A Year of Local South African Child-Friendly Vacations

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who regularly go on short breakaways. You know the kind – more often than not you get an out-of-office reply than an actual response. They seem to be more on vacation than actually at work. That’s the dream, right.

So, after being cooped up for almost two years during pandemic lockdown, and a severe unwillingness to go through the rigmarole of Covid testing what feels like every second day if you want to pass through an airport, we decided to make 2022 the year of local getaways. Nothing fancy – our only requirements were that they would be regular, child-friendly and hassle-free. Cue a montage of trips spread out roughly a month from each other, easily done from our home base in Gauteng, South Africa.

(Note: None of these trips were sponsored and I’m not affiliated with any of these destinations.)

Trip 1: A weekend at Mount Amanzi

We didn’t venture too far from Pretoria for the first trip, which was a weekend breakaway to Mount Amanzi near Hartbeespoort. This family-friendly resort was the perfect place to unwind and spend some quality time together. We swam in the warm-water swimming pools, waged war on the oversized chess board, jumped on the trampoline and went looking for monkeys and antelope roaming freely about the resort. Our two days there felt like a week of relaxation! On our way home, we stopped at the Hartbeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park for the sake of our accompanying 6-year-old who loves animals of all kinds and had a whale of a time.

Trip 2: A camping weekend at Klein Paradys

Various friends have highly recommended the Klein Paradys caravan park in the past, and when I finally got lucky enough to find an open campsite in the almost fully booked park, we jumped at the chance to go see what the fuss was about. We packed our tent and loaded my SUV up until there was hardly room for a stowaway cricket and set out for this 4-star site near Brits. It was fantastic! Soft green grass, huge trees with lots of shade, kid-friendly swimming pools and super tubes, a playground, and a lake on which we went canoeing. They even have a no-noise-after-10pm policy that they rigorously enforce – perfect. But, although I would highly recommend Klein Paradys, we realised that camping wasn’t for us anymore. We’ve reached that time in our lives where we prefer a bit of privacy and comfort – and our own private bathrooms!

Trip 3: Easter Weekend at Merry Pebbles

I’d originally booked a camping site at Merry Pebbles in Sabie, my favourite resort in South Africa, but after the previous trip we decided to upgrade to a chalet. And what a good thing we did! We arrived on Friday afternoon, a beautiful blue-sky day that we spent swimming and making friends with all the other children in the camp. On Saturday, the heavens opened and showered down in a continuous storm that can only be described as Biblical. Everyone in a tent packed up and went home, and those in caravans locked themselves up and tried to stay dry as best possible. Fortunately for us, we were quite cosy in our little chalet.

We bundled into our car and took the little one to the Sudwala Dinosaur Park (which he loved!) and into the Sudwala Caves (which he didn’t like quite as much), and went even further afield to sample some of Harry’s Pancakes in Graskop and visited the spectacular Mac-Mac Falls. A weekend that we thoroughly enjoyed, despite the rain!

Trip 4: A week at Little Switzerland

In my opinion, the Drakensberg mountains can’t compete with the Alps in actual Switzerland, but the view across South Africa’s most spectacular mountain range from Little Switzerland Resort was still jaw-droppingly beautiful. We spent a very relaxing week appreciating those views, breathing in the fresh air, and savouring the quiet. We visited outside of school holidays, so practically had the place to ourselves, whiling away the hours by playing putt-putt, trying out the driving range, lounging around the spa, visiting the horses, and swearing at the croquet course. We even went hiking up a mountain!

Trip 5: A week at the Blue Marlin Hotel

The Blue Marlin Hotel in Scottburgh is one of our favourite child-friendly destinations in KwaZulu-Natal. It has that air of a “grand old lady” hotel usually reserved for sophisticated travellers, but with all the amenities you’d want to keep at 6-year-old entertained. We visited in June, during winter, so the weather wasn’t ideal, but we still spent time building sandcastles on the beach and took the little one to uShaka Marine World in Durban. He absolutely adored the dolphin and seal shows, and ran from window to window inside the oceanarium, gawking at the turtles and manta rays.

Trip 6: A week at Mount Sheba

Mount Sheba Rainforest Hotel and Resort had been on my bucket list for a very long time – and it didn’t disappoint! We stayed in the most luxurious cottage overlooking the trees, with no neighbours in sight apart from exotic-looking birds and an inquisitive cat. We went hiking in the rainforest and saw a troupe of endangered Samango monkeys! We also took the little one to Pilgrim’s Rest and its historic old cemetery, and went waterfall hunting near Sabie again, this time visiting the beautiful Lisbon and Berlin falls. Mpumalanga truly is a gorgeous part of South Africa!

Trip 7: A weekend at Gold Reef City

Most people go to Gold Reef City in Johannesburg as a daytrip, but we stayed overnight in the Gold Reef City Theme Park Hotel, which is so convenient for skipping the crowds and resting in between rides. The little one had his second taste of rollercoasters and rides, and I braved the Anaconda, the Jozi Express, the UFO and the High Flying Maverick! A thrill-seeker’s delight.

Trip 8: A daytrip to the Valley of Waves in the Lost City

A summer tradition in our household is to shoot over to Sun City to go dip our toes in the fake ocean in the Valley of the Waves at the Lost City. The little one was old enough to appreciate it this time, and we spent hours being tumbled around by the big wave in the Roaring Lagoon or relaxing on the tubes in the Lazy River. A great way to visit a beach when you’re a 7-hour drive away from the actual ocean.

All these trips were lots of fun, but we learned a few things from them:

  1. It’s absolutely fantastic to have something to look forward to on a frequent basis, but it does get tedious to pack and unpack your suitcase so often
  2. If you go outside of school holidays, your kid won’t have any friends to play with you and you’ll have to keep him entertained yourself
  3. Short breaks are great in the short term, but they don’t give you that deep rest you need to really unwind and forget about everything
  4. You very quickly run out of leave days at work

So, will we continue this trend in 2023? Nope! Although we loved our year of many local trips, the year ahead has other, bigger, adventures in store for us. We’re excited to get on a plane again soon!

How do you prefer to take your vacations? Are you someone who has frequent breakaways, or do you prefer to take trips less often but for longer?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment