Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth – the coastal route
Did you know?
The world-famous Johannesburg Star newspaper had its origins in Grahamstown as the Eastern Star in 1871.
The best way to begin this ‘coastal caper’ between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth is to sit on a hill in the early morning above the City of Saints and let historian Alan Weyer relate the story of the Battle of Grahamstown.
Facing a fierce battle group of nearly 10 000 Xhosa warriors, fewer than 400 troops from various British regiments and about 130 sharp-shooting Khoikhoi buffalo hunters won the day. And no one tells it better than Alan Weyer.
Moved and curious to explore the rest of the city, we venture down to the High Street, which is thronged with Rhodes University students going to and from lectures. We visit Fables Bookshop before sitting down to an early lunch at the nearby Rat & Parrot.
In the afternoon, we take a leisurely drive eastwards to the Settler village of Bathurst, where we check into the legendary Pig ‘n Whistle Hotel with its slogan that reads: ‘There is no thirst like Bathurst.’
The ‘Pig’ is said to be the oldest licensed pub in South Africa, having been originally established in 1825 by Thomas Hartley, a blacksmith from Nottinghamshire in England. Hartley served good ale, pulled the occasional misbehaving tooth, supplied provisions to the local settlers, shod their horses and ran a top-class smithy at the same time. Multi-tasking is not a recent invention, it seems.
We then explore the rest of Bathurst: the little bookshop, the toposcope, Bradshaw’s Mill, the exquisite little Settler churches, the Waters Meeting at the Kowie River Horseshoe Bend and, just before dinner, the pub across the road at the Bathurst Arms.
The next day we head for the Sunshine Coast – you’re going to love the beaches along this stretch of the Eastern Cape. They’re wide, wonderfully empty and clean. Of course, the Sunshine Coast offers a lot more than splendid isolation – there are good restaurants, adventure activities and cultural outings available.
Tonight we’re staying over at the Halyards Hotel in Port Alfred – right on the fabled Royal Alfred Marina. The design of the buildings around here will remind you of the Cape Cod-style of coastal architecture from the United States: nautical mansions with wide balconies and splendid sea views.
Our day at Port Alfred is full of choices: a round of golf, a visit to the small boat harbour, a stroll down Wharf Street and a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. After supper we relax with a nightcap and listen to the Indian Ocean in an idyllic setting before turning in for the night.
Good morning! Today we continue on the R72 south to Kenton-on-Sea and Bushmans River, where we visit one of the famous private game reserves for a Big Five encounter in the bush.
The afternoon will be spent enjoying a long, late lunch within sight of the sea, followed by a walk down the beach.
The next day we head through Alexandria towards Port Elizabeth, with a quick stop at the Woody Cape Nature Reserve for a look at the massive local dune system. Then we’re on the N2 and zipping into the Friendly City, shaking the beach sand from our toes...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Makana (Grahamstown) Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)46 622 3241
The Pig ‘n Whistle (Bathurst)
Tel: +27 (0)46 625 0673
Sunshine Coast Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)46 624 1235
How to get here
The quickest way to get to Grahamstown from Port Elizabeth is directly along the N2 – a distance of approx. 130km. Then you swing back via the Sunshine Coast route.
Best time to visit
This route is an all-year opportunity – the Sunshine Coast prides itself on having a lot of sunshine hours every year.
Around the area
You could easily veer off this route to the Addo Elephant National Park.
Tours to do
Alan Weyers’s Spirit of the Past Tour is the top historical attraction in Grahamstown.
Hire a sedan from Port Elizabeth – the roads are in good condition.
What will it cost
Accommodation options are varied – and so are the prices.
Length of stay
Set aside at least 4 days and 3 nights for your trip through Frontier Country and down the Sunshine Coast.
What to pack
Pack for the bush, pack for the beach and pack something semi-smart for the odd night out.
Where to stay
Grahamstown has lots of accommodation options; Bathurst has the Pig ‘n Whistle, the Big Pineapple and the Bathurst Arms; and the Sunshine Coast is full of places to stay – check the listed websites for choices.
What to eat
This is where you indulge your love of seafood in one of the many restaurants along the coast.
The main event in the area is the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July – check the listed websites for details of other events and festivals along the coast during your stay.