As part of our big SA trip in June 2021 we visited the lovely town of Clarens, and camped at the Golden Gate National Park. We had also visited in July 2019 when the kids were a bit smaller, and on that visit we stayed at a resort instead. Both visits were great and we would recommend visiting this part of the world even in winter when the nights are cold, but the days are gloriously sunny and warm and we didn’t see a cloud in the sky. Although it can snow in winter, so worth checking the weather before you go!
For our trip in July 2019, we met up with friends who were also travelling with kids, so we chose to stay at Kiara Lodge Resort, about 10km outside of Clarens. I must admit it is the first time that we have stayed in a family-type resort and we were a little apprehensive, but… we loved it! The kids had an absolute blast, and happy kids = happy parents. There was a jumping pillow, trampolines, swings, slides, a huge heated indoor swimming pool (including a kiddies pool), a games room (which also brought out the competitive side in the parents), and wide open spaces for the kids to run around. For anyone with kids heading up this way who are looking for somewhere to stay and play, we would definitely recommend it.
The town of Clarens itself is best suited to adults. There are great shops to wander through as well as lovely coffee shops and restaurants all surrounded by spectacular scenery. The kids quickly bored with wandering the shops, but fortunately there is a large grassy town square where they could let off some energy and run around without us parents having to worry about breakages…
There were a couple of activities for kids – there was an informal horse riding setup (albeit without helmets) which departed from near Mosaic Restaurant, and a couple of the restaurants had jungle gyms (Artist’s Café and Mosaic Pizzeria).
But just outside of Clarens there are plenty of activities for kids. Opposite Kiara Lodge is Di Bus Stop, offering activities such as Go Karts, Quad Bikes, pony rides, fishing, mountain bike trails and more.
Golden Gate National Park
In Golden Gate National Park there are some loops you can drive (tar, no 4×4 required) where you have the chance of seeing animals such as Black Wildebeest, Zebra and Bearded Vultures.
Hiking with kids in Golden Gate National Park
On our second visit, our kids were old enough to enjoy some of the day hikes in the Golden Gate National Park. If you visit reception at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp you can get a map of the routes. There is also more information about the routes given at the excellent Interpretation Centre at reception.
The majority of the routes start by crossing the bridge in the campsite. We found the trails to be well signposted, and although the map didn’t 100% correspond with our experience of the trails, the timings were pretty spot on. While staying at the campsite we did the Echo Ravine, Boskloof and Mushroom Rock trails, as well as part of the Brandwag trail. Our favourite was definitely the Echo Ravine walk which takes you up into a spectacular rock formation and offers beautiful views of the mountains and rock formations in the park. There are some rocks to scramble over, but generally the trail is pretty easy going and is definitely well worth doing!
The weather for our hikes on the first day was beautifully warm and sunny (t-shirt and shorts) – but in places where the sun hadn’t hit the trail, there was still frost on the ground at mid-afternoon. The next day the weather wasn’t so kind, with a howling wind, and we definitely needed warm jerseys and hats. As with all hiking adventures, make sure you are prepared for every eventuality!
Camping in Golden Gate National Park
We camped for two nights at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp at Golden Gate National Park. The campsite has some construction works ongoing, and there are only powered sites available. It is located next to the main road, and while there is some traffic during the day, at night there were only a handful of cars and it didn’t disturb us at all. The campsite has all the facilities you expect from a Sanparks campsite – including a kitchen with an oven, and a guest laundry area with washers and dryers. That said, we had no hot water the entire time we stayed (not a huge issue as Odyssey has an onboard shower with heaps of hot water), but a bit disappointing for the price paid. However the views you get from the campsite are absolutely spectacular, and there was some decent birding to be done too – highlights being a ground woodpecker and a crested barbet.
Camping in winter is definitely a chilly experience! The temperature dropped to below zero overnight, and while we were warm and cozy inside our lovely truck, we did feel a bit sorry for a couple of guys that were camping in a tent next to us, we hope they had good sleeping bags!!
When we visited in July 2019, construction was underway of a new Dinosaur Centre which will provide information about the dinosaurs and dinosaur eggs which have been found in and around Golden Gate National Park. Sadly when we visited again in June 2021, the centre was STILL under construction. We really hope it’s worth it when it’s finished!