East London, South Africa's only river port, is a gateway to the Sunshine Coast to its south and the Wild Coast to the north. Its tourism offerings are varied, with beaches, culture, history and wildlife heading the list. Outdoor highlights include whale and dolphin watching, birding, hiking, surfing and fishing.

Did you know?

The world’s only known dodo egg is on display at the East London Museum.

East London sits between the Buffalo and Nahoon rivers on the south-eastern coast of South Africa, about 1 000km east of Cape Town. The city boasts a diverse economic base, with motor vehicle and component manufacturing of primary importance, followed by industrial and agricultural activities.

East London is a gateway to the Sunshine Coast to its south and the Wild Coast to its north. Along with Bisho and King William's Town, it falls within the Buffalo City Municipality.

The sandy Sunshine Coast – with popular surfing and swimming beaches such as Kidd’s Beach – extends more than 200km to Port Elizabeth. The rugged and forested Wild Coast features the ecotourism destinations of Kwelera, Glen Eden, Cintsa, Morgan's Bay and Kei Mouth.

Its rocky shoreline is popular among fishermen, while Nahoon Reef, Queensbury Bay, Yellowsands Point and Eastern Beach are choice surf spots.

Lovers of wildlife won’t be disappointed either, with the Big Five to be seen at the nearby Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve, and birding gems such as the Cape parrot, green-billed coucal and Knysna turaco waiting to be spotted in the Hluleka Nature Reserve.

Just offshore, southern right whales may be seen breaching in the bay on their migratory route south to the Antarctic. Viewing is best from the boardwalks at Nahoon and from the high viewing platform at the East London aquarium.

The East London Museum is home to excellent anthropological displays, including a stuffed coelacanth, a fish believed to have been extinct until one was netted locally in 1938, and a hominin child’s footprints estimated to be 124 000 years old. Other notable points of historical interest are the Gately House museum and Victorian architecture in the city centre.

The rural regions around the city are home to the Xhosa people. Tourism opportunities include tours to local villages to sample traditional food and locally brewed beer, and to watch performers celebrate their culture through dance and song.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Buffalo City Metro
Tel: +27 (0)43 705 3150

How to get here

The N2 highway connecting Cape Town and Durban bypasses the city, while the N6 highway joins East London with the inland city of Bloemfontein. The East London Airport, 10km from the city centre, has daily flights to and from all major South African cities.

Best time to visit

The weather is pleasant all year round but the sunny summer months, December to February, are best for the beaches.

Around the area

Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve and Hluleka Nature Reserve.

Tours to do

A township tour to sample traditional food and drink.

Get around

Self-drive is your best option. Car rental companies are based at the airport.

Length of stay

Two days to enjoy a good overview of what the city has to offer, but take more days if you plan on staying up or down the coast.

What to pack

Beach gear, good walking shoes, and binoculars for game viewing and whale watching.

What to eat

Fresh fish is a good option at local restaurants.