9 SMALL TOWNS TO EXPLORE IN THE EASTERN CAPE

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Tuesday, 12th June 2018

The cities of the Eastern Cape might beat to the energetic rhythm of their own drum with world-class sporting facilities, hotels and restaurants, but the smaller towns beat to the rhythm of a slower and much more peaceful drum.

Here, in the small town streets where traffic lights are often non-existent, time is relative and an ambiance of tranquility invites you in, much like the warm hugs of a family member waiting on the stoep for your arrival after a long journey.

Whether you want to put on your explorer’s hat, bask in the lap of luxury or just relax and rejuvenate your mind, here are 9 Eastern Cape towns just waiting to embrace you with warmth, countryside hospitality and a world of natural wonders.

The Langkloof’s Kareedouw

Just a stone’s throw from Tsitsikamma, over the mountain and on the popular Route 62, lies Kareedouw, the eastern gateway to the Langkloof where a countryside experience is as tangible as the apples on the orchard trees.  Being surrounded by mountains and with its close proximity to Baviaanskloof and Storms River, one can enjoy off-the-grid hiking, canoeing, horse riding, fishing, and 4x4 experiences in the area and on the numerous guest farms in the Langkloof. Here relaxation is compulsory, and cell phone signal optional.

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The Baviaans’ Patensie

Amongst adventurers and off-road enthusiasts, Patensie is known as the last stop to fill up on fuel and groceries before entering Baviaanskloof, one of the largest wilderness conservation areas in South Africa. But there’s more. The town, and surrounding areas such as Hankey, is largely a citrus producing community, but again, there’s more. Almost anything and everything grows here, including the famous (and big) Patensie potatoes, and farm stalls are known for their exquisite food.  The Gamtoos Valley is also the birthplace of Sarah Baartman and next door neighbor, Hankey, is home to the largest sundial in the Southern Hemisphere and a Country Club for golfers. The striking Kouga Dam is just 25 km away, there’s always some sort of bazaar or festival and plenty of opportunities for hikers and bikers to get down and dirty and explore.

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The Sundays River Valley’s Kirkwood

If you venture a few minutes, and a bit inland, from the Addo elephants, you’ll find yourself in Kirkwood in the heart of the Sundays River Valley, yet another citrus producing giant in South Africa. But here it’s not specifically all oranges and naartjies or the elephants that are the big sraw card; some 30 000 attendees flock to the town every year in June during the Kirkwood Wildlife Festival (aka Kirkwood Wildsfees). The festival has become one of South Africa’s biggest and is a mix of expos, wildlife and conservation, with performances from well-known South African artists. On the outskirts of the town one can also enter the Kabouga section of Addo Elephant National Park to tackle the Bedrogfontein 4x4 trail and to fish at Darlington Dam. And if adventure is in your DNA, try the giant swing or zipline experience at Adrenalin Addo.

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The Karoo Heartland’s Jansenville

In the heart of the Noorsveld lies the quiet and quaint town of Jansenville, often described as not only the mohair capital of South Africa, but also of the world, as it distributes a great portion of this highly sought-after fashion fibre all over the globe. There are numerous game farms and hunting concessions on the farms close by and between the angoras and spiky Noors succulents, the town offers a typical Karoo experience to visitors. One can’t overlook its hospitality and home-cooked meals, farm stays and farm stalls, history at the Sid Fourie House and at South Africa’s first mohair museum, the wide open spaces, marvelous sunsets and a night sky glittering with stars. 

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The Sunshine Coast’s Kenton-on-Sea

Grab your beach towel and come dip your toes in the Sunshine Coast where Kenton-on-Sea blissfully welcomes you with peace and relaxation. Here, between the river mouths of the Boesmans and Kariega, the sun does not shy away in winter; the beaches are secluded and known for their rock pools and undulating dunes, the rivers are navigable and paradise for any birder and malaria-free private game reserves are right on Kenton-on-Sea’s doorstep. You can stay put on that beach towel and relax the whole day away, explore the nearby seaside villages like Cannon Rocks, Boknes and Port Alfred, or indulge in the multitude of activities such as going on a river cruise, stand-up paddling, kiteboarding, canoeing, horse riding and mountain biking.

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The Wild Coast’s Coffee Bay

A visit to the Wild Coast without a visit to Coffee Bay does not often happen. Coffee Bay is synonymous with the well-known and frequently photographed natural phenomenon: Hole in the Wall. Here, living a fast paced life is not an option, and one can easily lose track of time in the countryside between the traditional Xhosa villages, rugged rocks, high cliffs and livestock sunbathing on the beautiful beaches.  While relaxing is on everyone’s to do list for Coffee Bay, there are also a few coastal hikes, cultural experiences and the opportunity to learn how to surf.

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Image: Coffee Bay Backpackers

The Amathole Mountains’ Hogsback

Magical Hogsback is a small village hidden under a canopy of Outeniqua yellowwood trees in the Amatola district of the Eastern Cape; where one is often greeted by silver mist, some light rain, hues of green, Samgango monkeys, the Knysna Lourie and Cape Parrot (if you’re lucky). And, of course, fairies.  Hogsback is in a world and realm of its own. Its magic may attract artists but the pure mountain air, natural scenery of forests and waterfalls, and Hogsback Winter Celebration make it a destination for the whole family.

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Image: Away with the Fairies


The Frontier Country’s Fort Beaufort

Fort Beaufort was founded in 1822 and is situated in an area of the Eastern Cape known as the Frontier Country, which has been shaped by the cultures of the Khoi, Xhosa, Boer and British during its early history. The town is majestically surrounded by the Katberg and Amathola mountain ranges and is in close proximity to Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve where you can hike, horse ride and fish for bass. Visit the Mpofu Nature Reserve: where rock paintings from the San, the area’s earliest inhabitants, can be seen.  Throughout town there are historical sites such as the Martello tower, the only garrison of its kind in South Africa and it is believed to be one of only two in the world.  The town boasts a beautiful golf course and be sure to visit Baddaford Farm Stall where you can stop for breakfast, shop for preserves, and stock up on avocados, a variety of citrus products and pecan nuts straight from the farm.

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Image: Heritage Portal

The Friendly N6’s Lady Grey

If you’re not careful you might miss the turn-off to Lady Grey and end up at the Lesotho border, that’s just how far north, and how small, this town is.  Snuggly nestled against the Witteberg Mountains, Lady Grey is the epitome of ‘a best kept secret’ and many leave the city and escape to its streets lined with well-preserved historical Victorian buildings. Home to an Arts Academy, one can almost be certain of stumbling upon something entertaining, be it a drama, a dance or an art exhibition, the town is also known for its Passion Play, a three-day production over Easter weekend. But if you prefer your drama to happen somewhere in the mountains, you can put your 4x4 in low gear and tackle Joubert’s Pass, the third highest mountain pass in South Africa. There are also a few other Eastern Cape mountain pass legends in the area and you can go fly fishing at Karnmelkspruit (also home to The Cape Vulture Sanctuary), do a historic and/or botanical tour, a hike or for some snowy adventures, visit to Tiffendell Ski Resort.

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Image: Mountain View Country Inn


Do you have a favourite Eastern Cape town or a story about one of the many, many special small towns in the Eastern Cape? Email us on jonker.fourie@suninternational.com

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