If you’re not from East London, or you’ve never been there, the chances are that the only thing you’ve heard about East London is how windy it is. Yes, it can be windy – but let’s not forget that it can also be insanely windy in Cape Town, too… So if you were thinking that East London is a dry, boring (windy) coastal town – think again.
East London is actually a really cool South African place to visit! It’s full of seriously interesting culture, history, and beauty, and there’s quite a bit more to do there than you might have initially thought.
Did you know?
- East London was originally called Port Rex and it was founded in 1847 to serve as a supply port for nearby King William’s Town and it’s the only river port in South Africa.
- It’s home to Huberta, the wandering hippopotamus.
- Fossilised footprints of man were discovered in 1964 at Bat’s Cave in Nahoon. They are thought to be about 200,000 years old – which means East London has a long, looong history.
Aside from being rich in both local and colonial history, there’s a lot to do, see and eat in East London!
Some places to let your inner tourist go wild:
- The East London Aquarium: You can see over 400 species of marine and fresh-water animals at South Africa’s oldest aquarium. There’s also a whale deck and pier where you’d have a perfect view of migrating southern right whales; not to mention an awesome shark tank – take your mother-in-law along if you’re looking for the perfect place to “accidentally” get rid of her…
- The East London Zoo: Home to over 300 animals – of which 43 are mammals, 14 are scaled and cold-blooded, and the other 26 feathered and winged. Spend a happy day wandering the facilities getting acquainted with them all. Take the zoo train, check out the white lions, the collection of leopard tortoises, and try to resist the temptation to feed your kids to the enormous anaconda!
- The Mponga Game Reserve: Even though we’ve got the bushveld in our backyard, South Africans never seem to tire of the safari lifestyle. We never get bored of game spotting. Take a game drive at the Mponga – game drives are conducted in open vehicles with a picnic stop for light refreshments and keep your eyes peeled for lions, buffalo, rhinos, hyenas, hippos, giraffes, and other antelope. If you’re a keen bird nerd, bring your binoculars along too, as the birdwatching is simply unparalleled!
Places to please your tastebuds:
Two Dogs Bistro: One of the only restaurants we know of where the chefs are the owners, you can expect fine wine and dining in a funky offbeat setting with a chilled ambiance. The black pepper crusted beef carpaccio with rocket salad and shaved parmesan comes highly recommended for starters and the lamb fusion curry served with basmati rice and sambals will blow you away for mains.
- Frieslands Milk Bar: Ice cream. Milkshakes. The best chocolate sauce you’ll ever taste. It doesn’t get creamier and it doesn’t get more indulgent. Go try it out, you’ll be slurping the dregs of your milkshake and rejoining the queue to order something else – that’s a promise!
- Bluez Rock Café: If curry is your thing, you’ll find it here. From fire-breathing hothothot, to meek and mild – you’ll find something on the menu to please you. Vegetarian options also available.
Places to ‘shake your groove thang’:
- Buccaneers Sports Pub & Grill: With breath-taking views of the beachfront and a non-stop party atmosphere, Buccaneers is definitely the place to be. With a stage inside and outside, you’ll find some of the biggest and best parties here as South African bands, DJs, and local talent pass through on their way up the ladder of success.
- Numbers Nightclub: Established in 1981 and located in an old cinema, Numbers is considered one of the premium venues in East London – you’ll find that Numbers caters for youngsters on Friday nights and for the over-30s on Saturday nights. Expect original concept parties and themed music nights as well as top local and international DJs, radio jocks, comedians and cabaret shows.
Places to get your cultural/historical fix:
- If you’re a history buff you should definitely hit the East London Natural History Museum, where you can feast your peepers on, among other things, the only known Dodo egg in the world.
- Get your fill of art at the Ann Bryant Art Gallery and spend some time in quiet reflection at the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance.
So what are you waiting for? Have you added East London to your travel wishlist yet?