The different regions of the Eastern Cape offer wildly different things to do. From bundu bashing on the Wild Coast and surfing in Jeffreys Bay, to getting your dose of the Big Five in Addo – the Eastern Cape caters to all!
Why you should visit: The 250km stretch from East London to Port Edward is aptly called the Wild Coast. Previously known as the Transkei, traditional isiXhosa culture, informs the simple and secluded way of life. Cows roam on the area’s beaches, colourful thatched rondavels line the hills and Coffee Bay (backpacker central) reveals izi Khaleni, “place of thunder” in isiXhosa, or “Hole in the Wall” – a huge rock structure, slightly detached from the coast, that has a giant hole in its base where the ocean waves crash through at high tide.
How to get there: It is a four-hour drive from East London airport to Coffee Bay. Keep alert for livestock on the road – and potholes! Word of advice, a 4X4 is best for the gravel road from Coffee Bay to Hole in the Wall but the option is open to hike the 10km coastal stretch.
Addo Elephant National Park
Why you should visit: The Eastern Cape boasts the third-largest national park in South Africa. The Addo Elephant National Park is just one hour from Port Elizabeth on good roads and is well worth a visit! The park has Big Five wildlife and hundreds of its namesake; elephants.
How to get there: It’s 42km from Port Elizabeth to Addo, travelling along the N2.
Storms River Mouth
Why you should visit: For sheer raw beauty, make the journey to Storms River Mouth Rest Camp in the Tsitsikamma National Park. Verdant vegetation of Afromontane forest and fynbos roll down rocky cliffs to the Indian Ocean. For nature lovers and adventure seekers, this is the Garden of Eden. Walk the iconic suspension bridge, hike, kayak or take a boat cruise up the gorge and tackle blackwater tubing and canopy tours. Storms River is also the starting point for the famous Otter Trail. So popular, it is recommended to book a year in advance.
How to get there: It’s almost central to PE and George along the N2.
Why you should visit: Said to have inspired J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings setting, Hogsback is every bit as magical and mysterious as the books. Hidden high up in the Amathole Mountains at 1,200 metres above sea level, visit this one-road hamlet for its artsy community, waterfalls in summer and snow in winter.
How to get there: It’s a two-hour drive from East London Airport. Watch out for animals on the road and don’t make the journey after dusk.
With a complex and rich history, the Eastern Cape has many stories to tell. In spite of the painful legacy of apartheid still very raw and visible, Eastern Cape locals are warm and welcoming.
There are many opportunities to engage, dive into local arts and culture and enjoy a traditional meal together.
Surfing in Jeffreys Bay
Why you should visit: Jeffreys Bay needs no introduction. The Eastern Cape surfing mecca is world-famous for its right-hand surf break and international surfing events and competitions that are frequently held here. Do as the locals do, grab a surfboard and hit the waves. If you’re a newbie, join one of the many surf schools for a lesson.
How to get there: It’s a one-hour drive down from PE to Jeffreys Bay via the N2.
How much does it cost: Lessons at the Jeffreys Bay Surf School start from R350 for a two-hour group lesson.
Arts and culture in Makhanda
Why you should visit: Formerly known as Grahamstown and home to Rhodes University, Makhanda has a thriving arts and culture scene. The National Arts Festival – the largest celebration of arts on the continent – takes place every June and July with an influx of local and international artists, performers and musicians. When not getting cultured at “Fest”, as the event is known, browse the Village Green Arts and Crafts Fair or rest at the town’s quaint coffee shops and museums.
How to get there: It’s an hour and a half from Port Elizabeth Airport to Grahamstown.
The Owl House in Nieu Bethesda
Why you should visit: The Owl House is a museum you’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else in the world. Hidden in the tiny Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda, artist Helen Martins transformed her house and garden into a wonderland with over 300 statues of animals made from cement and glass. Unique, entertaining, and at times a little eerie, it’s ideal for culture fundis.
How to get there: Nieu Bethesda is a 45-minute drive from Graaff-Reinet, off the N9.
How much does it cost: Buy tickets at the visitors’ centre in Martin Street. It costs R60 to visit the Owl House.
Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve in East London
Why you should visit: Inkwenkwezi is a private game reserve hidden in the interior of the Wild Coast, near Chintsa West. The 100-km² park is home to the Big Five. Its location near the coast also means that Southern Right Whales can be spotted in season. Rare white lions, in their enclosure, can also be found.
Day visitors are welcome and there are guided and self-guided game drives. Overnight visitors can choose from The Valley Camp, Bush Camp or Umnenga Lodge accommodation.
How to get there: It is approximately 33km from East London.
How much does it cost: Guided game drives start at around R985 per person for three hours.