’s most modern city. Starting your trip in South Africa, you can either fly into Cape Town International Airport or OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. It is usually cheaper to fly in from other countries to OR Tambo, because this is South Africa’s main international airport.

Don’t forget to read our toddler carry-on packing list! You’ll ensure you don’t forget anything with our list!

Flights to Cape Town from Johannesburg are roughly 2 hours long and usually very affordable. We chose Flysafair for our trip to Cape Town, we landed in the evening and used Uber with our toddler to get to our guesthouse in Blouberg Strand. We also used Uber eats to get some dinner from a local take away – Nandos (definitely my favourite fast food restaurant, and truly an authentic South African classic).

Cape Town with a toddler

Day 2 – Table Mountain, Cape Town

The first full day in Cape Town we went to the most famous mountain – Table Mountain. It is a very fun experience for young kids and toddlers as you can take the cable car to the top of the mountain, with one of the absolute best views in the whole country !

Table Mountain - Cape Town

There are trails all over the top of the mountain where the whole family can enjoy a stroll and plenty of options for food.

Ticket prices for the cableway differ depending on the season, age, day of the week, etc. For the most accurate information check the website right before your visit. We paid R 270 ($15) per adult (one way) and Lia was free as she is still under 4.

We went up the mountain early morning, enjoyed a late breakfast at the restaurant, took a lovely stroll around the mountain and went back down with the cableway, at about lunch time.

Table Mountain in Cape Town with toddler

As we reached the bottom, we heard from the ticket office that no more cableways went up the mountain as the wind was too rough, so they closed the cableway going up the mountain for the rest of the day. It’s important to note the cableway is very weather dependant. Before heading out for the day, always double check that they are open!

They also have hiking trails going up Table Mountain, I have never done this myself but it is quite a steep climb so I wouldn’t recommend it with a toddler/baby.

For lunch we went to a local restaurant on the Camp Bay beach and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the beach.

taking toddler to Cape Town Beach

Day 3 – Houtbay

Houtbay is a day trip from Cape Town. It was a 35 km drive (20 miles) from where we were staying in Blouberg Strand.

Upon arrival, we went to the harbour and took a boat to Seal Island. This was a fun, yet child-friendly ocean experience. The boat takes a quick trip to a very small island literally only a few metres in width.

After our fun boat experience we enjoyed the best fish and chips at a local restaurant located in the harbour. The fish was freshly caught and perfectly prepared. This is truly the perfect South African seafood experience.

Chapmans Peak viewpoint - Sout Africa

On our way back to Blouberg Strand we drove the Chapmans Peak. The views just absolutely took our breath away, we spent about an hour here just admiring the beauty of nature. For dinner we had a braai (BBQ) at our guesthouse and just had a quiet evening at our guesthouse.

Day 4 – Stellenbosch

One of my favourite places to visit in Cape Town. This is a university town with a very youthful vibe, picturesque coffee shops and boutique shops with the best local products. Stellenbosch was about an hour’s drive from where we stayed in Blouberg Strand.

Once we got to Stellenbosch we strolled through the town to admire all the beautiful architecture, shops and nature. For lunch we stopped at a local restaurant The Fat Butcher, which we loved. After lunch we headed to Polkadraai Strawberry Farm for a fun strawberry picking experience.

This was perfect activity with a toddler in Stellenbosch. Aside from strawberry picking, they have other fun activities like pony rides, tractor rides and mini golf that you can also do on the premises. Tickets start from R 50 ($3) for strawberry picking and goes up depending on how many strawberries you want to pick or activities you want to do.

Stellenbosch Tours from Cape Town

Day 5 – Boulders Beach

On our fifth day, we took another day trip from Cape Town (1 hour from Blouberg Strand) to Boulders Beach to see the rare African penguins.

Boulders Beach - Day Trip from Cape Town

Another fun activity from Cape Town with a toddler. Lia just absolutely loves animals, all types of animals so she really enjoyed this activity. The tickets for Boulders Beach can be purchased at the entrance, with ticket prices being R152 ($8) per adult and R76 ($4) per child.

Cape Point - South Africa
Ostrich at Cape Point South Africa

After enjoying our time with the penguins, we headed to the most Southern part of South Africa to Cape Point. We enjoyed lunch at Cape Point’s restaurant (which was a bit pricey) and then walked the path down to the most Southern Tip of Africa.

Tours to Boulders Beach from Cape Town

Day 6 – Franshoek

For a little taste of the Cape’s countryside, we drove an hour and a half to Franschhoek.

Franschhoek is famous for all of it wine routes, but most of these farms have fun activities like jungle gyms and farm animals that make it a fun visit with a toddler or small children. While we were here in this beautiful part of the country we headed to the Lavender farm in Franschhoek for a fun mommy and me photoshoot.

Lavender Farm South Africa - best place for family photos

Use code BABYCANTRAVEL when you book with Flytographer for $25 off your first photoshoot! They have plenty of photographers to choose from in Cape own.

Day 7 – Cape Town (Final day)

For our final day in Cape Town, we decided to spend our time exploring the city. First thing in the morning, we headed to Bo Kaap for all those colorful buildings and then to the beach for a nice relaxing day.

toddler at Cape Town Beach
Visiting South Africa with toddler - Cape Town Beach

Next, we went to the V&A Waterfront (that actually stands for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Waterfront because this was one of their favourite cities). Here we booked a sunset yacht boat ride, that was truly one of my favourite experiences in Cape Town.

V&A waterfront - Cape Town

We finished with a lovely dinner at the waterfront overlooking the horizon.

Cape Town Sunset

Local Tip – While I love this play, I would not recommend visiting on a very busy public holiday like Christmas or New Year’s Eve. It gets very overcrowded and actually dangerous due to so many people.

Day 8 – Bloemfontein

You can easily spend a week in Cape Town doing all the day trips. If you are short on time, you might choose to fly back to Johannesburg for the next part of this South Africa itinerary.

We had time, so we rented a car and added a road trip component to our trip. We had decided to only do this road trip one of the directions, as we know road trips with toddlers can be challenging at times.

Road trip with toddler - south africa

Don’t forget to pack plenty of car travel toys for toddlers and one of these toddler car seat travel trays!

Along the way to Johannesburg, we stopped half way in Bloemfontein. Bloemfontein is known as the city of roses by the locals. We were able to spend a portion of the next day exploring this beautiful city. We drove through the city to admire the beautiful architecture and went to Naval Hill for a great view overlooking the city. There’s also the statue of the very Famous Nelson Mandela at Naval Hill.

Bloemfontein with toddler
Visiting Bloemfontein with toddler

Our toddler, Lia, was scared of this large statue at first but quickly became quite amazed with it. She also made some ostrich friends as we headed back to the car.

Bloemfontein in South Africa with Toddler

We spent another night at the Bloemfontein hotel to be sure that we are well rested for the long drive to Johannesburg the next day.

Bloemfontein Sunset

Day 9 – Arrive in Johannesburg

After enjoying breakfast at our hotel, we all got into the car and headed to Joburg. Once we arrived, we made a pitstop at a local super market (my absolute favourite Woolworths Food) to get food for a picnic.

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

We headed to Walter Sisulu Gardens with our packed picnic basket and blanket to enjoy a quiet afternoon with a picnic, easy hiking trails and a waterfall to recover from all the long hours in the car. Our guesthouse was located in Krugersdorp.

Day 10 – Cradle of the Humankind

Cradle of the Humankind is one of these most famous sights in South Africa. It is famous for many fossils and evidence of the earlier humankind has been found. For the full Cradle of Humankind experience we headed to Maropeng’s museums and visited the Sterkfontein Caves for a fun adventure activity. Visiting with a toddler, we looked for the caves that are child friendly.

Cradle of the Humankind sunset

Note that there are numerous steps here so this activity might not be suitable for someone with bad knees or mobility challenges.

After our little adventure we headed to Cradle Moon Lodge for a fun filled afternoon. Here they offer hiking trails, biking trails and an amazing restaurant with a breath-taking view! We had a great lunch sitting in one of the pods built on the edge of the lake. It is properly fenced so perfectly safe for toddlers.

Cradle Moon Lodge Views

After our lunch we went on a short hike. While they do have proper biking and hiking trails, we weren’t prepared for a full day of hiking, so we opted for an easy toddler hike.

Read all our tips on hiking with toddlers and the best toddler hiking gear.

Day 11 – Pretoria

Pretoria is one of the capital cities of South Africa so there are so many activities to do in Pretoria with a toddler.

First, we chose to go to Irene’s Farm. Instead of wine/gin tasting they offer a milkshake tasting. This is such a fun activity with kids in Pretoria and an excellent place to visit with a toddler in South Africa.

We arrived about 11 o’clock with the plan to have lunch at The Barn restaurant, famous for their signature fries. We went to feed the farm animals and we had some fun encounters with the cows. Our toddler got to spend some time enjoying the jungle gym.

Milkshake tasting at Irenes Farm

Once our food had settled, we enjoyed the activity I was looking most forward to – the milkshake tasting.

Day 12 – Hartebeespoort

One of my absolute favourite day trips from Johannesburg/Pretoria is Hartebeespoort also known by the locals as Harties.

Hartebeespoort South Africa with Toddler

Hartebeespoort is a very small town located around a lake. This is such a beautiful place with great activities and restaurants, making it the perfect place for a family outing.

We went to the Hartebeespoort Zoo, where the animals are well taken care of. When buying a ticket for the zoo, you have the option to buy a ticket for a boat trip on the lake. The ticket price for just the zoo was R 140 per adult ($ 8) and R 70 per child ($4). The boat is a fun toddler-friendly activity as it is a large slow boat.

Hartebeespoort Zoo in South Africa with toddler

After our wonderful visit to the zoo we headed over to one of Harties’ most famous restaurant – “French Toast’’. This is a Paris themed restaurant with delicious food, backdrops of Paris for perfect photo opportunities and even an Eiffel tower where you can add your own engraved lock (available at the restaurant) to the tower.

After our lunch we went to one of the absolute best farmer style markets close by “Jasmyn’’. Jasmyn itself is a wonderful grocery store that grows their own fresh produce, has prices that will literally blow your mind at how affordable it is plus the best quality. Every weekend local suppliers gather here for a farmers market were they sell lovely crafts, handmade jewellery, leather products, wooden toys and so much more.

Hartebeespoort Cable Car - things to do with toddlers South Africa

There is a cable car that goes up a nearby mountain overlooking the beautiful lake. We went here on another day. I was worried that Lia might get afraid of the height but actually she was braver than I was and kept wanting to stand in the cable car and look out of the window.

Day 13 – Gold Reef City

Gold Reef City is the closest thing that we have to a Disney Land. This theme park is gold mine themed with many different rides with a whole section dedicated for toddlers and small children.

As an added bonus for the adults, there are plenty of “grown up” rides that are fun! Take turns with your partner to enjoy the adult rides and joining your child on the smaller rides.

The park offers a wide variety of restaurants from quick take away shops to sit down restaurants. We chose a cowboy themed sit down restaurant.

After we enjoyed a milkshake and a great meal, we decided to skip doing more rides and enjoyed a 4D Movie and the carnival games.  

Day 14 – Depart Johannesburg

And just like that in a blink of an eye the trip came to an end. We headed back to our home town, but for international visitors you can head back to O.R. Tambo International airport to fly home.

If you have more time, other activities that Joburg has to offer include

  • Hot Air Balloon ride over the Cradle of the Humankind
  • I-Jump/Trampoline World for those rainy days
Hartebeespoort Zoo - South Africa with Toddler

Where to Stay  While Visiting South Africa with a Toddler

Cape Town

This is a very large city and the neighbourhood does make a big difference, our favourite neighbourhood is Blouberg Strand but Cape Town City, Stellenbosch and Simonstad are also great neighboods to consider.

We stayed in a self-catering vacation rental in Blouberg Strand.

Bloemfontein

We slept at the City Lodge Hotel at very affordable rates.

Johannesburg

Johannesburg is a very large city, so knowing which neighbourhoods to book your accommodation is important. We usually book in Krugersdorp or Roodepoort as they are fairly central to all the places mentioned above.

Other neighbourhoods to consider is Northcliff, Centurion, Midrand and Randburg.

We stayed at La Vue Guestlodge in Muldersdrift Krugersdorp.

Tips for Visiting South Africa with a Toddler

Safety

Let’s begin with the elephant in the room, is South Africa safe to visit? Unfortunately, our beautiful country does have a high crime rate, but not around every single corner. There are measures you can take to ensure your safety.

  1. Do not walk around late at night. Instead rent a car or make use of an Uber or equivalent service to transport you between places at night.

  2. Do research on the neighborhoods where you are booking accommodations as there are safer places to stay and this will help you avoid the not so safe areas.

  3. Read the location reviews before booking accommodation to ensure it is in a safe area.

  4. Unfortunately, South Africa only has good working public transportation in Cape Town, so for any other destinations I would highly recommend renting a car or using a uber. You can rent a car seat for your child at the rental car companies. The Gautrain that departs to and from the airport is also a very good form of transport but it only goes to a few destinations like Midrand and Centurion.

  5. Keep alert at all times of all your belongings and where you child is. I even go as far, as holding Lia’s hand while turning to get something of a shelf when my eyes are not on her for a second.
eating out in Cape town with Toddler

Booking Accommodations

I always use Booking.com for booking my accommodation in South Africa. Always remember to read the reviews before booking to avoid disappointment.

  1. Check on both Google and other accommodation sites to see all reviews
  2. Check on Google Maps to see the surroundings as well.

Parking

In South Africa we have two different kinds of parking. The thing you will see the most is car guards. It is usually someone in a yellow and orange vest watching the cars while you are inside the building, once you are done the norm is to give them a tip. Personally the amount I give them depends of how long they watched the car and if they assisted me with loading my bags in the car. On average my tip would be R10 – R20 ($1-$3).

The other type of parking you will encounter is a boom gate where you receive a ticket, before you leave you can pay your ticket at one of the designated machines depending on how long you parked there.

Also note I’ve never seen a valet service other than at very fancy hotels, so please do not hand over your car keys unless it is a professional hotel service.

When to Visit

You can visit South Africa all year round but some cities are better in warmer months and others better for the winter months. So time your trip depending on where you plan to visit. For example the above mentioned itinerary I would recommend for summer and spring months (September through April) as Cape Town is much better during the warmer months.

Lavender Farm South Africa

If you are visiting South Africa during the winter months I would rather visit Kruger National park and Johannesburg instead of Cape Town for a true African safari experience.

mother holding toddler on safari in Kruger National Park

This is only one itinerary to give you a taste of what this beautiful country has to offer, other South African destinations to definitely add to your list are Kruger National Park, the Garden Route and Karoo.

Toddler Travel Gear to Pack

This article was written by Xanthé.

Xanthé has a great love for adventure and travel. When she was blessed with a beautiful baby girl, the only thing that changed regarding traveling was the amount of passengers. Lia, Xanthé’s daughter, is currently 18 months old and she has seen more places in her first 18 months than Xanthé did in her first 18 years of life.

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South Africa with a Toddler