Pack up the kids for a fuss-free holiday at one of these eight destinations, where fresh air and a stint in nature take priority over a constant buzz and ching of activities.
This has become one of the Wild Coast’s most popular and loved family resorts and with good reason. It’s very well versed in taking care of essentials with excellent childcare facilities and carers, beautiful accommodation and decadent cuisine in a relaxed, picturesque environment. This means all that’s left for visitors to do is sit back and relax or enjoy a raft of activities.
Guests are made to feel like part of the greater Umngazi community; it’s one of those places that sees generations of families returning year after year. Every member of the family – from toddler to teen, mom to grandpa – is catered for, be it through long hours of lazing by the pool or being pampered to within an inch of their life at the spa.
There’s also canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, excursions to popular attractions such as The Blowhole and The Gap as well as birding and fishing trips. A fun option is to take a sundowner cruise up the river to spot the resident fish-eagle. Keep an eye on the notice board near reception to see what walks or trips are on offer for a particular day. If there’s any energy left you can hit the gym or tennis courts.
It has to be said that it’s probably the kids who’ll end up having the most fun, as the entertainment team is constantly dreaming up original ways to keep them busy – think mullet cruises, dune surfing and milkshake making.
The accommodation is of a high standard and you can choose from river-view, garden-view, hillside and sea-view bungalows, depending on your needs and budget. There’s also a magnificent honeymoon bungalow with a private garden and wraparound veranda and views.
Low-season DB&B rates are from R865 a person sharing in gardenview cottages to R1 560 a person for cottages on the hillside. Tel 047- 564-1115/6/8/9, cell 082-3215841/2, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.umngazi.co.za.
Racing through the crackle of fallen leaves during autumn brings out the child in everyone. That’s not to say it isn’t beautiful year round, but the crisp mountain air and blue skies at Dragon Peaks are particularly beautiful when set against the seasonal golds, oranges and reds.
After 45 years as a family-owned resort, it’s no wonder it has managed to streamline its accommodation and activities to suit all sorts of families’ needs. The 400-hectare estate is tucked below the Drakensberg’s Cathkin Peak and Champagne Castle with all the amenities for a fun-filled time away, including access to hikes in the central Berg region, helicopter flips, a play area, mountain biking and a swimming pool.
A firm favourite with young children is Baby Huey, a pony that takes them for rides around the stable block from 09h00 to 10h00 every day, but expect tears at the end of the holiday when young riders have to part from their steed. There are also various horseriding trails for older riders.
Accommodation ranges from campsites to luxury 12-sleeper cottages and includes family cottages, log cabins and mobile homes and a mountain base for special interest groups within walking distance of the resort. The cabins are adequately kitted out for a comfortable stay, with kitchen and dining areas, air-con and heaters as well as private verandas. Ask for a cabin overlooking the dam with mountain views. The family cottages, meanwhile, vary according to your needs from quaint but fairly basic two-sleepers to luxury six- and eight-sleeper options
As the sun settles in the late afternoon, its languid rays illuminate the golden sandstone mountains that give the park its name. The sheer beauty is enough of a reason to make this a regular holiday destination, but added to this is a range of hiking trails of varying distances that offer boundless opportunities to introduce children to the splendours of nature.
The 11 600-hectare reserve has an ethereal feel and is one of South Africa’s most exquisite natural resources, boasting mammals including black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra, as well as rare bird species such as the bearded vulture and bald ibis. Dinosaur footprints have also been found here and there are beautiful self-drive routes throughout the reserve. Aside from game-viewing, birding and hiking, Golden Gate has bowls, tennis, table tennis and horse riding as well as activity programmes over the April and December holidays. If bad weather strikes, head to Clarens; the quaint Free State town is an easy drive away and holds plenty of opportunities for shopping, eating and fun.
There’s an accommodation option to suit almost every budget. Families can bunk down in comfortable chalets, newly renovated hotel rooms or the ample camping and caravan site. There are also wooden chalets nested in the hilltops far from the hub-bub of the main camp area or, for something different, stay at a cultural village and learn about Basotho culture.
Rooms at The Golden Gate Hotel range from R955 to R3 254 a night. Self-catering rates at Basotho Cultural Village Rest Camp start at R650 for two people a night (R186 an adult and R93 a child for additional guests in the larger rondavels). Glen Reenen Rest Camp rates are R165 for a campsite without power (R62 an additional adult and R31 an additional child for up to six people) and range to R1 190 for a three-bedroom family cottage with one double and four single beds. Highlands Mountain Retreat cabins are from R1 110 a night for a two-sleeper to R1 805 for a four-sleeper. SanParks, tel 012-428- 9111, email email@example.com, www.sanparks.org.
Hlalanathi has all the feel of an old-school Drakensberg resort, with wholesome activities to keep the children busy. There’s a trampoline, a playground, horse rides, swimming and table tennis. There’s also bass fishing on the property and Royal Natal National Park is close by for hiking.
But that’s where old-fashioned ends. The 21 spacious family chalets have modern fittings and are reasonably spaced to ensure privacy. There are also 56 electrified caravan and camping sites that share awesome views. If you aren’t up to self-catering there’s the resident Hlala’s Pub and Grill
Chalets and the campsite are conveniently within walking distance from a nine-hole course overlooking the Tugela River and Amphitheatre. Birders will enjoy the course, which was designed to have a minimum impact on the environment. Indigenous plants fill the spaces between the fairways and water features attract a variety of birds.
An important part of the ethos at The Cavern is for families to reconnect and spend quality time together and it offers a range of wholesome activities to do just that. The resort is in a secluded valley and an extensive private mountain reserve can be explored on a number of walks and hikes, including the popular shorter walks, which are suitable for young children. Most involve an occasional scramble, but guides take along snacks and drinks to keep everyone motivated and brew a welcome cup of tea at the destination.
Other activities include pony rides, a fabulous children’s play area, quad biking, a swimming pool and child minders prepare an activity in the playroom at 15h00 every day. The guys can spend their morning fishing from any of the five well-stocked trout dams, while the girls treat themselves to some pampering at The Forest Retreat. Little princesses will love the kiddies’ nail treatment.
The modern and classically decorated standard hotel rooms have sliding doors onto patios that overlook the landscaped gardens, while the superior rooms are similarly decorated but have TVs and bar fridges and boast views of the indigenous forest and mountains. The superior suites are enormous with luxurious finishes and similar views to the superior rooms.
DB&B ranges from R830 a person a night sharing in a standard room to R1 145 for a superior suite. Children receive discounts, depending on their age. Keep an eye on the website for off-peak specials. Rates include teas and most activities. Tel 036-438-6270, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.cavern.co.za.
6. Club Mykonos, Langebaan
This island-themed resort on the West Coast is a great way to pretend you’ve left the continent for an exotic Greek holiday without actually leaving the shores of Langebaan Lagoon. From the authentic-looking architecture in cool whites with splashes of colour to Chester the donkey, which remains surprisingly friendly despite the multitude of children he carts around, this is as close as you’re going to get to the real deal without forking out the big bucks.
The resort also boasts fishing and water sports, bars and, to add a dash of glam, luxury yacht trips and a casino. There are outdoor pools, an indoor pool, a gym and a beach. Club Onos, a dedicated club for kids, offers a heap of fun activities from bingo to movies, crafts to sports or whatever else the staff has dreamed up to ensure they stay happy.
The resort has accommodation options to suit various budgets and all units are equipped for self-catering, but there’s also a fairly big selection of restaurants to try out if you’re not in the mood to cook.
7. Sparkling Waters Hotel and Spa, Rustenberg
Definitely more resort than hotel, Sparkling Waters has managed to maintain a friendly, old-fashioned grace while keeping apace with the wants and needs of modern visitors.
The resort is spread out on about 4,5 hectares of a 45-hectare property, so there’s ample room for even the most hyper kids to run around. And if that isn’t enough to wear them out there’s plenty more to keep them and the rest of the family busy, including an extensive mini-golf course, an enormous pool, the spa, an indoor pool, walks to the Krom River and Magaliesberg Canopy Tour’s ziplines through Ysterhout Kloof.
There’s also action cricket, horse riding, squash, volleyball, tennis, a diving board, paintball, a trampoline, outdoor sauna, snooker room, bicycle hire and a shooting range, among others. There’s even a range of spa treatments specially tailored for under 16s. On most weekends and during school holidays, there’s a separate kids’ dining area on the veranda with big screen movies and popcorn.
All 56 rooms are air conditioned and have DStv. DB&B rates start from R550 a person a night sharing, children between six and 10 are R225, and 11 to 15 are R360. Tel 014-535-0000/6, cell 082-859-4036/7, email email@example.com, www.sparklingwaters.co.za.
If you’re after an all-round family fun option that includes outdoor relaxation and a touch of adventure, Areena Riverside Resort’s position on the banks of the Kwelera River, overlooking dense coastal forest, is the place to head.
There’s so much to keep the family entertained, from fishing to canoeing and more that the one complaint you’re unlikely to hear is ‘I’m bored’. If you have your own boat, book a campsite on the banks and moor the vessel at a jetty in front of your tent or caravan; it will prove handy for quick visits to the sea a short distance downstream. If you don’t have a boat, Areena arranges river cruises to the mouth or beach or you can hire one of the bright orange canoes.
An appealing bonus is that Areena is also a private game reserve and buck, monkeys and ostriches as well as a pair of leathery-faced tortoises roam the campsite. The kids will love feeding the emus, goats and chickens in the animal farm. Outside the camp borders you’ll find zebra, giraffe, blue wildebeest, ostrich and a variety of antelope. Book a quad-bike trail as the animals are so accustomed to the roar of the bikes that you can get really close. Adventure seekers can abseil down a 55-metre cliff face with incredible views of the river and valley below and exercise fanatics can opt for a 23-kilometre hike.
Rates vary according to month and reduce according to number of people sharing, but start at R135 a person for camping out of season. There are also self-catering units from R585 to R700 for two people sharing. Tel 043-734-3055, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.areena.co.za.
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Tags: Areena Riverside Resort, Bergville, central Drakensberg, Club Mykonos, Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort, family friendly resorts, family holidays, Glengarriff, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Hlalanathi Drakensberg Resort, Langebaan, northern Drakensberg, Port St Johns, Rustenberg, Sparkling Waters Hotel and Spa, The Cavern, Umngazi River Bungalows and Spa