|East of Port Elizabeth,
Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea
are attractive little holiday towns, Port Alfred situated on the
mouth of the Kowie River. Canoeing trips are available from Port
Alfred to Bathurst, home of The Pig and Whistle, the oldest pub
in South Africa (1831).
A short distance inland, Victorian Grahamstown
is home to 1 of South Africa’s top universities and hosts
a massive annual arts festival each July. The town has several fine
buildings, amongst which the most interesting are the Cathedral
of St Michael and St George, located in the triangular Church Square,
the 1820 Settlers Monument (after the 1st British to settle the
area), Fort Selwyn, and rows of shops and houses on Artificers’
Square, Church Square, Hill Street and MacDonald Street.
The town also has many excellent museums, including
the History Museum, Albany Museum, Natural Sciences Museum and the
International Library of African Music. Traditional Xhosa meals
are offered by local development projects.
Fort Hare University, in the nearby town of Alice,
was South Africa’s first black university and was founded
in 1916. King William’s Town is a beautiful Victorian town
and the birth and burial place of nationalist leader, Steve Bik.
It also offers several stunning houses and the excellent Kaffrarian
1 hour’s drive from Grahamstown lies the village of Hogsback,
located in the striking Amatola Mountains. It is an ideal place
to walk in the forest of stinkwood, yellowwood and Cape chestnut
trees along trails to amazing waterfalls, the most spectacular being
the appropriately named Bridal Veil and Madonna and Child.
East London and the Wild Coast
East London, built on the mouth of the Buffalo River, is not only
South Africa’s 4th largest port, but a well-liked
seaside resort with a subtropical climate, stunning beaches and
some of the best surfing in South Africa. Nahoon Beach, Eastern
Beach and Orient Beach offer excellent swimming.
East London presents a beautiful city with some interesting
museums and monuments, notably, the East London Museum
(with the world’s only Dodo egg and a stuffed coelacanth),
the Gately House Museum, which was built in 1878, the Anne Bryant
Art Gallery, with an interesting collection of contemporary South
African art, a wonderful Aquarium, pretty Botanical Gardens, 19th
century Fort Glamorgan, and the Hood Point Lighthouse. Latimer’s
Landing has a variety of good shops and restaurants.
Heading west, the Wild Coast’s history (as
a black ‘homeland’) and lack of roads have left it splendidly
undeveloped. This is a outstandingly beautiful area of wild cliffs
and hidden coves, several parts of it inaccessible to normal vehicles.
The main road runs inland through the Eastern Cape’s uneventful
capital, Umtata, with occasional dirt roads winding
down to the water’s edge. Nelson Mandela was born in and has
retired to Qunu, 34 kilometres (20 miles) west of Umtata on the
East London road.
The main tourist town in the area is Port St Johns,
which is also the closest thing South Africa has to a hippy hangout.
Both here and at several coves and rivermouths along the coast are
small, hideaway lodges perfect for travellers who want to relax
or fish away from the crowds. Just before the Kwazulu - Natal Border,
the Wild Coast Sun, with its casino and water park, is an rapid
introduction to the more developed coast near Durban.
To the north is the southern end of the Drakensberg Mountains.
South Africa’s only ski resort, Tiffendel, is near the small
village of Rhodes, where hiking, trout fishing and pony trekking
are all possible.