Whether you’re in the mood for an informal seaside escape, an encounter with the “Big Five” on safari, or a choice of scintillating city diversions, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in the Eastern Cape. Scenic diversity is one of the most striking characteristics of the region, ranging from the lush, evergreen Tsitsikamma Forest to the rugged Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, the southern slopes of the Drakensberg and the arid Great Karoo.
Alternating between sweeping sand, river mouths, rocks and covers, the coastline is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Among them, surfers ride the perfect waves, anglers reel in king-size catches, and board sailors revel in the challenge of the wind.
Sunshine all year round, fine leisure resorts and splendid facilities ensure that the great outdoors is always in style. When pleasures of a more sophisticated kind appeal, you’ll find plenty to entertain you in Port Elizabeth and East London. Both are ideal for family holidays, large enough to offer all the amenities of a city, yet small enough to be genuinely welcoming and friendly. They also provide convenient access to unspoiled areas of exceptional natural beauty.
The Eastern Cape is an exhilarating experience for visitors from the bustling port cities of Port Elizabeth and East London with the blue flag beaches of the Eastern Cape such as Kings Beach, to the rural tranquility of the Transkei. Despite the cosmopolitan feeling in some of the urban centres, there is always an element of the untamed, just below the surface.
Superbly set on the shores of Algoa Bay, “The Friendly City” is the fifth biggest city in South Africa and the largest on the coast between Cape Town and Durban. A popular leisure resort, the City of Port Elizabeth beckons with an attractive atmosphere of year-round holiday fun against a backdrop of urban activity. Its warm, welcoming nature is matched by a climate which boasts more sunshine than any other coastal town in the country.
Algoa Bay encourages all forms of water sport; in, on and under the sea, where there is a colourful diving region. The beaches are always alive with sun worshippers, and conditions are excellent for surfing, sailing, diving and angling. Close by, the Swartkops River offers endless opportunities for enjoyment. In addition to sport, land-based leisure options encompass a wide range.
Port Elizabeth has beautiful parks, botanical gardens and nature reserves with an abundance of bird life. Many inland and coastal walking trails can be explored in the area. In Port Elizabeth, the 1820 Settlers were introduced to their new land, and there they built some of the graceful period homes that still enhance the city’s landscape. Since then, the tiny settlement has grown into a busy commercial, industrial and educational city with attractive shops, parks, theatres, museums and restaurants. After exploring the city of Port Elizabeth, a day trip can be made to the beautiful Tsitsikamma National Park.
Addo Elephant National Park supports about 500 elephants in addition to Cape buffalo, black rhino, kudu and over 180 South African bird species. It’s fascinating to watch the elephants emerging from a dense tangle of creepers and trees, guiding their young towards to water holes. From historical and architectural points of view, Grahamstown and Graaff Reinet should not be missed.
South Africa’s only river port city is set on the broad Buffalo River and one of the most attractive stretches of the Eastern Cape seaboard. The City of East London offers sweeping white beaches which extend for miles; unpolluted, uncrowded, unspoiled. Swimming, sailing, water-skiing, boardsailing and boating are enjoyed all year round, while the river mouths, lagoons and gullies provide a paradise for fishermen.
East London is the ideal base from which to explore the north-eastern mountains and the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast. The city has bowling greens, tennis and squash courts and golf clubs with grand views of the Indian Ocean. The city’s ancestry is evident. Against a typically African backdrop, strong links with England and traces of the German lineage are found. Several well-preserved examples of 19th-century architecture enhance the charm of the city. Traffic snarls and overcrowded city streets are the exception rather than the rule. Courtesy friendliness and good old-fashioned hospitality will enhance your holiday pleasure.
One of the liveliest coastlines in the world stretches from Port Alfred to the Tsitsikamma National Park; a place of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur. On the outskirts of the forest, beauty of a gentler kind is found in the Langkloof, renowned for its orchards and a rich indigenous flora.
In the hinterland, the Karoo Heartland epitomises the essence of South Africa. Vast open spaces; sparse veld bushes and distant brooding mountains. Sheep and game farming are carried out on a grand scale in the region, where millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the plains, leaving in their wake fossils which attract the attention of paleontologists from all over the world. The tranquil landscape of Frontier Country, studded with historical towns and villages, invites a close scrutiny of its intriguing background of conflict, courage, despair and success. This is where the Xhosa, Dutch and British had their first encounters, leading at first to frequent clashes and later to a cultural learning curve and mutual acceptance. Cape Dutch homes, ornate Victorian buildings and the lime-washed homesteads of the rural Xhosa provide tangible symbols of three vastly different cultures coming together in peaceful coexistence.
From East London, the road parallel to the Wild Coast leads through a region of unspoilt grandeur; thick indigenous forests, hilly grasslands and sheer cliffs falling to white, unspoilt beaches. The Wild Coast is one of South Africa’s most exciting and unexploited areas, with a special appeal for fishermen all year round.
Crowned cranes are frequently seen along the coast. The Xhosa people of the district believe that if one of these birds is killed, death will afflict the hunter’s family. An easy drive leads to the great sweep of the Amatola Mountains, embellished by stately yellowwood and white stinkwood trees. Scattered about in the foothills and beyond, Xhosa homesteads, circular and thatched, are often grouped around a cattle kraal, usually situated on the ridge of a hill, leaving the fertile valleys free for cultivation.
The Northern Ukhahlamba region, dominated by the southern Drakensberg, is characterised by mountains, sandstone cliffs, green valleys, crystal-clear streams and crisp, clean air. The wildwater fly-fishing is the finest in the country; an unbeatable combination of enormous trout and scenic surroundings. Charming country hotels, hot springs, Bushman paintings, hiking trails and enchanting little towns await your arrival and exciting discoveries are almost guaranteed.
The Garden Route begins about four hours outside Cape Town, and includes one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline, the starting point of which is constantly contested as towns such as Witsand, Stilbaai & Albertinia join the route that winds its way for some 200 km via George, Wilderness, Sedgefield and Knysna on to Plettenberg Bay culminating in the Tstisikamma Forest – a fairyland of giant trees, ferns and bird life.
Mountains crowd close to a shoreline dotted with beaches and bays, and vividly coloured wild flowers delight the eye. Between Heidelberg and Storms River, the Garden Route runs parallel to a coastline featuring lakes, mountains, tall indigenous forests, amber -coloured rivers and golden beaches.
Meandering trails are followed by hikers, the forests invite long, leisurely drives, and the lakes and rivers lend themselves to swimming boating and fishing. A wide range of leisure options, spectacular scenery and a mild climate guarantee an unforgettable holiday experience when visiting the Garden Route in South Africa.
The region provides a stirring study in contrasts. The delightful town of George, known as “The Gateway to the Garden Route”, graces a coastal plateau in a fertile area of lush greenery at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains. Oudtshoorn, “Capital of the Klein Karoo”, is set in a semi-arid valley, providing the ideal habitat for ostriches which are farmed here on a grand scale.
The Garden Route provides a coastline of some 300 km between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay, and is one of South Africa’s most popular holiday destinations.
The Garden Route stretches on the southern coast from Heidelberg to the Tsitsikamma Forest and Storms River. It’s a nook of the country that offers inspiration to writers and artists whose presence gives the Garden Route a trendy flavour. It is also a top priority of many a foreign visitor. The coastal drive links a series of charming towns interspersed with natural beauty.
Along the way, every kind of adventure activity is possible; scuba diving, abseiling, fishing and more. The Tsitsikamma National Park, perched on a tumultuous Indian Ocean shore is one of South Africa’s most dramatic protected areas, combining marine and land attractions. Its indigenous forests are a haven for birdlife. One of the most geologically interesting parts of South Africa is the Klein Karoo, with its towering mountains and sheer gorges.
An important geological feature is the Cango Caves, a series of caverns and chambers naturally hewn out of limestone, situated outside the city of Oudtshoorn. The Cango Caves are among the top ten most visited South African attractions.
Oudtshoorn itself, the heart of the ostrich feather industry when it was in its hey day the late 1800s and early 1900s, is well worth a visit. The grandiose, old feather palaces are still to be seen, while ostrich farms, now involved in the commercial production of meat, leather, eggs and feathers, can be toured, with the possibility of riding an ostrich.
Once you’ve booked your hotels or Garden Route accommodation, explore the destination pages for info on attractions, activities and things to do when you visit the gorgeous Garden Route on your travels in South Africa.
If the Western Cape were a woman, she would turn heads. As a province of South Africa, the Western Cape draws millions of visitors each year to a seemingly small area if compared with other provinces in South Africa, but one that is so beautiful that it can’t help the distinct attention it draws. And, with the vibrant metropolis of Cape Town as its capital, it is no wonder that it continues to be one of South Africa’s treasures.
Affixed to the tip of Africa as it is, the Western Cape lies bordered by two oceans – the Indian Ocean to the south and the Atlantic to the west – which goes a long way to clarify its allure. The wild Cape Agulhas coast, the extraordinary magnificence of the Garden Route, the sparse, sweeping stretches of sand, punctuated only by rocky outcrops and fishing villages, of the West Coast notwithstanding, it is not the coastline alone that draws the crowds.
The constant reassuring presence of immense peaks form the backdrop to a land so lovely in parts that the emerald lakes and indigenous forests of the Wilderness, the sun-drenched vineyards of the Cape Winelands, the magnificent passes to reach the interior and the wide, windswept arid spaces of the Klein Karoo seem part of a fantasy landscape that often defies description.
The heart of the Western Cape is without doubt the city bowl of Cape Town. With a distinct flavour of its own, affected in no small part by the cultural melting pot of Indonesian, French, Dutch, British and German settlers who each indelibly stamped their mark upon the foundations of the city, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world today.
The inner city is an eclectic mix of architectural styles that combine the past with the present in a mishmash of high-rise office blocks, Edwardian and Victorian buildings and narrow, cobblestone streets that give rise to fine examples of Cape Dutch design. It is also home to a blend of corporate and independent business that lends it a striking aliveness, particularly at lunch time when the streets spill over with a combination of lunch time diners and consequent entertainers and market stalls.
Table Mountain, Cape Town’s most famous landmark – A quick spin by revolving cable car to the 1,086m summit, will give the visitor a splendid view of Cape Town, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and of course the equally famous Robben Island.
Constantly engulfed by the vast maternal presence of Table Mountain, the inner city combines with an effortless choice of white sandy beaches, must-visits like Robben Island, Cape Point and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, magnificent green areas with rivers, vleis and dams, a floral kingdom that is wholly unique to the Cape and an effortlessly warm climate that makes the Western Cape a logical destination throughout the year.
The vibrant coastline that stretches from Lambert’s Bay on the West Coast all the way around to Witsand, offers an incredible diversity. From sweeping sandy beaches that are perfect for swimming and sunbathing, where children get to splash in the shallows, to stormy narrow shores with crashing waves that threaten your very mettle but provide awe-inspiring views from surrounding cliffs, along which some of the country’s greatest hikes like the Otter Trail pass, you will not be disappointed.
The Cape Whale Coast in particular creates quite a stir and draws to our shores a uniquely intelligent and remarkable creature that never fails to ignite in those who come to see them a sense of well-being and incredible pleasure at having viewed them from so close. Whales, including the Southern Right Whale and less commonly the Bryde’s (pronounced ‘broodess’) and the Humpback Whale, are frequently sited along the Cape Overberg Coast from Stony Point near Betty’s Bay, along the cliff paths of Hermanus, Kleinmond, Onrus, Walker Bay, the De Hoop Nature Reserve and Witsand. These gentle giants spend summer feeding around Antarctica and then migrate thousands of miles to our waters where the sheltered bays of the South African coast provide perfect refuge to mate and calve.
The Cape Winelands of the Western Cape are another of the huge draw cards to South Africa that manage to effortlessly combine the beauty of ripening vineyards, Cape Dutch manor homes and excellent cuisine in valleys surrounded by indigo mountains to such effect that visitors return to fully appreciate the many wine routes and estates on offer. Many of these are within easy reach of Cape Town, particularly those in Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Wellington, but there are those slightly further afield in other wine-producing valleys – the Breede River Valley, the Swartland and the Olifants River Valley, to name but a few – that are equally inviting (see Cape Wine Routes).
The Overberg with its myriad villages, mountains and coastline; the citrus-bearing Cederberg with its incredibly intense summers and amazing mountain scenery, and the Breede River Valley that includes timeless villages like McGregor, Swellendam and Malgas are other reasons to visit the Western Cape if you haven’t yet added it to your itinerary.
Once you’ve booked your hotels or accommodation in Cape Town, explore the destination pages for info on attractions, activities and things to do when you visit the Western Cape Province in South Africa.