The Eastern Cape is one of South Africa’s most underdeveloped provinces.
It can provide visitors with an experience of untouched Africa, with its rolling hills, vast coastline, forests, areas of semi-arid desert, Drakensburg Mountains and diverse flora and fauna.
There is no shortage of activities for visitors, whether you want to take it easy and recharge your batteries on the beach, or take the more active route on a scenic hike.
The coast of the Eastern Cape is packed with wonders, and many of the province’s main attractions take advantage of the vast 800km Wild Coast coastline.
The Eastern Cape has a rich cultural heritage. Located along the coast are the traditional Transkei and Ciskei regions, the home of the Xhosa people and the birthplace of former South African presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
Apart from its historical importance, the area is characterized by some of the most scenic beaches in the country, and the Transkei in particular is popular with backpackers due to its affordability and quality hospitality.
Things to See and Do in the Eastern Cape
Addo Elephant Park
If you’re looking for animal watching, head to Addo Elephant Park. Addo is among the most diverse national parks in Africa and is the only place in the world where you can see Africa’s ‘big seven’ all in one place.
Elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, rhino, great white sharks and whales can all be found on game drives through the park and Addo’s accommodation is among the best in any of South Africa’s national parks.
Hiking is another great way to have an adventure in the province.
The famous Otter Trail through the Tsitsikamma Forest is a grueling 41km hike that is widely regarded as one of the finest trails in the world. Named after the Cape Clawless Otter indigenous to the region, the trail is located entirely in Tsitsikamma National Park and stretches from Storm’s River Mouth to Nature’s Valley, and offers breathtaking scenery every step of the way.
Bloukrans Bridge Bungee Jump
Another nearby attraction is the Bloukrans Bridge bungee jump.
At 216 meters, Bloukrans is the highest commercial bungee jump in the world and is a popular destination for adrenaline junkies, who flock from all over the country to experience the thrill of jumping off the bridge with the Tsitsikamma River raging below.
Surf at Jeffrey’s Bay
Jeffrey’s Bay can be exhilarating for surfers. This small town, roughly 72kms from Port Elizabeth, is renowned for its waves and hosts a World Surf League event on their main beach annually.
Jeffrey’s Bay is among the best surfing spots in the world, and is also famed for its whale watching during season as the whales migrate westward up the coast.
Tiffendel Ski Resort
Moving inland also has its perks. Tiffendel Ski Resort is one of two ski resorts in southern Africa (the other being in nearby Lesotho) and is located in the scenic Drakensburg Mountains.
One of the only places to ski in Africa, Tiffendel is a year-round resort and relies on snow machines during the warmer months to sustain the many tourists who flock to the Ben Macdui peak, the highest peak in the Eastern Cape.
National Arts Festival in Grahamstown
A major event on the country’s cultural calendar, the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown occurs every year for 11 days over June/July and attracts some of the most talented artists in South Africa.
The festival was founded in 1973 and is host to music, drama, comedy, opera, jazz, film, workshops, street art and crafts.
The Eastern Cape has a number of hidden gems that are waiting for you to discover.
The tourism boom in the province shows no sign of slowing down and the Eastern Cape is an excellent destination for a holiday, no matter what you’re after.