There is beauty right on our doorstep, and a great holiday and so much more not far from home. One must-visit destination is the majestic Eastern Cape, just waiting to be explored.
While its natural wonders can draw many visitors to South Africa’s second-largest province, it’s often the people from its charming villages with multicultural populations speaking Xhosa, English, and Afrikaans, among other languages, that also leave a lasting impression.
Why should you visit the Eastern Cape? Vuyani Dayimani, CEO of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, says: ‘Where else can you surf the world’s biggest waves, go on a big seven safari, visit the birth and resting place of Nelson Mandela, bungee jump off the highest bridge in the southern hemisphere and make a snowman (also in the southern hemisphere) – only in the beautiful Eastern Cape province of South Africa, a destination for all seasons.’
The Eastern Cape has lots of hidden treasures for you to discover. From the local hospitality and culture, and vast natural and historical experiences to the endless coastal line, myriad outdoor activities, and adventure sports, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Morgan Bay is where you can enjoy time on the beach with friends or a good book, hire a canoe and paddle on the lagoon, or go on a horse-riding excursion. Spread these activities out over two days. Indulge in a lunch or dinner at Yellowoods Forest Lodge or at the Morgan Bay Hotel if you fancy a break from self-catering. Sip on sundowners and take the perfect selfie on the Morgan Bay Cliffs, then overnight at a place of your choice.
Areena and Chintsa
Visit Areena Riverside Resort and book into the campsite, or one of the chalets or rondavels. Experience the double zip line, a quad-bike game
drive, a paddle in a canoe on the river, or fishing from the banks of the river. An on-site restaurant allows you to pack light, otherwise enjoy a self-catered braai and an evening under the stars. After breakfast on day two, take a short drive to Chintsa East and stop at the Emeraldvale Brewery for a craft-beer experience.
Continue through to Chintsa and check into your accommodation and enjoy some time on the beach, book a beach horse ride or surf lesson, or just kick back and relax. If you stay at Crawfords Beach Lodge, you can play a game of pool or tennis, or just enjoy cocktails on the deck while looking out for whale or dolphin activity in the ocean.
In Graaff-Reinet, explore the museums, craft shops, and local eateries and coffee shops before taking time out to explore the Camdeboo National Park for a self-guided game drive and a visit to the incredible Valley of Desolation, or book a guided trip through Karoo Connections or Karoopark Guest House. Overnight at any one of the many comfortable establishments and enjoy the tastes of the Karoo at a local restaurant if you opt not to self-cater.
You can take a self-drive trip to Nieu- Bethesda for a visit to the Owl House and then head off to Ganora Guest Farm, which is a mere 8.5 km away. A variety of accommodation options are available. You can enjoy a guided fossil excursion, which includes a visit and talk in the fossil museum, a rock art excursion, or a gentle walk around the farm.
Head through to Hogsback for an outdoor mountain escape. You can visit the local arts and crafts and chocolate shop, take a walk to the famous Madonna and Child or Kettle Spout waterfall, walk the Labyrinth at the Edge, visit the Diana Graham Eco Shrine, hire a mountain bike, and explore a forest trail, dine at one of the local eateries, enjoy a fireside dinner, or just recharge your batteries in a beautiful garden surrounded by nature.
Overnight at any one of the local establishments that best suit your budget – self-catering options are available.
The Sunshine Coast
Travel through to Bathurst for a browse around the arts and craft shops, and enjoy lunch at a local eatery amidst the banter of the locals. Visit the Big Pineapple and then head through to Port Alfred or Kenton on Sea to enjoy a change of coastal and river scenery.
Local shops are available so you can stock up on self-catering items and there are restaurants for that special cocktail, mocktail, coffee, and lunch or dinner. Take a cruise up the Bushman’s, Kariega or Kowie River or just enjoy a walk along one of the Blue Flag beaches. Both destinations also have lovely curio shops to explore.
Storms River, located in the heart of the Tsitsikamma, is where you can get your pulse racing with a range of adventure activities. On offer is the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, the waterfall or tree-top canopy zip-line experiences, quad biking and Segway tours through the forest, hiking and biking trails, blackwater tubing, a kayak and lilo adventure, or a gentle walk in the National Park.
There are lots of accommodation options to choose from, and some local restaurants and watering holes where you can calm your adrenaline-fuelled appetite.
The Eastern Cape Highlands
The northern region of the Eastern Cape is also fondly referred to as The Highlands and includes the towns, Dordrecht, Barkly East, Elliot, Maclear, Lady Grey, and Rhodes. Guest farm stays are popular in this region but there are also some lovely guest houses and B&Bs on offer. Clear mountain streams are a drawcard for fly fishermen and high mountain passes call out to the 4 × 4 enthusiasts.
In the winter months, between May and September, a snow skiing experience at Tiffindell Ski Resort is a definite must. It is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, and a visit to the Lammergeier Highlands Reserve will not disappoint. Spend three nights in one location, using it as a base to explore the region from, or spend a night or two in different locations and enjoy getting to know the local folk.
Article originally written and published by BONA staff.
Feature image: Pexels