The second largest province in South Africa by area, and the third largest by population, the Eastern Cape is an unsung treasure with an abundance of things to do, as well as a great destination for a road trip. We especially love the nature, wildlife and beaches there. Here are some of the best things to do in the Eastern Cape:
Previously known as Port Elizabeth, Gqeberha is a picturesque city on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Also known as “the windy city” and “the friendly city”, it makes a great base for your Eastern Cape trip as you can fly to the city’s international airport. Car rental at Gqeberha Airport is easy and you can explore the city and the rest of the province from there. In Gqeberha, you can visit the Donkin Reserve, Cape Recife Lighthouse and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), where you can see rehabilitated injured seabirds, or you can just relax on the beaches.
Addo Elephant National Park is a sanctuary for over 600 elephants, and other big game like lions, buffalos, and rhinos. You can opt for a guided game drive or navigate your own way around in a rented vehicle. The park also offers bird-watching, hiking, and horseback riding for those wanting a closer connection to nature. Get your guide to Addo Elephant National Park.
Known as one of the best surfing destinations in the world, Jeffrey's Bay or "J-Bay" is a hotspot for both seasoned and novice surfers. The town itself has a relaxed vibe, and the waves are considered some of the fastest and most perfectly formed in the world. If you're not into surfing, you can still enjoy the beautiful beaches and laid-back ambience.
The aptly named Wild Coast offers an untouched, rugged coastline ideal for adventure-seekers. Here you can go horseback riding along the beach, snorkelling, or cliff diving. Don’t miss the Hole in the Wall at Coffee Bay, one of the Eastern Cape's most iconic natural landmarks. This unique geological formation consists of a massive cliff that has a large hole carved through its centre by the erosive forces of the sea.
Rich in history and culture, Makhanda (previously known as Grahamstown) is home to Rhodes University, as well as the National Arts Festival, one of the most important cultural events in South Africa. The town also boasts several museums and art galleries, and beautiful examples of 19th-century architecture.
A paradise for nature lovers, this national park, which spans both the Eastern and Western Capes, has towering cliffs, deep gorges, and a rugged coastline, and offers activities ranging from kayaking and blackwater tubing to ziplining and bungee jumping. Do cross the suspension bridge at Storms River Mouth where you can see the ocean on one side and the river on the other and take advantage of the various hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the coastline and indigenous forests.
For those who love the outdoors, hiking the Amathole Mountains is a must. The range offers various trails, from easy walks to multi-day treks. The Hogsback, in particular, is famous for its enchanted forests, waterfalls, and panoramic views which are said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth in the "Lord of the Rings."
The Valley of Desolation near Graaff-Reinet is a geological wonder located in the Camdeboo National Park. Often referred to as the "Cathedral of the Mountains," it is comprised of dolerite columns that reach heights of up to 120 meters, which stand against the backdrop of the expansive Karoo plains. The view is breathtaking, offering an unparalleled vantage point for sunsets that cast a golden hue over the expansive valleys below. Don’t miss the town of Graaff-Reinet, which is one of the oldest towns in South Africa.
Last but not least, the Eastern Cape is the birthplace of many iconic South African figures, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and OR Tambo. The Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu showcases his life and is close to the place where he grew up. His grave lies 5 km away and is visible from a viewing deck.
What are your favourite things to do in the Eastern Cape?