East London – an unpolished gem on the east coast
The city of East London has a relatively small population when compared with more well-known tourist destinations like Cape Town and Durban. It has a population of a little over 200 000 people, but this is not to say that it shouldn’t be on the itinerary of international tourists looking for a truly South African experience. Or, indeed, the South African traveller looking for a relaxing getaway from the hum-drum of the larger cities.
East London is perched on the east coast of South Africa, between the Buffalo and Nahoon Rivers.
Book flights to East London using the flight booking tool at the top of this page.
A Violent Past
The city was founded in the 1820’s but only received status as a city in 1914. There was much violence between the British settlers and the Xhosa inhabitants of this area.
East London served as a supply port for the military headquarters that was situated 50km away in King Williams Town. The population grew with the arrival of other European settlers, which explains why many of the area names are German.
Getting to East London
East London is the only river port in South Africa, accessible via sea, land or air. Visitors can also embark on a journey to the city on a cruise ship. They also have the option of seeing the unique South African vegetation by driving there or taking a bus. You can hire a car from Cape Town International Airport or King Shaka International Airport in Durban, as East London is situated about halfway in between these two major cities.
East London on the map
Sport is a popular past-time for residents of this East London. The city has been the birthplace of many notable athletes from various sports like rugby, cricket and swimming.
East London was also home to Allan Gray, a well-known business magnate in South Africa.
One of the most famous landmarks in the area is the one-of-a-kind bridge over the Buffalo River. It is the only bridge of its design in the country.
If you would like to see some of South Africa’s spectacular wildlife, East London is a hot spot for those keen on spending some time in one of the 12 national parks. These reserves vary in standard, but most are aiming to provide a home to the big 5.
The Big 5 are the five animals that are famous for representing wild South Africa. They are the elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. East London is sometimes referred to as the home of the ‘Big 7’, which includes the Great White Shark and the Southern Right Whale. Shamwari and Kwandwe are two of the most-visited game parks in the province and offer world-class facilities.
The garden route is one of the most scenic drives you can take in the country. The garden route is a scenic 300km stretch on the south-eastern coast of South Africa, characterized largely by its lush forests, lagoons and pristine beaches. If you hire a car from East London Airport after you book flights online, you can begin your exploration of this famous route in the Eastern Cape if you head south.
Book hotels on the garden route.
Beyond the city
Any local will tell you that you should take a drive to Hogsback while you are there. Only 2 hours away, the small town captures the essence of the beautiful mountains of the Amathole range. It’s a haven for those looking for an interesting spot within driving distance from the city.
For reasonably priced accommodation with a stunning view of the mountains, spend a night or two at The Edge. Or, for the budget traveller, Away with the Fairies is an affordable option.
Hogsback hosts a flower festival every year in September or October, which lures visitors from all over South Africa as well as places further afield like London, Amsterdam, Paris and New York.
The 2-hour journey by road to Grahamstown also makes a captivating day-trip. It was originally a military post founded by Lieutenant-colonel John Graham. The modest town hosts the annual Grahamstown Arts Festival which is the biggest art festival in Africa. The SciFest is another festival that takes place in Grahamstown, attracting visitors in droves. To travel to either of these destinations, it is best to fly to East London Airport and hire a car from there.
Weird and wonderful attractions in East London
East London has a few surprising features and attractions. It is famous for the discovery of a living Coelacanth. It is now featured in the East London Museum, along with the last remaining Dodo egg that is allegedly 400 years old. Is it real? Decide for yourself by visiting the East London museum.
The city is also home to one of the world’s largest Coca-Cola collections, owned by an enthusiast by the name of Peter Bruton.
Human footprints dating to 124 000 years ago were discovered in a cave near Nahoon Reef. This makes them the oldest footprints of their kind.
Things to do in and around East London
Whether you prefer the indoors or are an outdoor adventure-sport enthusiast, this city has you covered. A number of fun-filled activities at Beacon Bay Crossing can keep the whole family captivated. These include the Gravity Indoor Trampoline Park, the 28-hole golf course at Xtreme Golf and Alien Zone Laser Tag. Or families can spend the day at South Africa’s oldest public Aquarium. Make sure you don’t miss the fish, seal and penguin feeding times.
For those who enjoy being active, Drifters Raceway Theme Park can keep you and the kids entertained for hours. It offers paintball, volleyball, go-karting and quad-biking.
The East London area offers a haven for animal lovers too. Visit the Snake Park, or the Lion Park or visit one of the many farms in the area that offer kids hands-on experiences with the animals. Or you can watch a presentation and have some quality time with the cheetahs at Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve. Many visitors to these parts enjoy exploring the pristine beaches on horseback. Book cheap flights to East London to witness the natural beauty of this part of South Africa.
If that sounds interesting then why not book flights to East London. Check out the price of flights to East London using the flight booking tool at the top of this page.