#LoveSA: Plan your next weekend coastal escape at these Eastern Cape port towns

2018-08-28 10:30 - Saara Mowlana
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Plan your next coastal adventure escape at one of these Eastern Cape port towns! (Photo: iStock)

Get your golden dollop of fun over at one of these sunny Eastern Cape port towns.

From excellent dining options and museum experiences to some of SA's best outdoor adventure offerings - there is so much to discover in these Eastern Cape port towns.

Plan your next weekend trip with some of these amazing experiences on offer in each.

READ: #TourismMonth2018: 7 Eastern Cape spots not to miss as Travel Week set to make exploring SA more affordable

East London - East London Harbour

This river port city, nestled neatly on the edge of the Wild Coast, is an adventure-hub offering some of the country’s wildest escapes. 

Home to the aptly titled East London Harbour, East London offers quite a range of fun and unique variety of truly SA experiences.

Some highlights include:

  • Horse riding on the beach - Enjoy horseriding on the beach with the ocean on one side of you and magnificent dunes on the other. Trails vary and include half and full day outings, both led by professional guides. There are various companies that specialise in horse expeditions. Check out Wild Coast Horse-back AdventuresThree Sisters Horse Trails or Mkulu Kei Horse Trails for more details. 
  •  Play a round of Extreme Golf - If 18 holes aren’t enough to keep you entertained, try the 28-hole Extreme Golf option at Beacon Bay Crossing. They operate Monday to Sunday 08:00 to 22:00 and can be contacted on 043 706 6808
  • Do a Paddle - Areena Riverside Resort just north of East London offers a wide selection of action packed adventures. Opt for a river cruise (R80 pp for full cruise, R60 pp for half) or canoe trail (R120 pp half day, R200 pp full day). You can also go out on their sea kayaks (R120 pp half day, R200 pp full day). For more prices, click here.
  • Quad bike on the wild side of life - If you’re not a fan of sitting on the back of an open safari vehicle and would rather drive your own vehicle when viewing game, why not go on quad bike game drive at Areena Riverside Resort? They charge R150 per person for a 20 minute ride, R290 per person for one hour and R400 per person for a two-hour outing - view the full price listing here.
  • Visit the Apex Predator Snake Park - If you’re interested in slithering subjects, this is the place to go. The snake park is relatively small, but they host over 130 species of reptiles including Africa's most deadly! There are also Reptile awareness/identification sessions and handling courses where visitors have the opportunity to interact with the reptiles. They are open from Wednesday to Sunday 09:00 to 16:00 and you can contact them on 079 491 6486

SHOTGUN

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VISIT Exciting East London: 8 Activities to get your heart racing

Port Alfred - Port Alfred Marina

This niche coastal town has the ideal holiday climate, warm ocean waters and a rich history. It is quite literally the Sunshine Coast’s well-kept secret.

Home to the Port Alfred Marina, this town has affectionately been dubbed as the ‘heart of the sunshine coast’ and lies on Route 72 between its better known neighbours and fellow port towns, Port Elizabeth and East London.

Some highlights of the secret town include:

  • The Kowie Museum - The Kowie Museum is a quaint museum in an old building of humble stature… usaully a beautiful attribute of most small towns in SA. This town's museum, originally a school, transformed into a magistrate's court house and thereafter fell into the hands of Telkom. The museum showcases news of the British settlers in the year 1820. There’s also an authentic collection of butterflies and moths, all native to the region. To entertain the kids in this small town… you simply HAVE TO bring them here!
  • Fishing on the Kowie River - Cast your line for some recreational fun at the Kowie River in Port Alfred. The Kowie River is said to be one of the primary spots for fishing in the dorpie. Home to a large number of Grunter Steenbras and Kob, there are a lots of other species in the river too, so you should get a few bites… if not many! 
  • Boat cruising - Port Alfred offers a variety of boat cruises. This include cruises on the 22km navigavble Kowie River, sea and adrenaline cruises as well as fishing charters. Boating is like a staple activity on the Sunshine Coast and Port Alfred, as small as it may be, does not fall short thereof! Click here for details on various cruises.

Home ??

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CHECK OUT: Sunshine Coast: A complete guide to Port Alfred

Port St Johns 

While this town has yet to have an official harbour or port, it is a place that runs deep with untouched beaches, a dominant river that satisfies an array of desires, mountains, exotic birds, good food and comfortable shelter.

The town offers a unique mixture of cultural practices, especially the Xhosa culture, where both traditional and modern, is confidently visible.  

It, much like its port side comrades, has a range of things to do around its shores.

Some of the highlights include: 

  • Bird Watching at Umzimvubu Retreat - Are you into bird watching? Well, over 40 species of birds have been identified in the Umzimvubu Retreat alone… that also includes the oh-so-rare Cape Parrot! Venture into the forests off-site, the bass dam for water birds specifically and do try some Fish Eagle spotting.
  • Visit Cape Hermes Lighthouse - If you're up for a lighthouse experience, this one is located just past the entrance to Mzimvubu River, First Beach on the right side, on a bright green patch of grass and is enclosed by cute wooden fencing. From the lighthouse, you can view landscapes of mountain ranges, a never ending ocean and a river mouth diverting canals into the ocean. A lighthouse experience in a small dorpie is indeed, a 'must do', because these situations of lighthouses and small towns going together are quite rare! 
  • Get fishy in Port St Johns - No! You don't go to Port St Johns and not fish! Fishing on the Wild Coast is a staple activity that every Wild Coast explorer should do. Let's say you chose the Mzimvubu River as your fishing destination... well, you could not have made a better choice because, garrick fish is very popular from October towards the end of the year. Make sure you've packed in your fishing gear and equipment... you don't want the other guys to out-shine you. 

Reverie

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VISIT THE Wild Coast: A complete guide to Port St Johns

Port Elizabeth - Port Elizabeth Harbour & Port Ngqura

This port town, lovingly known as 'The Friendly City', is probably the best known town of the Eastern Cape. It houses not just one, but two ports! Its main one - the Port Elizabeth Harbour - as well as a smaller one - Port Ngqura.

While some might consider PE to be a snooze-fest, there's actually plenty to do and keep you entertained.

CHECK OUT THIS Quick guide to Madiba’s long walk to freedom: Discover historic heritage in Port Elizabeth 

Some of the highlights include:

  • Hike the Island Nature Reserve - Get outdoors and get hiking! Port Elizabeth has some of the best hiking trails to explore with beautiful sights to see as you go along the various route. With a network of hiking trails, expect beautiful scenery and a great outdoor adventure for the whole family to enjoy. Bring along some food as there is a great place to braai or setup a picnic. The venue can be accessed via the Seaview Road turn off along the national road and operates daily. 
  • Take a tour of the Volkswagen factory and AutoPavilion- Car enthusiasts can be sure to trace the history and development of beloved automotive brand Volkswagen. You can time travel and see vehicles from the past and concepts for the future and enjoy a mobile tour of the factory taking you into the heart of the operation as you see where the cars are assembled. They are open weekdays between 08:30 and 16:00 and every first Saturday of the month from 10:00 to 13:00 and can be found at 103 Algoa Rd, Uitenhage. Find directions and other information here
  • Stroll along the Route 67 Art and Heritage Walk - If you're in a group, you should consider taking a walking tour of some of the most historic and famed places in Port Elizabeth. Start at the Donkin Reserve and Tourism Information Office and grab a guide. To walk the Route 67 is to walk through the history of South Africa and one of it's most iconic sons, Nelson Mandela. Browse 67 pieces of art from 67 local artists in 67 steps. It is best to experience this during daylight hours and the route starts at Campanile in Strand Street, but do consider starting at the Donkin Reserve. For more information follow this  link and to book guided tours follow this link.

SEE: Bar hopping through Port Elizabeth in style

  • Play a round at Planet Paintball - For a day of fast-paced, adrenaline-filled adventure, go out and play a round or two of paintball! Experience the thrill, and challenge, of trying to avoid paintballs flying at you at incredible speed. Suitable for children and better suited to larger groups, the Planet Paintball staff will ensure you have a fun, and safe, day filled with laughter and smiles. For more information, follow this link.
  • Bayworld - Check out some incredible whales and sea critters over at Bayworld. Absorb some educational facts about marine life at this Oceanarium, snake park and museum. Bayworld is home to endless educational discoveries, including a 15-metre skeleton of the last Southern Right whale that was harpooned in Algoa Bay. The Oceanarium also features live seal shows and an underwater observation area - perfect for kids curious about life under the sea and its dogs (seals). For more information, click here.

Nothing as beautiful as nature.

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