The Eastern Cape province includes the former "homelands" of Transkei and Ciskei. With a long coastline on the Indian Ocean it offers great beaches as well as several very interesting National Parks. Its population is mainly Xhosa-speaking and the province is home to several of South Africa`s most important persons in the fight against Apartheid (e.g. Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Steve Biko and Oliver Tambo). It's still a poor province especially in the former homelands but beautiful and not so touristy.
The Eastern Cape can be divided in the following regions:
Tsitsikamma has large tracts of indigenous forest and Fynbos with deep river gorges.
A wilderness destination that offers camping, hiking and a serene refuge.
|Sunshine Coast |
This sun-blessed region has plenty of charm, sun-drenched beaches, warm waters and quaint seaside villages.
|Karoo Heartland |
The inland region bordering onto the Western Cape and rest of the Karoo in the Northern Cape.
|Settler Country |
The inland region bordering onto the Free State and Lesotho.
|Wild Coast |
It offers spectacular coastlines without the tourist crowd.
- 1 Bhisho — the capital of the Eastern Cape
- 2 Port Elizabeth — the largest city in the province, now called Gqeberha, is connected to the rest of the country by flights, freeways and rail.
- 3 East London — the second largest city is accessible by plane, car and train and is the starting point for travelling to the former Transkei and Wild Coast.
- 4 Grahamstown — heart of the Settler Country offering traditional atmosphere.
- 5 Mthatha — the main city in the former Transkei.
- 6 Graaff-Reinet — one of the oldest cities in South Africa, it is littered with listed buildings from the Wilhelminian era
- 1 Cintsa — backpackers' haven with two famous hostels and a great atmosphere.
- 2 Hogsback — high up in the Amathole mountain range, surrounded by indigenous forests with hiking trails and waterfalls.
- 3 Pearston — the peaceful hamlet of Pearston personifies the Karoo. It is reached from Graaff-Reinet by driving across the Camdeboo, where the scenery is characterized by multilayered Karoo mountains and koppies in the distance across endless expanses of Karoo plains.
- 4 Wartrail and New England — farming communities in the valleys of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg
- 5 Addo Elephant National Park — at least 400 elephants all sizes, great accommodation, book through parks Board, 30 min by car from Port Elizabeth
- 6 Cambdeboo National Park — it includes some of the most rugged and spectacular Karoo mountain landscapes in the foothills of the Sneeuberge (Snow Mountains)
- 7 Mountain Zebra National Park — home to the very rare and endangered mountain zebra
- 8 Tsitsikamma National Park —(Book through the Parks Board) ☏ . Wonderful coastal scenery with great hikes and walks, nice accommodation, between Plettenberg Bay and Humansdorp including the famous Otter Trail.
Other nature reserves
- 9Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve — spectacular land forms, a diverse array of plants and wide variety of animals
- 10 Commando Drift Nature Reserve — 60 km east from Cradock
- 11 Dwesa and Cwebe Nature Reserve — Two small reserves separated by the Mbashe River, next to the Indian Ocean near Elliotdale.
Private game reserves
- 12 Kragga Kamma Game Park.
- Seaview Game & Lion Park, ☏ .
- Schotia Safaris Game Reserve, ☏ . Huge stock of game with free roaming lions. One gets the safari feeling here without paying through the nose. Game drive, meal and drink R600pp or staying overnight, with evening and morning drive, meals and drinks for R1200pp..
- 13 Shamwari Game Reserve, ☏ . The most well-known and luxurious of the private game reserves in the Eastern Cape.
The main motorway in the province is the N2. It runs along the coast from Cape Town via the Garden Route, Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth, the Transkei and further through KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The road condition is mainly excellent except in the Transkei. Do not travel the Transkei portion of the N2 at night as the potholes can be deep and there are often stray animals, i.e., cows and goats, wandering around.
From Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga
Follow the N1 toll road south until Colesberg, then follow the N9 from there towards Graaff-Reinet and George or follow first the N9 and then the N10 towards Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth. Avoid driving the N9 and N10 at night as game often wander onto the road at night and accidents are not uncommon. A full grown kudu or other large antelope can cause some severe damage to you and your vehicle.
Spoornet operates regular trains from Johannesburg to Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth and East London. There is also a once-weekly service from Cape Town to East London, a daily service between Grahamstown and Alicedale and a weekend-only service between East London and Mthatha (via Amabele).
Definitely the best option if you are more than two as several regions and some of the National Parks aren't accessible by public transport. Road Conditions are mainly good but get informed before you start. Car rental is available in larger cities and along the popular resorts of the Garden Route.
Be careful of wild animals, especially monkeys, on the road. Be especially careful if driving at night.
The Baz Bus traverses the province on its Cape Town - Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth - Durban run ; Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth is a compulsory overnight stop.
Minibus services are available for local transport between neighbouring towns (and also on several longer distances).
With the limited range of railways this isn't really a viable option for touring the province. However, the route from Grahamstown to Alicedale is very scenic and well worth doing. The newly opened line from East London to Mthatha also traverses some dramatic scenery through the Wild Coast.
- Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth: the provincial capital and major transportation hub
- East London: Gateway to the Wild Coast
- Grahamstown: University town with a colonial English atmosphere
- Graaff-Reinet: a national heritage site and the classical example of an inland town.
- Wild Coast: spectacular scenery and only a few tourists make this an out-off-the-beaten track destination
- Morgan's Bay: Seaside village with magnificent cliffs that plunge into the sea.
- Kei mouth: Southern gateway to the Wild Coast via one of South Africa's two remain pontoon car ferries.
- Tsitsikamma National Park: not as spectacular as some of the other National Parks it offers superb coastlines, whale watching and excellent hiking.
- Addo Elephant National Park: famous for the elephants this park is after the unification with Zuurberg NP one of South Africa`s largest. Also has lion.
- Mountain Zebra National Park: small, but only very few people there. See the endangered Mountain Zebras.
- Visit the bustling cities of Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth and East London
- From there, head to the Wild Coast
- Do the National Park loop with Tsitsikamma National Park, this and Addo is a must Addo Elephant National Park and Mountain Zebra National Park and go to Graaff-Reinet for classical Karoo atmosphere (and the Karoo National Park)
- Tiffendell, southern Drakensberg, ☏ . South Africa is not well known as a ski destination, but if you do find yourself in South Africa during winter and would like to ski.
- Rock Climbing
- When in Jeffreys Bay or Paradise Beach, try the beach restaurants near Marina Martinque called Tapas - cheap or the Whale Skipper slightly more expensive. Wherever try the calamari.
- St Francis - go out to the port and have Cajun Calamari at the Porthole for lunch, sit in the sun, enjoy the food and watch the fishermen at work. What a pleasure
Accommodation is a little bit more limited inland, but there will always be options.