Incredible coastal landscapes, delicious farm-to-table dining, and extraordinary wildlife encounters are just a few of the things that make the Garden Route a favourite family holiday destination.
This iconic coastal stretch is bursting with activities for all interests, with plenty more events lined up for the upcoming September school holidays. If you’re not sure where you’d like to take the kids once you get there, here are a few great ideas, geared for different age groups:
Kids 1-3 years old: Picnics, playtime and pups
If you’re visiting the Garden Route from places like Johannesburg or Durban, consider flying into George Airport and making Fancourt Estate your base, a 10-minute drive away. If you’ve got a little one with you, the facilities are ideal, and you can easily embark on short day trips into the surrounding areas.
If you head to the beach, don’t forget a bucket and spade for playing in the sand. The Fancourt staff will also pack a picnic lunch for your family on request.
If you’d like to add in a little more greenery, there is plenty to delight youngsters at the nearby Garden Route Botanical Gardens. Listen out for the local birds and explore the dam looking for frogs. Follow that up with a milkshake at the tea garden.
While it’s great to be outdoors along the Garden Route, Happy Valley is also great for a rainy day. The supervised indoor centre and party venue offers a series of activities including a soft play structure for children between the ages of two and 10, and a smaller play area for younger toddlers under two years.
We also recommend the Wolf Sanctuary just outside of Plettenberg Bay. While the guided tours are suited for older children, there is a variety of fluffy farm animals to coo over, such as little piglets, lambs, baby chicks, cows, and even husky dog pups too!
Kids 4-7 years old: Animal sanctuaries and strawberries
Exercise little bodies and minds in an entertaining, educational and affordable way at the Plett Puzzle Park. The two main activities here are a life-size 3-D Maze, and a unique Forest Puzzle Walk. Activities are designed for visitors of all ages, but it’s most suitable for children aged four and up. Mom and Dad can catch a break at the coffee shop, set in a tranquil garden setting, complete with oversized garden games.
We also can’t forget to mention Birds of Eden, also in Plett. The world-class free-flight bird sanctuary is brimming with free-flight African birds. Encounter cheeky little monkeys at Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary located just next door.
The complimentary on-site Kidz Club at Fancourt Estate offers a safe, secluded environment for children. There are soft-play areas and qualified minders who also run interactive programmes for all ages during school holidays.
If your family loves strawberries, make a beeline for Redberry Farm near to the estate. The kids can fill their own punnets with plump, fresh strawberries, ride the Redberry Express, speed off on pedal go-carts, and try a pony ride. You can also rally as a family and tackle the largest hedge maze in the Southern Hemisphere found on the farm.
On a sunny day during the September holiday, pack a few snacks, a swimsuit and the surfboards and head to Herolds Bay. The rock pools will keep curious water-babies entertained and, if you are lucky, you may even spot whales out at sea.
Kids 8-10 years old: Canopy tours and big cats
The first of its kind in Africa, the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour involves zip-lining from one platform to another using a steel cable suspended up to 30 metres above the forest floor. Older, adventurous kids will love discovering the unique wilderness of the Tsitsikamma indigenous forest.
While in Plett, families can also book a whale-watching boat cruise, and stretch out their legs on a hike in the Robberg Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site, only 8 km south. When tummies start to rumble, make a stop for lunch at The Fat Fish for some local fish and chunky chips, with a great view over the bay.
Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary is also super for older children and is home to big cats including lions, cheetahs, jaguars, pumas, caracal, and serval cats. Other wildlife includes zebras, wild dogs, honey badgers and various snake species. At Jukani, the focus is on conservation education about the plight of large predators in captivity, in South Africa and all around the world.
Let the kids roll out on a few bikes at Fancourt’s Leisure Centre, and when you’re all ready to take to the water, head to one of the estate’s swimming pools. If your family is big on beach life, grab a surfboard at Learn to Surf Plett, which offers families surfing and stand up paddle boarding lessons during the September holidays.
Tweens and teens: Outdoor fun and making friends
Radical Raptors is a rehabilitation centre that’s building community awareness and takes care of the rescue, rehabilitation and release of birds of prey. Teens can fill their Instagram with shots from the flying displays while developing a greater appreciation and sense of responsibility for wildlife in South Africa.
Another great Garden Route stop is Elevate, which has a 600m2 Trampoline Park and indoor go-kart track. We especially like this one, as adults can get involved too with 60 trampolines, SODI Go-Karts, gladiator beams and slam-dunk hoops.
When it comes time to chill out, Fancourt is a home away from home with all the family comforts. Hop on a few bikes from the Leisure Centre, lace-up along the walking trails, or have a pizza night at La Cantina restaurant. There is also a laid-back Teen Lounge with Internet access, where young guests can kick back and make new friends during their holidays.
For more info on activities in George: www.georgetourism.org.za
To contact Fancourt Estate visit: www.fancourt.co.za