The Xhosa language is the dominant language of the East London area, despite English being spoken and/or understood by all, and you will find yourself being greeted with the term “Molo”, the traditional exchange between the Xhosa people. One of the most beautiful areas of the Eastern Cape, East London is South Africa’s only river port city and here you will find beautiful sandy beaches and opportunities for every outdoor activity you can think of. It is also the gateway to the Sunshine Coast and the Wild Coast where breathtaking landscapes lie.
To read more about East London’s rich and interesting history, click here.
Things To Do
A trip to the East London Museum is a must for visitors and locals alike. Considered one of the best natural and cultural history museums in South Africa, here you will find displays and collections of extensive beadwork and local cultural history to fish, shells and Maritime history. Exhibit highlights include the world’s oldest human trace fossil footprints, left by a human 124,000 years ago and discovered in the 1960′s at Nahoon Point; the type specimen of the Coelacanth, a fish believed to have become extinct some 80 million years ago and the discovery of which resulted in national acclaim for the Museum; Kannemeyria simocephalus, the large fossil reptile skull and skeleton, excavated near Tarkastad in 1934 and the Hofmeyr skull which dates back 36 000 years. There is also a live beehive which has been in existence since 1959 and Dolos and River Harbour exhibits.
The East London Aquarium is South Africa’s oldest public aquarium, established in 1931, and it plays an active role in conserving the coastline and estuaries of East London and the surrounding areas. Seals, Penguins, Turtles and a variety of marine fish are among the animals that you can see at the aquarium and be sure to catch the daily Penguin feeding and Seal shows, a real treat for everybody. For the Whale lovers, there is the Whale Walk which is free of charge and open during aquarium hours. The best time of year for Whale viewing is between August and November.
There are a number of touch farm animals for the kids and to keep them further occupied there is a jungle gym, trampoline and climbing walls.
There is also a delightful coffee shop which serves refreshments and light meals. The Lion Park is a wonderful day out with picnic and braai facilities to ensure that you can really relax while taking in the wildlife of South Africa and the stunning surrounding landscape.
East London is situated on the southeast coast in the Eastern Cape. The city lies on the Indian Ocean coast and can be reached from Cape Town along the stunning Garden Route, a 1033km (642 miles) drive. From Port Elizabeth it is 290km (180 miles) east on the N2, from Johannesburg 976km (607 miles) along the N1 and 655km (407 miles) from Durban.
Where To Stay
There are a number of accommodation options in East London to suit your budget, from backpackers and hostels to hotels and boutique hotels. For further information click here.
East London has a relatively humid climate with warm temperatures and moderation typical of the South African coastline. The winter months see drier weather and the wettest seasons are Spring and Autumn, despite there being some very hot days during these periods. East London has its fair share of windy days which cool things down slightly and you will find that if you travel just 20km outside of the city, the temperature drops quite considerably.
If it’s fine-dining you require, you will be spoilt for choice with East London’s range of restaurants, or for the quicker option there are numerous fast food outlets, pub grub venues and coffee shops. The breakfast and coffee culture is very predominant with many options to choose from. Asian cuisine and sushi bars also feature strongly and the ever popular Italian cuisine is available throughout the city, from pizzeria to fine-dining. See our eating out guide for more details.
There are numerous beautiful nature reserves in East London, including Gonubie, Nahoon Point, Nahoon Estuary and Amalinda. The Gonubie Nature Reserve is home to over 130 species of bird, mostly water birds, and was established in 1955 to conserve a wetland habitat and associated bird, plant and animal species. There is also a well-established walking route and a bird hide overlooking an open body of water which makes it ideal for birdwatchers interested in wetland species; at the Nahoon Point Nature Reserve there are some 12 kilometres of footpaths and boardwalks, and the ecological diversity ranges from marine, coastal dune forest, estuary and inter-tidal systems which makes it an ideal spot for outdoor activities, environmental education and visitation; the Nahoon Estuary Nature Reserve is a fantastic walk for families. The Dassie Trail starts at the Visitor Centre and wanders through forest to an open area of mud flats fringed with mangrove trees. Most of the trail is on a boardwalk with information boards and tree labels adding to the experience. Keen birders should keep an eye open for the Narina Trogon; and the Amalinda Nature Reserve, established in 1968 around the Amalinda reservoir, is home to bushbuck, eland, zebra, southern reedbuck, blesbok, duiker, Cape clawless otter, vervet monkey and mongoose. Visitors can walk selected routes in the area and spend time at the dam.
East London has a coastline of magnificent unspoiled beaches. From miles of sandy shores, much of which is backed by forested coastal dunes with inviting secluded picnic spots, to rocky reefs, ideal for anglers. Visit East London Beaches for further details.
East London and the area immediately around the city are characterised by long stretches of beach and several river mouths. This makes for a wide choice of beach and river mouth surf breaks, as well as excellent reef breaks. East London is also the only city in South Africa that has four rivers running through it so if surfing is your favourite pastime, you won’t want to leave this part of the Eastern Cape. For a comprehensive guide see Surfing in East London.
East London certainly has options for the golfer to enjoy. Most of the courses offer sea views and are reasonably priced for a round of golf. The East London Golf Club has an excellent reputation and is in the top 100 courses in South Africa. Regarded by all as a course every golfer should play, this delightful playing experience is set on fairways steeped in history. Other golf clubs in the area include Gonubie Golf Club, Alexander Country Club and the West Bank Golf Club, all of which overlook the beautiful ocean. See Golf Courses for further details.
Whatever your passion, you are guaranteed to satisfy it here in the charming city of East London.