Some of the best bars in South Africa can be found in the small towns of the Eastern Cape. These well-established watering-holes offer interesting insight into the lives of the local residents, past and present, and the beer is sure to be as cold as the welcome is warm.

Did you know?

Thomas Hartley, owner of the original Pig 'n Whistle, was also the local blacksmith and dentist.

Explore some of the best bars in South Africa when visiting the Eastern Cape towns of Cradock, Grahamstown, Bathurst and Hogsback; in fact, most Eastern Cape towns and cities have at least one watering hole worth checking out.

The Victoria Manor in Cradock houses the Long Bar – a grand old counter where you can imagine 1820 settlers, British officers and assorted adventurers gathering to slake their thirst and share news of the frontier.

Less than two hours’ drive east, you enter Grahamstown, city of saints and students. The presence of Rhodes University ensures the survival of many a good pub. Among its most famous pubs is the Rat & Parrot where the leaders of tomorrow and their lecturers like to have a pint or 10.

The oldest licensed pub in South Africa is the Pig 'n Whistle in Bathurst. Its colourful history dates back to the Frontier Wars when it was known as the Widow Hartley's establishment. Today, it's a favoured haunt of students, overlanders and locals alike. And once you've had a few at 'The Pig', why not cross the road to The Bathurst Arms, where the company is equally convivial?

In the far north of the province lies the secluded mountain village of Rhodes. Choose between the bars at the Rhodes Hotel and Walkerbouts Inn, and meet the locals while you enjoy a drink. When in Hogsback, a village deep in the Amatola Mountains, visit or even stay at the Hogsback Inn and the Arminel Lodge – their bars alone are worth a visit.

Along the Eastern Cape coastline, in the village of Storms River, you will find the Tsitsikamma Village Inn, which has a bar called the Hunter’s Inn Pub – the original hunting lodge used by the legendary Lieutenant TH Duthie, a British soldier who settled in the area.

The Deck Bar at the Ocean View Hotel in Coffee Bay along the Wild Coast is known for its fresh oysters as much as the stories of the intrepid fishermen who troop in every evening for a pint and a chat.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

You can fly, drive or bus into the Eastern Cape from all major city centres. Once there, a good road map is all that you need.

Best time to visit

The Eastern Cape is at its best in spring, summer and autumn. Winter can be cold, with occasional light snowfall.

Around the area

The Eastern Cape is rich in natural and cultural heritage, with many historical sites, interesting towns and Big Five game reserves.

Tours to do

Check the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism website for details of tours.

Get around

The Eastern Cape has a good road network and is well covered by bus companies. There are also a number of tour guides operating in the Eastern Cape, making exploring easy.

What will it cost

Pub grub and drinks in Eastern Cape bars are generally less expensive than their counterparts in most other SA provinces.

What to eat

Many of the pubs and bars in the Eastern Cape offer tasty, value-for-money meals, with some, especially on the coast, offering fresh fish and shellfish.

What's happening

The small towns of the Eastern Cape are home to a variety of festivals, shows and sporting events throughout the year.