Road tripping with a child is more then a little “challenging”, add in 3 more children and you will realise why we have a certain time-limit when it comes to our family road trips… 4.5 hours at the most, is our personal limit, anything after that and the holiday is off to a bad start.
Sometimes, these limits however, are a blessing in disguise, and it is one of the reasons we started to explore more local travel. Exploring our own province and its surrounds was something we started doing when our boys were young, and now with two more additions to our brood, we have even more reason to keep discovering hidden gems.
Gauteng is rich with history and diversity in landscape, and we truly are blessed with some of the most beautiful attractions around. Sure, we may not have an ocean, but we do have the site of the oldest known man on earth.. Here are a few of our favourite places to road trip with the family around Gauteng.
Important to note: Some of these places do require 4×4 vehicles, or you may even require a larger vehicle, if you don’t own one, why not look into renting with SANI Car Rental? Their main car rental branch is located at O.R. Tambo International Airport
Thankfully “haarties” is less than an hour away! There is so much to do in this area, we have stayed over weekends, and done day trips as well, there is so much to do in this area, I would really recommend a weekend stay. You can see a full, detailed post, dedicated to haarties here. In the meantime some of our favourite places include “mini Paris”, a stop in to French Toast Koffie Kafee is a must , it is always packed on the weekends, so make sure to get there early for a good table and photo opportunities. The service may not be the quickest, but it’s worth the experience. Haarties Aerial Cableway, the boys loved going up and down in the cable cars, the view is glorious, and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of pizza at the top, a welcome reward, should you choose to hike the trail. Elephant Sanctuary, with the steep price, it’s got to be a special birthday experience or anniversary, but worth it for the interactive elephant experience, including hands on educational interactions; elephant back riding. Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary . It is right alongside the Elephant sanctuary, and it provides an environment where monkeys (primates) can be given their freedom in a natural environment It’s one of only eight free-release primate sanctuaries found globally. These are animals that have sadly been raised as household pets or bred for the pet trade. I went for my birthday one year (you get great discounts), and the children loved it.
Van Gaalens Cheese Farm a tour around the farm is a must (offered on a Wednesday and Saturday). Watch a demonstration of cheese making and tasting as well as a slice of cake and tea/juice. They have an in-house restaurant and a farm shop which stocks a wide range of goodies. You can also purchase permits for an incredibly beautiful hike. The Strawberry Farm – Pack a picnic blanket and spend a glorious morning picking organic strawberries straight from the ground. It’s a fully working farm which offers strawberry picking during Summer. The small restaurant serves breakfast on weekends and public holidays, while I haven’t eaten there, I have had the decadent strawberry milkshakes and they are to die for! Seriously THE best I have ever had. It’s a family run, working farm, so don’t expect top class amenities. If you are looking for a day out picking fresh berries in season, I would highly recommend a visit.
The Cradle of Human Kind
This area definitely deserves an overnight or weekend stay.
Some of the world’s oldest and most famous hominid fossils were discovered in Gauteng in the UNESCO-protected Cradle of Humankind. A visit to Maropeng, the official visitors centre, can be combined with a tour of the nearby Sterkfontein Caves where the remains of Little Foot were found. It’s an easy 45 minute drive from Johannesburg and the beautiful surroundings make it a popular haven for cyclists, hikers and families looking to escape the city.
Venues like our favourite Kloofzicht lodge or Cradle Moon Lakeside Lodge offer an array of outdoor activities including hikes, fishing, mountain biking trails, open-water swimming and kayaking. Kloofzicht even offers a world class spa which offers a variety of treatments, massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and tailor-made spa packages. They also stock my favourite Matsimela range. While you are there, why not book a hot air balloon ride to take in the beauty of the area.
The Nirox Sculpture Park is one of South Africa’s best hidden treasures, with its sculptures and streams it is a beautiful place to spend a sunny afternoon. A visit to the Cradle would be complete without a trip to the Bothongo Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve. This is truly a full day trip and there are so many activities to do in this incredible reserve. From the BMX bike park (you can rent bikes if you need), to the Pidipidi Playground, at the Rhino and Lion Nature reserve you can choose from a Self-Drive option or book a guided tour through the reserve. With 2 swimming pools, the Bothongo Wondercave, Predator camps and snake shows, this is honestly one of our favourite places to visit.
Oh my goodness, where to start?
One of our favourite places to visit is The Donkey Dairy. Ironically, to get to the Dairy, you drive through the Plumari Nature Reserve, which is mentioned a little further down.
The Donkey Dairy is a working donkey farm, nestled in the sloped of the majestic Magaliesburg mountains. It is truly one of a kind, with the most kind and caring staff, an opportunity to get “down and dirty” on the farm, feeding the baby goats. Enjoy Donkey rides, Milk tastings or even explore one of their many hiking trails. It really is a beautiful day out, or you can make a weekend of it, right next door is the African Hills Safari Lodge. Book a stay and explore the beautiful Plumari reserve. We got to see Giraffe, Hippo, Springbok, Eland, Waterbuck, Impala, Wildebeest, Rhino, Zebra, Jackal to name a few. The lodge is also home to the Plumari Heritage Museum. Our transport obsessed kids were enthralled by all the old Ox Wagons and carts, and it was such a treat to show them how transport has developed. The famous “Mrs Ples” is also at this museum and we had a mini history lesson for the kids. Top tip : Make sure you book the “garden suite” rooms – these are newer rooms (some of the thatched rooms weren’t really my style). The garden suites overlook the central swimming pool and are just a short walk away from some of the watering holes where you can spot the resident hippos. The old restaurant is fantastically quaint, it stems off the Bodenstein family farmhouse, and some of the original pieces like the family bible, telephone and staircase are still intact. We spent an afternoon playing chess upstairs with the kids. If you book Sunday brunch you also get the beautiful experience of the elephants right in front of you. Our children got to swim in the pool where the elephants come right up to it to drink, what an experience. You can read a full review here.
Black Horse Brewery is the place to go for a little bit of magic. Overlooking the breathtaking “Zeekoeihoek” valley, you will feel like you’ve been transported somewhere else. The scenery is incredible, and you can spend a beautiful afternoon relaxing under the magnificent Pecan Nut trees. If artisanal craft beer is your thing, then sample the local brew or order of the menu while the children play. The award-winning Mount Grace Hotel and Spa is also close by and offers a serene environment in which to relax and rejuvenate your soul through a selection of treatments.
Pilanesberg National Park
SO MUCH CLOSER then the Kruger (and a lot less busy too). Pilanesberg is my go-to anytime I need some bush for my soul. Less than 2 hours outside of Johannesburg, this 550 square kilometer park is the fourth largest in South Africa. It’s also set within the crater of an ancient volcano, formed 1.2 billion years ago which adds to the incredible beauty of the landscape and rock formations. Hotels of choice are Ivory Tree Game lodge, or Tshukudu, but if you are looking for something a little more budget friendly for a large family, Bakubung and Kwa-Maritane are extremely child friendly. Pilanesberg is home to the Big 5 and offers a wide variety of activities, from hot air ballooning, to guided walks, archery or quad bike rides – you are spoilt for choice. If you do need a “break” from the bush, well Sun City is right next door, with its extensive lists of water activities, games, arcades, rides. It’s a child’s dream holiday and one place we visit every year.
The Vaal Dam around 80km south of Joburg is the second largest dam in South Africa and the river, is possibly one of the most peaceful places to sit and watch the sunset. The Vaal area is hugely popular with birdwatchers, watersports enthusiasts and anglers. There are a number of hotels and lodges in the area, you can even dine on the water with one of the many boat cruises and I believe you can also rent a houseboat for the weekend. One of our favourite places to visit for fishing or a family day our is the Lion Lodge – with its abundance of play areas of the kids, 2 swimming pools and horse riding, it’s a guaranteed fun day out. We also love to do to Pont De Vaal. They have the most beautiful vineyards to explore, laze on the river banks and have a picnic or even catch a movie under the stars. The restaurant service was incredibly slow the last time we visited, but the surroundings and company made up for what they lacked. Finally, just about an hour outside of the Vaal dam, but still along the banks of the Vaal River is the beautiful Kraal Luxury Lodge. The perfect, luxurious escape for you and your partner, or perhaps a girls weekend away. The Mountain Lodge is the ultimate treat with breath-taking views from your glass walls. Relax in your own private plunge pool or enjoy a massage at the spa. The River Lodge offers luxury “glamping” with each tent coming with it’s own en-suite bathroom, electric blankets and twin or queen sized beds.
I actually could have gone on and one with this list, we are truly spoilt with so much in such a close area. I’ve made it my New Years Resolution to explore at least one new place every two months. What are you waiting for? Get out and adventure!
This post was written in collaboration with SANI Car Rental.