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Top 10 Places to Visit in South Africa

Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York. She's worked with clients like Instacart, Tailwind, Columbia, Esurance, and LifeLock.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa is a vibrant country full of adventure and possibilities. Boasting warm temperatures year-round, South Africa is the perfect place for your next family vacation.

Located at the southern tip of Africa, the country has the largest economy on the continent.

While many people tend to associate South Africa with the apartheid policies between 1948 and 1994, the tourism industry of this magnificent country has skyrocketed in the last 20 years.

Visitors looking for nature, wildlife or sports-related activities will not be disappointed. Here are the top 10 places to visit in South Africa when you have the opportunity to go.

1. Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park, located in northeastern South Africa, is one of the largest game reserves in all of Africa. Visitors can see lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, buffalos, eagles, zebras, aardvarks, baboons, storks, and vultures, among other types of species.

Hundreds of mammals reside inside the park; however, you may have to work to be able to see some of the animals. Bringing a good zoom lens for your camera may be a good idea.

Also, make sure to give yourself enough time to truly enjoy the park, as some visitors have reported that the park is very large and that it can takes days to see just a portion of it.

Be prepared to work to find the animals, as they aren’t lined up in cages as they would be in a zoo. Despite the park potentially taking up several days of your vacation, it's a unique experience you are sure to remember long after your time there is over.

2. Table Mountain National Park

Table Mountain National Park is a flat-topped mountain from which visitors can see the city of Cape Town in South Africa.

An amazing tourist attraction, Table Mountain receives 24 million visitors per year. Some say it’s the most iconic landmark in South Africa.

Visitors normally cable their way up the mountain and then have the opportunity to take amazing photographs of the breathtaking views below.

About 2,000 species of plants can be found on Table Mountain and 1,470 floral species.

At the foot of the mountain sits the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which spans 1,300 acres and includes a conservatory featuring plants from all over the world.

View from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

View from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

3. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Though just mentioned, there’s just so much to do at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden that it deserves its own number on our list.

Celebrated as one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world, the gardens are home to a wide variety of birds, animals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates.

The gardens can also be explored in more than one way, including by mountain bike or via walking trails.

The tree canopy walkway is always a popular choice. In addition to the many plant and animal species throughout the garden, you can also dine and shop within the garden itself.

You can choose between moyo Kirstenbosch, The Kirstenbosch Tea Room, and the caffe at Kirstenbosch, all of which serve breakfast and lunch foods and beverages, such as scones, muffins, tea, cakes, croissants, rolls and high-quality coffee.

4. Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is home to some of the most multifaceted fossil caves. The fossils have been preserved magnificently over the last 4 million years.

It’s home to about 40% of the world’s known human-ancestor fossils, making it truly an amazing place to explore. There’s no shortage of things to do at this site, including getting pampered in the Valley Lodge & Spa, hitting up Old McDonald’s Party Farm at Stornaway, or going back in time to the Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom.

Also, the place features the Casalinga Ristorante Italiano, Ama Zwing Zwing Zip Line Tours, Aquila Café, and the Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary, among other things.

5. Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is the perfect place for your family to spend a little time relaxing. Known for its ancient granite boulders and the African penguins roaming around, your little ones will love seeing them waddle to and fro.

Located near Simon’s Town, this clean and safe beach is perfect for swimming with your little ones.

If you’d like to get up close and personal with the penguins, however, you may have to opt for Foxy Beach.

6. Shopping in Cape Town

Cape Town is a sprawling metropolis full of amazing markets. No vacation would be complete without doing a little shopping for souvenirs and cultural trinkets.

Just some of the shops you can expect to find include the Oranjezicht City Farm in Granger Bay on the V&A Waterfront (wheat, gluten, sugar and dairy-free foods for vegans and vegetarians), The Watershed at the V&A Waterfront (150 stalls that sell more than 365 brands—furniture, textiles, fashion and jewelry), and the Durbanville Craft Market in Rust-en-Verge on Wellington Road in Durbanville.

7. uShaka Marine World

Unlike any water park you’ve been to in the states, uShaka Marine World features dangerous animals, including venomous snakes, black-throated monitors, anacondas, spiders, frogs, and lizards.

In addition, the expansive water park includes a Beginner Rope Adventure featuring 18 different elements, including two zip lines. One line runs over the turtle enclosure and the other over the park's Rocky Reef.

On this fun-filled adventure, be sure to wear closed-toed shoes (or go barefoot!), bring plenty of sunscreen and wear comfortable clothing.

Long hair has to be tied up and you should be at least somewhat physically fit. Their website says if you can run up a flight of stairs, you’re good!

8. Gold Reef City

If you’re not feeling the whole dangerous-animals-at-an-amusement-park-where-your-kids-will-be thing, try Gold Reef City instead. Gold Reef City is an amusement park located in Johannesburg, South Africa and is one of the country’s top family attractions.

The park includes a stunning opera house and A-list international entertainment, according to its website. I don’t need to tell you why a theme park would be great for family vacations. ‘Nuff said. On to the next!

9. Voortrekker Monument

The Voortrekker Monument is located in the northern part of South Africa, consisting of dozens of things to do with the family, including, but not limited to horseback riding, cycling, hiking, and tours.

The monument commemorates the pioneer history of Southern Africa and the history of the Afrikaner.

10. Two Oceans Aquarium

There are several things you and your family can do at the Two Oceans Aquarium, including taking a dive into the tanks of the yellowfin tuna, striped bonito, dusky kob or black-and-white musselcracker; entertaining the children via the I&J Children’s Play Centre (which features arts, crafts, games, books and a sand pit); and going for a boat ride.

The boat ride is 90 minutes long and allows visitors to ride on catamaran in Table Bay and learn about the waters of Cape Town.


© 2022 Shanea Patterson