The beautiful port city of Cape Town lies on South Africa’s southwest coast, on a peninsula that is overlooked by the spectacular Table Mountain.
The picturesque metropolis is bursting with things to get up to, from spotting Africa’s only penguin colony to soaring to the top of one of the oldest mountains in the world. With so many activities on offer, you may be left wondering ‘what are the best family friendly things to do in Cape Town, South Africa’?
Well, we have narrowed down the top 8 activities for families in the city to suit children of all ages. In doing so, we hope to help you plan a sensational child-friendly escape to this glorious corner of the world.
1. See Penguins at Boulders Beach
A trip to Boulders Beach is easily one of the best things to do with family in Cape Town. The remarkable piece of coastline is protected and is part of the Table Mountain National Park.
Yet, the most attractive part of this jaw-dropping shoreline for the kids (and the adults) is likely to be that it is home to Africa’s only penguin colony.
In a day that is sure to be fun for all the family, set off to the white sand and turquoise waters of this unique coastline to see hundreds of adorable black and white creatures swimming, playing, waddling and relaxing on the beach. You can even pack a bucket and spade for the little ones who can spend the day building sandcastles with fluffy penguins for company.
Boulders Beach lies a 40-minute car drive away from the centre of Cape Town and its penguin colony falls under the protection of SANParks. This means that it requires a conservation fee to access. However, as one of the best places to visit in Cape Town with family, it is certainly well worth the journey.
2. Go to the Top of Table Mountain
One of the most recognisable landmarks in South Africa, Table Mountain is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and with good reason. The spectacular rock formation towers 1,086 metres above Cape Town and is one of the oldest mountains in the world, making it a must-visit for anyone touring the city with family.
There are two options for venturing to the top of this dramatic mountain, one of which might be a better fit for your family depending on the ages and agility of your party.
If you have active children of an older age, you can venture to the summit by foot whereas if you have younger children or your entourage might need a little more assistance, you can take the cable car. If you’re wanting to give both a try, you can take the ascent on foot before giving yourself a rest on the way down by taking the cable car back to ground level.
However you choose to tackle the majestic mountain, prepare to be left amazed by the phenomenal views awaiting you at the summit that stretches all over the surrounding mountainscape and coastline.
Cableway Table Mountain
Taking the Mountain Cableway allows you to gently float to the top of Table Mountain, gazing over Cape Town, Robben Island and the Peninsula along the way. Rotating throughout the journey, you and the rest of the family will be able to enjoy 360° views over the whole city as you glide smoothly to the summit.
Climb Table Mountain
If you and the kids are feeling energised, stick on your walking shoes and tackle Table Mountain by foot.
While this is one of the most incredible things to do in Cape Town with family, it is definitely worth considering the age and needs of your children before opting to hike your way to the top. For example, this might not be the best approach for those with toddlers!
If you do choose to hike to the top, you can hire a local guide to lead you up who will keep you all entertained throughout the journey by sharing inside knowledge on the history of the landscape. The walk itself should take between one and three hours and makes a wonderful activity to do together.
3. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
One of the most relaxing things to do with family in Cape Town is retreating to the spellbinding grounds of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Situated on the slopes of Table Mountain, the park feels a world away from the buzzing city centre, despite only lying a handy 13 km away.
The rolling landscape is a sea of flourishing green vegetation, sprinkled with splashes of bright flowers and flowing streams. Complete with a medicinal garden, fragrance garden, a Protea garden, 2,500 species of plants and much more, it is no wonder why the site has been recognised as one of the most highly acclaimed botanic gardens in the world.
The land is nothing short of breathtaking and speckled with handy picnic spots where you can pause for a light snack and take a moment to admire the landscape. You might even spot some of the avian residents; Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is also home to over 125 species including the distinctive long-tailed Sugarbird, colourful Sunbirds and majestic Spotted Eagle Owl.
For some of the most magnificent views over the gardens, take the treetop “Boomslang” (Tree sake) trail, a canopy walkway that curves and undulates through the landscape. Enjoy 360° vistas over the mountains, gardens and cape flats as you and the kids stroll along the treetops.
4. Learn About Marine Life at the Two Oceans Aquarium
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Cape Town with family on a rainy day, look no further than Two Oceans Aquarium. With over 3,000 marine creatures to see, there is more than enough to keep the children entertained at this aqua utopia.
With residents including sharks, turtles, penguins and rays, Two Oceans Aquarium showcases some of the most unique and exciting creatures to be found in the Atlantic and Indian oceans and makes the perfect place to head on Cape Town holidays with the kids.
You can also catch jellyfish displays, giant spider crabs and tiny seahorses. Yet, one of the most impressive aspects of the facility is its commitment to sustainability. Two Oceans Aquarium earned the Gold Award in the Best Responsible Attraction of the 2019 African Responsible Tourism Awards.
Located on V&A Waterfront, the spectacular facility is very convenient to get to and can make a fantastic detour day out for adults and children alike.
5. Visit Robben Island
Going to Robben Island is one of the best things to do in Cape Town with family, particularly if you have older children. The island operated as a prison from the 17th-19th centuries and now serves as a sobering reminder of South Africa’s complex history and the great leaders who transformed it into the country it is today.
Anti-apartheid activist and 1993 Noble Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela was held on Robben Island for 18 years alongside many other South African political heroes.
Paying a visit to the cells that once would have held some of the world’s most influential leaders is a rather surreal experience. There are pictures and images dotted throughout the island that tell its history. These visual accompaniments can prove especially helpful for younger children struggling to comprehend the gravity of what happened here.
Not just a history lesson, touring the prison can be an exceptionally illuminating way of coming to understand the bravery and integrity of the leaders who were once held here during their fight for equality.
To get to Robben Island, you can catch a ferry from Cape Town Harbour. While here, you can get an expert guide to lead you around. Some of which are even former prisoners.
6. Explore Cape Point
Sitting at the edge of the Cape Peninsula, Cape Point is a breathtaking piece of coastline within Table Mountain National Park. The Natural World Heritage Site is a remarkable treat for the eyes to see, with rugged mountain scenery and azure crashing waves.
Cape Point is truly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cape Town with family. The dramatic coastline is said to mark the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and there is home to a myriad of remarkable wildlife.
One of the most fun things to do in Cape Town with kids is to go to Cape Point and try to spot a few of the area’s spectacular creatures. Some of the most popular residents include baboons, zebra, ostrich, leopard tortoises and porcupines.
Be sure to pack warm coats for everyone (especially the kids) when visiting Cape Point as the winds tend to get very strong. As long as you arrive wrapped up and prepared, the clean air can be rather enjoyable and refreshing.
7. Take a Whale Watching trip to Hermanus
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting between July and December, one of the most fantastic family-friendly things to do in Cape Town is taking a whale-watching tour in Hermanus.
Whales migrate from Antarctica to mate and rest in the Western Cape’s waters during this special time of year, meaning many can be seen along the coast from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape.
Hermanus, otherwise known as Whale Coast, is the best place for seeing these epic creatures. Lying just a 90-minute drive from the city centre, a trip to the town can easily be done in a day but it is also a great idea to stay the night and explore the area further.
Beyond watching the whales, you can hike the gorgeous Hermanus Fernkloof Nature Reserve or venture out to explore the plethora of wineries in this established wine region.
8. Combine Your Visit With a Safari Holiday
Given the remarkable array of wildlife in the surrounding area, one of the best things to do when visiting Cape Town is to combine your city break with a wildlife safari. Bring the kids on an adventure of a lifetime by venturing out into the country’s wild, unspoilt landscape.
Boasting an unrivalled degree of diversity, the remarkable ecosystems in South Africa make it a wonderful place to investigate with children. Take a Malaria-Free Family Safari to see the country’s Big Five: African lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and Cape buffalo in the Madikwe Game Reserve near the Botswana border.
Beyond the most famous five animals, residents include giraffes, zebra, warthogs, spotted hyenas and many other exciting creatures. The customisable tour also offers families the opportunity to combine a safari adventure with an exploration of Cape Town’s unique cityscape, from the wine lands to the bustling centre.
As you can see, there are countless fun things to do in Cape Town for families. With jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes, striking coastlines, a plethora of unique wildlife species and a fascinating history, the South African city truly offers something for everyone and every kind of family.
Considering planning your next family trip to this unique corner of the world? Coral Tree offers an abundance of luxury family holidays in South Africa that offer you and the little ones the chance to delve into the area’s unparalleled wildlife scene on safari tour adventures.