Visit the Eastern Cape
The Nelson Mandela Metro (including Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch) is the gateway to the Eastern Cape Region, its well-equipped airport and harbour linking South Africa with other national and international destinations. Known as the "Friendly City", Port Elizabeth is located on the south-eastern coast, 763 km east of Cape Town. A superb value-for-money holiday base, Port Elizabeth offers a diverse selection of attractions as a family-fun holiday destination including scenic nature trails, historic heritage, magnificent wildlife, cultural experiences and countless water sport activities.
East London is all about its long, white stretches of sandy beach that appeal to surfers, swimmers and sun worshippers alike. The beaches here are some of the finest in the world and a few, like Nahoon Reef, are a surfer’s paradise and host to international surfing competitions. East London’s easy access to other areas like the Wild Coast, and inland to the Amatola Mountains, also makes it a popular destination. Known as the Buffalo City, East London lies on the Buffalo River, its people are refreshingly friendly and its weather generally pleasant throughout the year.
Sunshine Coast is an apt description of a coastal belt beset with countless little villages, each offering access to beaches, rivers, lagoons and hiking trails that stretches between the Tsitsikamma and East London in the Eastern Cape. As a destination the Sunshine Coast has had to do little to attract visitors. Its obviously glorious weather, the seaside-resorts of Kenton-on-Sea and Port Alfred - considered the heart of this stretch of coastline - St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis, Jeffreys Bay and their access to warm waters, water sports, eco-walks, friendly locals, sheltered coves, rock pools and nature reserves, makes its attraction blatantly obvious.
The Wild Coast
As its name suggests, the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape that extends between the Mtamvuna River in the north and the Great Kei River to the south, is an untamed wilderness. The Wild Coast is an incredible, unassuming combination of breath-taking coastline, precipitous and craggy cliff faces, wild and desolate beaches, secluded bays and green rolling hills that rush headlong into deeply etched river valleys.
Included in the Wild Coast is what used to be the Transkei, which, largely due to lack of infrastructure, past neglect, and the fact that it isn’t easy to ‘fly in’ for a weekend, has ensured that the well over 200 kilometre coastline is virtually inaccessible to all but those prepared to hike it, or venture forth on horseback.
The Karoo Heartland
Often referred to as the ‘dry heart’ of South Africa, the Karoo Heartland is but a portion of the Karoo set on the eastern periphery of the central plateau. The Karoo, regarded in the past by many as something of a desolate, barren backwater best driven through at breakneck speed, is a huge semi desert encompassing close to 150 000 square miles that manages to sit astride all three Cape provinces. The Karoo Heartland’s rugged and intense beauty is dominated by vast, flat plains, rocky mountains, and the biggest assortment of succulents in the world
The Frontier Country
A hauntingly beautiful region, arguably the crucible of South African history, Frontier Country is a vibrant mix of all the best that Africa has to offer. One of the premier tourist routes in the Eastern Cape, it has a turbulent past, with more forts than the rest of South Africa combined.
Now no longer the scene of conflict and strife, Frontier Country is the historic heartland of the Eastern Cape and embodies the spirit of the many and varied cultures who met here and made their mark - Khoi, Xhosa, Boer and British.
The Baviaans Kloof
There is a gorge that lies in the valley, stretching for over 100 kilometres, between the Baviaanskloof Mountains to the north and the Kouga mountains to the south. Recently awarded World Heritage Site status this 192 000 hectare u-shaped reserve lies about 120 kilometres west of Port Elizabeth and is named after the baboons that roam the area - a mix of the Dutch word ‘baviaan’ for baboon and the Afrikaans word ‘kloof’ for ravine. Baviaanskloof, the area, includes the Karoo towns of Willowmore and Steytlerville as well as a number of small stock farms, and the little town of Patensie lies at the start of the gorge - the last stop, so to speak, before entering the wilderness of the Baviaanskloof.
A single dirt road, which follows the dry river beds where it can, taking in some of the most breathtaking passes through mountains along the way, was built between 1880 and 1890 by Thomas Bain.
Ukhahlamba, the Xhosa word meaning ‘barrier of spears’, refers to the majestic portion of the Drakensberg that dominates the northern section of the Eastern Cape, forming a border with the Free State. This region, through which winds the Orange River, is home to Lake !Gariep, Tiffindell - the only snow ski resort in the country, the hot springs of Aliwal North, and quaint Victorian towns like Lady Grey and the national monument town of Rhodes.
Ukhahlamba is largely sheep, cattle and goat farming country. Its gentle sparseness and lack of evident wealth makes it perhaps a little less sought after by the average traveller, but the fashioning of a tourist route that covers over 600 kilometres between East London and Aliwal North, known as the Friendly N6 Route, has opened up this nether region, where wheat is grown in the foothills of the Drakensberg.
The Tsitsikama Region
The incredibly beautiful area of land that lies between the Tsitsikamma Mountains and the sea stretches west to the Bloukrans River and east to Eerste River, and is named after the San word that means ‘place of abundant water’.
The Tsitsikamma region is like a treasure trove; a crypt overflowing with protected indigenous forest that bears ancient trees like yellowwood, hard pear, stinkwood, and ironwood; fynbos covered landscape and the appearance of entrancing animals and birds, like the shy Knysna loerie.
Described as the ‘garden of the garden route’, the Tsitsikamma actually deserves a more vivid description to encapsulate the beauty of the place. Far from being a garden, the Tsitsikamma is a place where magic and the ancient have merged to create a fairytale.
The Amathole Region
The Amathole stretch into the hinterland just north of Grahamstown and west of Stutterheim, their slopes covered in dense natural forests of white stinkwoods, yellowwood trees, gorgeous Cape chestnuts, and a myriad other indigenous trees. Some of the peaks are decked with snow in winter and reach over 2000 metres, providing wonderful forest trails and a prolific bird life.
Nestling in their shadow in the valleys are a cluster of villages, a mission station, churches and towns that line the valleys of an area not only rich in history but in incredible scenery too. This is frontier country and many of the settlements, such as Cathcart, Fort Beaufort and Adelaide began as military outposts, whilst towns like Stutterheim served as a settlement for disbanded soldiers of the British German Legion, hence the name. Other towns like Alice and the beautiful Hogsback have a more peaceful origin - Hogsback’s first citizens were farmers.
The Greater Addo
Greater Addo is largely dominated by the Addo Elephant Park, the boundaries of which now extend right from the edge of Darlington Dam in the north to Colchester at the coast, incorporating the beautiful Sundays River Valley.
However, the region of Greater Addo is an incredibly diverse, beautiful area in the Eastern Cape Province that remains largely ‘undiscovered’, despite the thousands of visitors to the park.
Often overlooked in favour of the Sunshine Coast, the park includes the incredible Zuurberg Mountains in the north and the Alexandria dune fields - the highest dunes south of the Namib Desert - and forests where the Sundays River meets the sea