(Last updated Nov 2016)
Want to get a break from the bustle of Harare city? Here’s my list of the best day trips from Harare. Many of the venues offer accommodation, so they make great weekend breaks from Harare, too.
You don’t have to venture far from the capital to get close to nature and see some of Zimbabwe’s wildlife. My advice is: Get out there and take advantage of these wonderful activities and locations!
If you have a car (or are renting one) most of these locations are easy to find as long as you’ve check the directions on a Google Maps (or map book) before setting off. Make sure you have the telephone number of the company to hand, on the off-chance you get lost en route. If you’re visiting Harare with a tour company or a lodge, all you need to do is ask them to arrange a visit to one of the places below and they will be happy to help.
Most of these venues are family-friendly, and offer activities for any age. If you’re visiting during the week you shouldn’t need to book ahead for day trips unless otherwise specified below. If you’re visiting on weekends, phone ahead to check there isn’t a function or other large booking. For overnight breaks, it’s best to always book ahead.
Best Day Trips from Harare, Zimbabwe
All the venues on this list have so much to offer that you should set aside a full day (at least) to enjoy them fully. Note: If you want a short (half day) activity, read my post on Things to do in Harare instead.
This beautiful recreational park is run by the government Zimbabwe Parks Authority. The park is 6,100 hectares and consists of Lake Chivero as well as a game park, which is home to giraffe, zebra, white rhino and more. It’s a great family-friendly place to go game viewing, fishing or sailing against the picturesque view of the lake.
There are picnic and fishing sites, guided horse rides, self-drive or guided game drives, crocodile pond visits, game walks (booking required), tennis, volleyball, sailing and canoe hire. Self-catering accommodation is available in the form of lodges, chalets, camp sites and caravan sites. The lodges have recently been refurbished and are good value.
Details: The recreational park is 45 km from Harare off the Bulawayo Road. The Zim Parks’ area is on the south side of the lake, turn right before the dam wall; follow signs to the game camp entrance and rest camp. See details in the National Parks link above. Map available here. Self-catering accommodation available. Small entrance fee.
Ngomakurira (The Mountain of Drums) is Domboshawa’s big brother. It takes an hour or more to walk to the top of this granite mountain, depending on which route you take, and is much more scenic than Domboshawa. There’s a small lake at the top, as well as a beautifully unexpected mini-forest. No need to book ahead. If you can’t get to Bulawayo to see the Matobo Hills, go to Ngomakurira for a taste of rocky wilderness.
Details: Located approx. 30 km out of Harare, off the Borrowdale Rd. Turn right at sign “Ngomakurira Conference Centre”. View Google map here. No accommodation available. A small entrance fee is payable at the car park.
Image source: Bushman Rock Safaris
This “boutique winery” also boasts a restaurant, game park, fishing area, canoeing, rock art, horse rides, accommodation and polo grounds, all set around a dam in the serene Nyamasanga River Valley. Accommodation is available in the thatched lodges which overlook the lakes and valley. Pre-booking for any visit is essential.
The reserve covers 3,300 hectares with scenic views over Lake Mazowe. It is home to around 900 individual animals, and has been a private conservation research area since 2000. Only recently opened to the public, it offers game drives, walking trails to see bushman rock paintings, fishing, self-catering lodges and camp sites.
Details: Located 30 km from Harare, off the Mazowe Road. Map and contact details here. Reservation is required before coming for a game drive or other activity. Upmarket self-catering accommodation and camping available. Fees for activities vary.
This famous ranch is best known for its rhino conservation programme. At Imire you’ll also see elephant, lion, hyena, giraffe, zebra, buffalo and more than ten different types of antelope – as well as over 150 species of birds. The ranch does a number of animal interaction activities, as well as 24-hour itineraries which are highly recommended. Go walking with rhino, go on an elephant safari, horseback safaris, cave visits, bird-watching walks and fishing.
Details: The ranch is 125 km out of Harare off the Mutare Road. Map and contact details here. Catered accommodation is available. Fees for activities vary.
Image source: Pamuzinda Lodge
These venues offer a taste of the African bush in a secure, well-maintained setting. In the 7,500-acre reserve, there are lions in a large enclosure, a special area for some rescued (non-wild) elephants, a river, and a game park and containing buffalo, leopard and plains game. Don’t forget to ask for an audience with Spike, the “tame” warthog (who was our favourite), and Geoffrey the giraffe. Activities include tours of the lion enclosure, elephant rides, horse rides through the bush, canoeing, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, and bush walks. The lodges are owned by the same management, so the activities are shared between the two. In terms of accommodation, Pamuzinda is the smaller, more upmarket option, set on the river. Chengeta is better suited for families and groups.
Details: The lodges are on the Selous River, just an hour outside of Harare. 65 km from Harare off the Bulawayo Road. Map and contact details here. Luxury and group accommodation is available – full board or B&B. Fees for activities vary.
This private bird park is located in Lake Chivero Recreational Park which contains over 460 species of indigenous birds, from African Fish Eagles to Peregrine Falcons. The Bird Park has a “birds of prey” display at 4pm each day, which is a great, hands-on way to show kids how fascinating these birds can be. Additional activities are speedboat rides, game-viewing, fishing, horse riding, or simply relaxing on the waterfront at Admiral’s Cabin Marina. I loved my visit to Kuimba Shiri Bird Park and I think this is a fantastic family-friendly day out.
Details: Located near Lake Chivero, approx 30 km from Harare off the Bulawayo Road. Google map here. Self-catering accommodation is available at waterfront chalets and a camping site. Fees for activities vary. Read my post about Kuimba Shiri for more details.
Photo source: Bally Vaughan & Mwanga Lodge
At Bally Vaughan Animal Sanctuary you can see lions, monkeys and hyenas up-close, at affordable prices. There’s a tea garden serving hot and cold refreshments, and there are picnic areas for you to bring your own food. The tree-top restaurant is open on Sundays.
Adjoining Mwanga Lodge has a game park on its property and it offers accommodation, elephant rides, canoeing, game drives and walks. You can do a day safari which includes a tour of the animal sanctuary, morning tea, a ride on an elephant, a canoe ride, lunch, and a game drive.
Details: Located 40 km from Harare off the Shamva Rd. Map and contact details here. Fully catered. Accommodation available.
Game sanctuary located near Harare International Airport. Activities include game drives, fishing, canoeing, bush walks and rock painting viewing. You can bring your own picnic or buy refreshments in the tea garden. Read about my visit to Mbizi Game Park for more info.
Details: Located 22 km outside Harare on the Twentydales Rd. Map and contact details here. Self-catering and catered accommodation is available. Fees for activities vary.
10. Umfurudzi Park
Image source: Umfurudzi Park
This park is a little further out of Harare (about 2 hours by car), so is probably better as a weekend break rather than a day trip. It’s a large park at 7,600 hectares which allows a lot of space for the family to explore. Activities include game drives, swimming in the rivers, canoeing, fishing, climbing, viewing of bushman cave paintings, mountain biking or walking in this beautiful park that holds a variety of plains game. There is also an enclosed buffalo and elephant breeding area which is only allowed with the attendance of a ranger. You can hire a 4×4 vehicle for a game drive if necessary. There are picnic spots for you to bring your own food and enjoy an al-fresco lunch.
Details: Located approx. 140 km from Harare, off the Shamva Rd. Map and contact details here. Self-catering accommodation available in permanent furnished tents and camping sites. Fees for activities vary.
Also see accommodation at Hippo Pools Wilderness Camp in Umfuduzi.
11. Paradise Pools at Arcadia Dam
Paradise Pools is a wonderful place for the family to soak up some sun and slide on the rock pools around Arcadia Dam. There are braai (barbecue) facilities, ablutions, camp sites and self-catering chalets.
Details: Located about 90 km from Harare, near Bindura. See it on Google Maps here. Email young[at]mweb.co.zw. Self-catering accommodation available.
12. Gosho Park
Wildlife reserve with plains game and a wide variety of birds. Have a picnic in the Zimbabwean countryside to get away from it all.
Details: Located approx. 83 km off the Harare-Mutare Road. Contact secretary[at]phg.co.zw for details. Camping accommodation available. Small entrance fee.
13. Haka Game Park
A small private park bordering Cleveland Dam, containing zebra, eland, giraffe and wildebeest. Picnic spots and canoeing available.
Details: Located 13 km from Harare off the Mutare Road. Turn left towards Cleveland Dam and turn left just before getting to the dam. See it on Google Maps. No accommodation available.
Image source: Domborira
This nature park contains seven San rock art sites along some nature trails. It’s very child-friendly as it has a large “jungle gym”, braai/picnic area, some animals, an aerial slide, pool table, croquet and mini golf. You can take your own food, or buy braai packs and refreshments there.
Details: Located 28 km from Harare off the Mutare Road, just before central Ruwa. Pre-booking is essential. Map and contact details here. No accommodation available.
15. Chinhoyi Caves
Chinhoyi Caves comprises a series of pools and underground caves filled with cobalt-blue, almost transparent water. Visitors can see 50 metres in the open pools, through the water into the caves. There are shaded picnic spots for you to enjoy a packed lunch, as well as camping facilities if you’d like to stay overnight.
You can even learn to scuba dive with here with Dive Wild – there are over 100 metres of diving space in these pools and passageways.
Details: Located 129 km from Harare on the Chirundu Rd. Well signposted. Google map here. It’s also a good place to stop for a picnic en route to Kariba or Mana Pools. Self-catering accommodation available. Small entrance fee payable at the gate. Read my Guide to Chinhoyi Caves.
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Check out my Quick reference list of Zimbabwe travel informat