It’s Always Sunny in Buffalo City
A gateway to the rugged beauty of the Wild Coast to its north and the Sunshine Coast to its south, East London – or Buffalo City – welcomes you with warm charm to explore its white sandy beaches, outdoor splendour, laid-back markets, and cultural hot-spot
About 1,000 km east of the Mother City, settled in between the Buffalo River and the Nahoon River on the southeastern coast of South Africa, is the port city of East London. With a rich heritage – it was the birthplace of Steve Biko – this coastal town forms part of South Africa’s much-loved Sunshine Coast, a coastal tourism route that spans some 500 km. This sunny coastal tourism route lives up to its name, with about 320 days out of the year bringing blue skies and sunshine kisses. With the ideal location, East London is a pristine getaway that wraps you in allround warmth – whether it be interacting with the friendly locals at a Sunday market, taking a cruise along the Buffalo River, or riding a wave’s crest on the Indian Ocean.
A coastline that includes sheltered beaches and an estuary (pack the dusty bird-spotting book!), East London is a treasure cove, attracting water and outdoor enthusiasts from near and far. Its shoreline offers a diverse portfolio to suit adventure seekers, or those with a penchant for a leisurely coastal rendezvous. Expansive river banks merge into the ocean, providing the perfect opportunity for fishing, rowing, and cruising. If casting reels doesn’t excite you and rowing is something you leave for those intermittent gym outings, well, cruising is a must! Ballyhoo Cruises offers a mix of cruises along the East London coast and up the Buffalo River, during which you
can sip a cocktail on the deck and enjoy the sub-tropical beauty of the area.
Central East London beaches include Orient Beach, Nahoon Beach, and Eastern Beach. Orient Beach is famed as a safe, family-friendly swimming beach with a convenient location, while Eastern Beach, a short distance from the East London Aquarium on the Esplanade, is a magnet for surfers. Perhaps the most popular beach, Nahoon Beach has loads to entertain – from soaking up summertime rays, learning to surf and/or kite surf, meandering through the dunes via the boardwalk, and sandboarding, or taking a short hike in the estuary. With such a fine variety of outdoor offerings, it’s difficult to miss this sunny stop-over.
Close to Nahoon Reef, you can embark on the popular Bat’s Cave Trail in the Nahoon Point Nature Reserve. Starting at the Mercedes-Benz South Africa Coastal Education and Visitors Centre, a stunning walk along the boardwalk allows you to step back into history and discover where the oldest human footprints known to man were found. For a day trip to untouched coastal gems, head north to Gonubie Beach, or south to Cove Rock, which is a striking sandstone formation known mostly for surfing and diving, as well as idyllic whale watching points.
MARKETS & MUSEUMS
For a cultural venture, step inside the East London Museum, which was established in 1921 and is noted as a one of the most highly significant natural and cultural museums in South Africa. When it’s time to refuel, visit one of the local markets. Perhaps thanks to all the sunshine, East London is known to be a friendly town with local markets that show strong community spirit and genuine hospitality. Hillcrest Farm in Kidd’s Beach – about 25 km south of the city centre – sets an enchanting, lively scene for the Avalon Market, which is held on the first Sunday of the month. This family-friendly affair is a go-to spot to find that one of a kind item – from bespoke jewellery, unique clothing, and artwork, to delicious home baked goodies that will keep you smiling on the inside too! Another great farmer’s market is Lavender Blue Market, which is packed with fresh, natural and organic produce – nothing like a healthy dose of endorphins to start a day!
Whether it’s navigating the city’s natural and cultural glories, or hitting the beach for an early morning surf, a visit to East London presents an open book of opportunities. Sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters may be clichéd phrases, but these vistas are true for much of East London’s coastline – and with sun a frequent visitor, life in this coastal town can certainly “be a beach”. But, even when the heavens do open up, rest assured that the friendly Buffalo City will keep you smiling.