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East London is a picturesque port city in the Amatola region of the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. The city’s architecture perfectly reflects its progression from Victorian- and Georgian-dated beauties combined with today’s modern works.
Proof of early habitation to this area lies in the 124000 year old dated fossil footprints discovered on Nahoon Beach in 1964 and housed in the museum. In the mid-1800s, German immigrants were settled in the region and their legacy is apparent in surrounding towns such as Berlin and Stutterheim, named after their hometowns.
Located at the Buffalo River mouth which spills out into the warm Indian Ocean, East London is the only river port in South Africa boasting the largest grain elevator and almost 3000 parking bays at the harbour to cater for Mercedes Benz vehicles shipped out from the nearby Daimler-Chrysler factory.
East London has an average annual temperature of around 22° with moderate winters and a summer rainfall.
The seas around East London are warm with gentle waves best enjoyed at the city’s outstanding beaches. Inland of East London, the rolling hills are dotted with Xhosa kraals, brightly coloured Aloe plants and game parks under the shadows of the imposing Amatola Mountain range.
This city is known for its laidback, thriving beach culture.
Things to do
East London has a number of stunningly beautiful and safe beaches: the resort-like Orient beach with its swimming pools, restaurants and grass embankments, Nahoon beach popular for safe swimming and river & sea fishing, the pristine Bonza Bay beach below a dune forest and the sprawling sands of nearby Kidd’s beach where surfing is a major pastime.
Visit the small but interesting East London Museum to see the world’s only Dodo egg and a slightly tattered Coelacanth fossil fish – thought to be long extinct – caught in East London’s waters in 1938.
The Lion Park just outside East London has a number of big cat species and various other animals to keep the family enthralled. Lots of fun activities for the children, including a climbing wall, and coffee shop on the premises.
While away the hours on Gonubie Beach watching dolphins play and whales migrating southwards.
Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve is a short 30 minute trip north of East London for viewing of the Big 5 (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo). The resort offers guided game drives, mountain biking and canoeing along the tidal estuary towards Glen Eden Beach.
The premier 6-day Amatola Hiking Trail begins north of East London at King Williams Town, passing ancient indigenous forests, waterfalls, rock pools and plentiful animal life before reaching the gorgeous village of Hogsback. Booking essential.
The Ann Bryant Art Gallery has a vast collection of South African art housed in a beautiful building. Relax out in the garden at the Coach House Café and delight in a fresh, light meal.
Enjoy a leisurely round of golf at the 18-hole East London golf course. The club regularly hosts championship events.
If you absolutely love shopping, Hemingways Mall has over 140 stores to dent your wallet.
Where to Eat
The Scarlet Ibis Restaurant & Ibis Lounge hosts regular weekly dinner themes from around the world and returning diners appreciate the time and effort taken to achieve authenticity. Nice ambience in a bright, unpretentious venue.
The breakfast buffet at Pinecreek Kitchen is wildly popular. The restaurant has an ever-changing menu with inventive dishes on offer. Children’s play area available.
Sanook Café gets the thumbs up from TripAdvisor reviewers and the place is often frequented by celebs, including a MasterChef judge! Delectable homemade dishes on the menu.
Visit the Windmill Roadhouse to indulge in one of their American style grills or burgers. Super large toasted sandwiches are popular!
Watch your food being prepared at the intimate Two Dogs Bistro and Wine Bar Restaurant. Cozy restaurant with small but perfectly prepared dishes.
The Chinese and sushi buffets on offer every Tuesday and Saturday evening at Chi Chi Chinese Restaurant is extremely popular, make sure you secure a booking! Traditional Chinese dishes also available.
Irana Indian Restaurant is a small restaurant offering authentic, spicy Indian dishes in a quiet homely atmosphere.
Don’t feel like going out? No problem, contact Ginger & Co to order one of their divine home cooked meals delivered to your door.
With two stages – one on the outside deck – Buccaneers Sports Pub and Grill is able to host the best parties in the city. Frequent performances are held here by national bands and the hottest DJs. Local artists are given the opportunity to show off their musical talent.
The Highlander at the Blue Lagoon hotel is a popular late night venue where the party begins at sundown and over stunning views of the lagoon. The outdoor deck fills to capacity on weekends and top DJs provide off the hook entertainment!
Non-stop parties, fresh talent and comedy acts keep the crowds entertained at Raggies Live Bar. Look out for the open mic evenings. Ladies night every Thursday.
Where to Stay
Accommodation at the various beautifully appointed lodges, guest houses, bed & breakfasts and self-catering units is available for an enjoyable stay in East London’s CBD.
Air The East London Airport is located only a few kilometres from the city and all international flights are routed via the Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg airports.
Car Rental Various car rental agencies operate out of the city centre and East London Airport or you could book a rental online.
Taxis Traditional taxi companies are available throughout East London. If you have the Uber app, book a ride using your mobile phone.
Did you know?
The enormous Cove Rock jutting out at the Buffalo River mouth is a place of myth for the local Xhosa people, believing it’s the home of the chieftain to the ‘people of the river and sea’. This mysterious rock with caves facing the sea was held in awe by early Dutch mariners too, who named it Coffin Rock (Doodkist).
The concrete Dolos, or knucklebone, designed to break up rough wave patterns was invented by an East London engineer. The Dolos is used at harbours throughout the world and although the engineer won awards for his design, he was never to benefit financially.
One-time Formula 1 world champion Jody Scheckter is East London’s most celebrated citizen.
The first powered flight in South Africa was made by Frenchman Albert Kimmerling in 1909 over East London. He reached an altitude of 6m at 48kph.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.