Morgan's Bay, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
Pieces of Ming porcelain and Carnelian beads off a shipwreck, possibly the Santo Espirito that went down in 1608, have been found along the coast near Morgan's Bay.
Don’t expect too much in the way of bright lights when you head down to Morgan's Bay in the Eastern Cape.
The village, just less than an hour’s drive from East London off the N2, is little more than some houses clustered around the local Morgan Bay Hotel, overlooking the sea and shoehorned between the Inchara Lagoon and grass-covered cliffs. It is this breathtaking location that makes Morgan's Bay the special place that it is.
The hotel is the centrepiece, sitting right on the edge of the water looking out across breakers, where dolphins can often be seen surfing in the mornings. In the winter months, large schools of sardines (known as bait balls) come past this coast, bringing with them diving seabirds, more dolphins and even whales, which you can watch through binoculars from your verandah.
To the right (if you are facing out to sea) are high, grassy cliffs that separate Morgan's Bay from the Double Mouth campsite, which falls under the nature conservation department of the Eastern Cape. You can take a brisk walk over the cliffs to Double Mouth, or navigate the rutted dirt road in a sturdy vehicle, preferably armed with a cooler and drinks to enjoy the sunset from a cliff-top vantage point.
To the left is a long, sandy beach that stretches from the lagoon all the way to Kei Mouth. And right on the lagoon is the Morgan's Bay campsite, which enjoys a commanding view of the dune forest on the opposite shore, home to prolific birdlife, including the African fish eagle and its evocative call.
With such beautiful surrounds, it is not surprising that most activities in Morgs are outdoors (that's if you can rouse yourself from your book and deckchair). Here you can go horse riding, mountain biking, abseiling down the sea cliffs, swimming or paddling. There's also golf, tennis, bowls and squash on offer.
Also popular along this coastline are multi-day hikes, ideal for 'slackpacking'. Hikers can stay in the comfortable, family-style hotels dotted within easy striking distance of each other on the coast, and have their bags couriered.
For families, the Morgan Bay Hotel is a treat with its full-board offering, separate children’s dining room and friendly atmosphere (a common feature of many of the hotels on the Wild Coast). Next door is The Deck restaurant that caters for holidaymakers and larger groups (in particular weddings), and the Milkwood Spa, offering all the usual treatments, including a special leg massage for hikers.
At Kei Mouth, just 7km as the crow flies, you can cross over the river on a pontoon into an area formerly known as the Transkei. Or you could book a pony ride and ride all the way back on the beach to magical Morgs.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Morgan Bay Hotel
Tel: +27 (0)43 841 1062
Tel: +27 (0)43 841 1510
How to get here
Travel towards Mthatha from East London on the N2. Take the Kei River turn-off and look out for the Morgan's Bay sign. It's about 85km in all from East London.
Best time to visit
All-year. Winter (May to August) is generally sunny but cooler and in summer (November to February) there can be the occasional rain shower.
Around the area
East London is within easy reach, as are some of the Wild Coast resorts.
Tours to do
Take a trip across the Kei River on an old-fashioned pontoon. About 15km up the coast on a reasonable dirt road is Trennerys, another classic Wild Coast hotel, that serves a good seafood platter and also organises boat tours up the Qolora River (a half-day outing).
Your own car would be preferable, but many of the hotels around here can organise pick-ups in East London.
What will it cost
The Morgan Bay Hotel offers full-board accommodation starting at around R800 per person a night to R1300 per person a night for a deluxe sea-view room.
Length of stay
If you really want to relax, a week would do it, but a weekend would also be just as good.
What to pack
The weather is generally mild but always take along a warm jacket in case of a chilly spell. And don't forget the sunscreen and swimming costumes.
Where to stay
You could stay at the Morgan Bay Hotel or the Mitford Hotel (which also has self-catering units). Several home owners also rent out their houses.
What to eat
The Morgan Bay Hotel offers full board, or you could eat from an à la carte menu in the pub or at The Deck restaurant.
Local women sell crafts such as baskets and beads. It's always good to support them by buying a souvenir to take home.