We love a long weekend, especially because it means having a little more time than a regular one to explore, relax and truly appreciate the many wonders unique to our special country. In particular, Easter provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy the last bits of summer with family and friends. The beautiful Eastern Cape is somewhere that has it all, from pristine beaches, to majestic mountains and vast stretches of wilderness – and these are just a few of the reasons why you’ll find us here this Easter. Here’s some inspiration if you have the same plan…
Starting off along the coast: Catch some waves at Jeffreys Bay
Affectionately known by local as J-Bay, Jeffreys Bay is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s darlings when it comes to seaside towns. Avid surfers from all over the world travel here to sample the incredible swells for themselves, so if you’re happiest on the board, then J-Bay is a must-visit for you too.
Surfers also love: St Francis Bay
For the non-wave-chasers: Enjoy a nice long walk on Paradise Beach or take the beach indoors when you visit the fascinating Shell Museum.
Family fun for all in Port Elizabeth
PE, otherwise called the “Friendly City”, is a bustling place that is ideal for that family getaway, not only because it makes for a great base for exploring the Eastern Cape, but also because it offers plenty to do. Spend your days Blue Flag beach-hopping (we love King’s Beach in particular, but Hobie Beach (not Blue Flag), is also great), exploring Bayworld which combines a museum, snake park and oceanarium (kids LOVE this), sampling the many restaurants along hip Stanley Street, walking along the Summerstrand Boardwalk or enjoying the various entertainment options at the Boardwalk Casino. Fun, in many forms, is the order of the day when visiting Port Elizabeth.
Foodies: Pastry-lovers should definitely pop by the original Vovo Telo in Raleigh Street for freshly-baked breads, delectable sweets and a really good Cuppa Joe.
Wild Coast wanderings
Forming part of the Eastern Cape, the Wild Coast is a treat with its smatterings of charming coastal towns and of course, the breath-taking Transkei. Port St John’s and Coffee Bay are two of our favourites, mainly because of the variety of beaches on offer (like Port St John’s Third Beach), and of course, the famous Hole in the Wall (you can take a coastal hike to get there – it’s stunning!) Over the years, the sea has managed to carve out an archway in the rock – a classic reminder of the power of nature and well worth a visit. The Transkei is wild yet peaceful – a slice of heaven perfect for clearing your mind and recharging those batteries.
- Head to the Mkambati Nature Reserve falls and pools between Port Edward and Port St Johns. Visit one of the few falls in the world that cascades into the ocean, the Mkambati Falls, in the middle of the reserve.
- Make your very own drum at Jahdrums, a drum factory where you make your own traditional drum and also get shown how to play it.
Head more inland: Experience the Valley of Desolation outside Graaff-Reinet
A product of volcanic eruptions that took place over 100 million years ago, the cliffs and Dolerite columns that make up the Valley of Desolation sure are something. Located in the Camdeboo National Park, you won’t only be awed by this natural phenomenon, but you’ll also discover a diverse range of fauna and flora that includes the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, kudu and the Kori Bustard – the heaviest flying bird in the world. Enjoy a picnic at one of the many sites, or choose from three hiking trails if you’re feeling more energetic.
Graaff-Reinet itself is an interesting place and is often referred to as the “Gem of the Karoo”. It’s home to over 220 heritage sites and a number of museums, not to mention an impressive cacti collection at Obesa Nursery and some astounding architectural feats.
Check out: The fossils at the Old Library Museum or taste some famous Karoo lamb at any of the cosy restaurants in town.
Take a look at our full Graaff-Reinet portfolio here to find the perfect place for you.
Catch the Big Seven at the Addo Elephant National Park
If you’re looking for a little safari adventure during your Eastern Cape visit, then the malaria-free Addo Elephant National Park is the answer. Established in 1931 in an attempt to save 11 elephants on the brink of extinction, it’s now home to more than 350 of them, plus antelope, the Cape buffalo, black rhino, the rare flightless dung beetle and more. The game viewing opportunities are endless, while the outdoor activities, including hiking, 4x4 trails and horse-riding, will keep you occupied in between – a real must for bush and nature lovers!
We recommend: Catching a Sundays River sunset – priceless!
Head to Hogsback to look for the Hobbit
Said to have inspired JRR Tolkien’s fantasy series Lord of the Rings, Hogsback is a laid-back, quiet village whose slow pace attracts artists of all kinds, from poets to potters and writers. With a backdrop of the Amatola Mountains and boasting lush forests and magical mountain air, it’s the true definition of “escape” and a place that is sure to creep into your heart after even the briefest of stays.
Did you know? Since the beginning of 2016, a process has been underway to rename Hogsback “Qabimbola”.
Exploring small towns is always fun, because each usually comes with a unique character and quirks that just can’t help but delight. Nieu Bethesda, in the Karoo Heartland, is home to the intriguing Owl House where artist Helen Martins created hundreds of sculptures, elevating her ordinary Karoo home to become a fascinating space. Grahamstown is of course a popular student town known for its famous university, Rhodes, and the annual Grahamstown Arts Festival. Pop by Gray Dam to cool off and get the best view of the town at night from the 1820s Settlers Monument.
You can also: Drive from Grahamstown to Bathurst (about 40 minutes) for the Sunday Bathhurst Farmers’ Market for delicious treats (and some seriously good boerewors!), and of course to see The Big Pineapple that stands 16.7m tall. And while in Nieu Bethesda, why not take a donkey cart tour to get a different perspective of the town?
The Eastern Cape is fabulous at the best of times, but if you’re looking for that final summer fling over Easter, give it a whirl – you won’t be sorry.
Our reservations team is ready to help you book and plan this trip and more, so get in touch today.
Main image: Lauren Forse