English, Afrikaans, Xhosa
The Eastern Cape, one of South Africa's most rural and scenic provinces, plays host to some spectacular malaria-free wildlife reserves and forms part of the famous Garden Route. The province is wealthy in both scenery and culture, and is the birthplace of many prominent politicians, including Nelson Mandela
Its rugged coastline, dotted with beautiful beaches, lush forest areas and interspersed with mountains and gorges, is one of the most underrated and stunning drives, and you'll find lovely beachfront towns and serene guesthouses along the way. Because its landscape is so diverse, it's worth devoting some time to the drive to fully enjoy the changes from arid Karoo desert landscape in the western interior and the lush coastal areas in the east.
Attractions & Activities
A closer look at what your holiday could be.
Home to the excellent Shamwari Game Reserve, Addo Elephant Park and Kariega Game Reserve, the Eastern Cape is perfect to begin or end a trip along the Garden Route with the addition of safari.
As the region is well outside of the malaria belt, game reserves here become an excellent alternative to safaris in the Kruger and Kapama areas. This is particularly convenient with Garden Route trips, and perfect for families.
The Tsitsikamma National Park can be found between Nature's Valley and Storms River, and here lies one of the best untouched natural areas in the country. Adrenalin junkies will find plenty to satisfy them in this area; the Bloukrans Bridge with its famous bungee station is here (the third highest in the world) and ziplining in the tall forest canopies is a popular activity.
Watersports are also in high demand in the province, with Port Elizabeth home to the biggest concentration. In addition to waterskiing, surfing and kite surfing, don't miss the chance to kayak along this coast, where you'll likely encounter pods of dolphins and the occasional whale. Surfers will love Jeffrey's Bay, and the town's relaxed atmosphere makes for a great night away, with great restaurants and beachfront cafés.
When to Visit
The Eastern Cape is known for its mild weather, rarely reaching extremes particularly in the coastal areas. Interiors, particularly the Karoo area, can become very cold during winter and hot during summer, but if you're sticking to the Garden Route, expect temps ranging between 7°C and 20°C in winter and average maximums of 26°C in summer.
November to April bring the most pleasant daytime temps, although you'll be competing for beach space with school holiday crowds. Whale watching is best from July to October. Expect rain any time of year.