East London is a fun and laid-back city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Home to the Buffalo River and the Nahoon River with the Indian Ocean nearby, there are loads of adventurous things to do in East London.
The city attracts locals and tourists alike who are looking for seaside fun or a peaceful escape. Aside from the pristine coastlines, there are plenty of other things to do and places to visit in East London for almost every kind of traveler.
Getting to East London From Cape Town and Johannesburg
If you’re in South Africa, getting to East London is pretty easy. While a road trip offers scenic landscapes and an opportunity to see more of this beautiful country, flying gives you more time to explore other cities.
You can fly to East London from Cape Town (one of the capital cities) on a short 1 hour and 35-minute flight. If you’re coming in from the city of Johannesburg, you’ll be at your destination within 1 hour and 30 minutes.
What to Do in East London, South Africa
The river-meets-sea city has been nicknamed “Buffalo City” by the locals who love it for its never-ending beach days.
The city is home to numerous game reserves where you can catch sight of wild animals and the aquarium is an excellent place to befriend some sea creatures. There’s also a museum for fans of history and nature, and some of South Africa’s best wine farms can be found here.
Ready to take on this balmy city? Here’s a list of East London things to do.
1. Visit East London’s Beaches
As the gateway to South Africa’s Wild Coast and Sunshine Coast, it’s a given that the utmost best thing to do in East London is to visit the beaches.
Ocean temperatures in East London’s beaches are warmer compared to other parts of South Africa. If adventure isn’t really your thing, you can unwind on the shore with a refreshing drink or intriguing book in hand.
But, if you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, you can partake in the many water sports available, like surfing and snorkeling. The most famous beaches in East London are Nahoon Beach, Orient Beach, Eastern Beach, and Gonubie Beach.
2. Wave to the Whales
The whale watching season in South Africa takes place between August and November.
If you’re visiting during these months, you can wave to the Humpback whales and Southern Right whales from one of these places:
- Bonza Bay Beach
- Gonubie Beach
- Nahoon Beach
- Eastern Beach
- East London Aquarium’s viewing deck
Every year, these whales migrate from the ice-cold waters of their feeding grounds in Antarctica to the warmer currents of South Africa’s East Coast.
3. Spend the Day at the East London Aquarium
Established in 1931, East London Aquarium is the oldest public aquarium in Southern Africa. It’s a fascinating little home for thousands of local fish species.
Entertaining seal shows and daily fish feeding (including feeding the resident penguins) make up for the aquarium’s lack of size. One of the aquarium’s highlights is a nine-plus-meter Ocean Viewing Deck from which visitors can look out at the beach for whales.
4. Be Enlightened at the East London Museum
Since opening its doors to the public in 1921, the East London Museum has been one of the most fascinating museums in South Africa, showcasing natural history.
The museum houses various species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Amongst the spectacular display is a 400-year-old dodo’s egg. There are also exhibitions on the region’s nautical history and an anthropology section showcasing beadwork by the local Xhosa-speaking people.
But, it’s a type specimen of the coelacanth that steals the spotlight. More than 80 million years ago, this enormous fish with limb-like fins was declared “extinct” until it was rediscovered in 1938. This made it one of the most significant discoveries of the century in zoology.
5. Befriend Wildlife at the Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve
The Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve is approximately 33 kilometers from East London. It’s one of the best private safari parks in the province with a great diversity of wildlife and plenty of activities. Most guests visiting the park spend a few days in the luxury tents or the nearby Umnenga Lodge, but the park also welcomes one-day visitors.
Once here, you can opt for a guided 4WD tour or a self-guided drive. Other adventurous options include walking safaris, quad bike tours, canoe trips, and thrilling mountain biking for daredevils.
The park encompasses five regional biomes and is home to many wild animals like lions, zebras, buffalos, giraffes, and rhinos. Other sightings include rare white lions and more than 180 different species of birds. You can interact with elephants and cheetahs at the park under the supervision of professionals.
6. Overcome Your Fears at the Venom Pit Snake Park
Amongst the many East London attractions is the Venom Pit Snake Park.
Although snakes have quite the reputation of being sneaky and dangerous, one visit to this park will change your opinion of these magnificent creatures.
The Venom Pit Snake Park houses more than a thousand reptiles from all over the globe. A major part of their collection features African snakes like mambas, adders, cobras, and pythons. Other reptiles, such as crocodiles, lizards, and chameleons, can also be seen here.
The park’s caretakers will enlighten you on a bunch of fascinating snake facts. You’ll also have the opportunity to directly interact with a few of the non-venomous snakes (under the supervision of experts, of course).
East London Tourist Attractions
The above are just some of the most exciting things to do in Eastern Cape’s famous Buffalo City. With activities covering museums, parks, and beaches, East London’s tourism is primarily centered around the natural beauty of South Africa.
The town’s long stretches of soft, white sandy beaches frequented by swimmers and surfers paint the perfect “Sunshine Coast” vibe that feels both cheerful and calming. Once here, you’ll find yourself falling in love with the town’s easygoing vibe.