East London is on the east coast of South Africa. It is the main city in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, which includes East London, Bhisho and King William's Town. East London is home to Mdantsane township, once considered to be the second largest township in the country. It has an airport, a deep water port, and a railway link to the national rail network. It is widely held that this area was where the African buffalo was first spotted in the country, hence the name Buffalo City. The name "East London" is an old colonial name, and there is an ongoing debate about finding a suitable name change for the city.
East London has an estimated population of 810,000. It includes extensive tracts of land suitable for grazing and horticulture and is one of the major tomato-growing areas in the country because of its good climate throughout the year. Known for its beautiful beaches, it also boasts great game reserves where the Big Five can be found, including a lion park close to the city. In the sporting world, East London is also known as a boxing hub due to the number of world champion boxers it has produced and continues to produce.
In 1938 the then-curator of the town museum found an unusual fish in the catch of a local fishing vessel. The fish turned out to be a prehistoric coelacanth, long thought to be extinct.
If you are coming from or going to Port Elizabeth you should consider taking the scenic R72 "Romantic Coast Road", which takes a bit longer, but offers spectacular views and some nice little coastal towns (such as Port Alfred).
- East London-Mthatha (Umtata) : 235 km
- East London-Durban : 676 km
- East London-Cape Town : 1100 km
- East London-Johannesburg : 982 km
- East London-Kimberley: 720 km
- 1 East London Airport (ELS IATA). South African Airways flies from East London to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, as well as to some smaller cities in the country. Local low-fare airline Kulula.com serves the airport as well. See also Discount airlines in Africa.
The central train station is in the city centre, on the corner of Station and Terminus streets.
Shosholoza Meyl operates regular inter-city trains to Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town. You can also get to Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg and Durban (by changing trains in Bloemfontein), Port Elizabeth (by changing trains in Noupoort or Colesburg) and Mthatha (by changing trains in Amabele). the train fare from East London to Johannesburg is R540 in Sleeper class.
The Eastern Cape Department of Transport runs a daily train to Mthatha (previously called Umtata) via Amabele, this service is called "Kei Rail". Passengers are conveyed from East London station to Amabele (76 km north of East London) by bus. Trains leave early in the morning and the trip takes about 12 hours.
MetroRail operates commuter trains to some outlying suburbs of East London, with a reduced service over weekends.
- 2 East London railway station, Station St.
Translux and Greyhound operate regular bus services to all bigger South African cities. on the corner of Buffalo and College streets are Minibus taxis going to port Elizabeth for R100. 6 hours. Eldo Coaches have buses to Johannesburg for R300.
East London lacks a public transport system, so getting around is difficult if you don't have a car. There are many car rental companies available, 3 of which have branches at the airport.
Taxis are the best way of getting around East London and the suburbs of the city. They can be pre-booked and are quite cost-effective. A journey from the seafront (Sugarshack hostel) to the Hemingways Mall should only cost around R70 each way (2011 prices). From the Sugarshack to the downtown Shoprite costs R7.
To get from the Airport to any address in East London, the "Little Red Bus" offers a safe, reliable and good value link. They can be pre-booked by phone or email and will wait at the airport with your name on a sign. There may be other people sharing the bus with you, but the fee is per passenger. The bus will leave when all of the booked passengers have been picked up, so there is no worry about over filling the bus. The return journey to the airport or any other journeys in and around East London can be arranged as well.
- EL Bus Shuttle. Little Red Bus
- East Londoners are fortunate enough to have access to an amazing coast line with white sand beaches and excellent surfing spots like Nahoon Reef. "Vaalies" (as visitors from Gauteng, formerly Transvaal, are called) flock down to East London for sun, sea and sand over the Christmas/New Year and Easter periods.
- The East London Harbour is the only natural deep-water port South Africa has. There are restaurants along the waterfront, like the Ballyhoo Bistro, where you can enjoy a very affordable meal with a view of the harbour and the moored yachts right before you. The Ballyhoo offers river cruises and caters for parties and general events.
- Botanical Gardens (in the Bunkers Hill suburb).
- Gately House. Built in the Victorian style. Belonged to the former mayor of East London in the 1870s, now a national monument.
- Ann Bryant Art Gallery, 9 St Marks Road, Southernwood, ☏ , [email protected]. Shows works including those of Thomas Bowler, Maud Sumner, Lawrence Scully, George Pemba, Willie Bester and Norman Catherine.
- 1 East London Museum, 319 Oxford Street, Southernwood (Entrance from Dawson Road), ☏ , [email protected]. The museum summarizes itself as "history, artifacts and customs", and it's well worth a visit on all counts. R12.
- Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve, +27 43 734 3234, email: [email protected], website: www.inkwenkwezi.com. It has the all of the Big Five game animals for a reasonable price.
- Mpongo Private Game Reserve, ☏ , [email protected]. Mpongo Private Game Reserve features rolling hills and river valleys on more than 3,500 hectares of conservation land.
- The Lion Park, ☏ , [email protected]. Tu-Su 8AM - 5PM. The Lion Park has a variety of animals for visitors to view, including a pride of white lions, a breeding pair of tigers (white male and Bengal female), Cara the Cheetah, wild dogs and tame Nyala buck. R35.
- East London Guild Theatre, Corner Union Avenue & Dawson Road Selborne East (Buffalo City), ☏ , [email protected].
- Buyel’ Ekhaya Pan African Music Festival, 357 Rivonia Boulevard Rivonia 2191, ☏ , [email protected]. A major music festival that features artists from throughout the African continent.
- [dead link] FNB Eastern Cape Wine Festival, Hemingways Casino, cnr Western Ave & Two Rivers Drive, East London, ☏ . A great festival of wine tastings. R170.
- Daily Dispatch Cycle Tour, [email protected]. Buffalo City’s most important cycling event. Roads are closed to all by bicycle traffic during the race.
- Hemingways Mall, Cnr Western Avenue and Two Rivers Drive (Corner of Western Avenue and Two Rivers Drive, just off the N2 Highway), ☏ , , [email protected]. M-Sa 9AM - 7PM; Su 9AM - 5PM.
- Vincent Park, Devereux Avenue, ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 9AM–6PM; Sa 9AM–5PM; Su 9AM–1PM; public holidays 9AM–3PM. Vincent Park provides secure and hassle-free shopping, with a choice of over 75 stores.
- Gillwell Taxi Retail Park, Corner Gillwell Road and Fleet Street, ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 9AM–6PM; Sa 9AM–3PM; Su and public holidays 9AM–2PM. Mixed-use shopping centre offering a variety of choices including food, groceries, restaurants, health & beauty, IT services, fashion and banking.
- Beacon Bay Retail Park (Bonza Bay Road, next to the N2 Highway), ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 9AM–6PM; Sa and public holidays 9AM–3PM; Su 9AM–1PM.
- Beacon Bay Crossing, c/o N2 & Bonza Bay Rd, Beacon Bay, toll-free: . Described locally as a mixed-use, one-stop destination centre.
- [dead link] Mdantsane City, Cnr Billie Road and Qumza Highway, Mdantsane, 5225, ☏ , [email protected]. M-Th 9AM-6PM; F 9AM-7PM. At the heart of the township lifestyle. Mingle with the people.
Restaurants and cafes
The Guidos beach front should be visited while here, not forgetting the Milkshake Shop and the locally legendary Windmill.
- Cafe Neo, Windmill, 128 Moore Street Quigney (From East London Central drive along Fleet Street, turning left into Fitspatrick Road. Turn right into Moore continue straight ahead until Windmill Park.), ☏ , [email protected]. 7:30AM-10:30PM. Greek cafe, opened in 2017. R28.
- [formerly dead link] Sanook Eatery, 13A, Beacon Bay Crossings, Bonza Bay Rd, Beacon Bay (ravel on the N2 from East London and take exit 1051 for Bonza Bay Road toward M8/Beacon Bay/East London. Turn right onto Bonza Bay Road. At the circle, take the first exit to your left and you will find Beacon Bay Crossing Shopping Centre.), ☏ , [email protected]. 11AM-10PM. Thai eatery that serves simple, tasty food. R49.
- Cantina and Craft, Shop i&j Beacon Bay Crossings Bonza Bay Road Beacon Bay, ☏ . 11AM-10PM. Traditional Mexican food and a lot of craft beer.
- Grazia Fine Food and Wine, Upper Esplanade/Beach Front Rd, ☏ , [email protected]. noon-10:30PM.
- Cafe Bella, Shop G3839 Hemingways Mall, Two Rivers Drive, Vincent, ☏ , [email protected]. Home roasted coffee, and lots of frozen treats.
- The Buccaneers
- Mans Tavern
- Corner Pocket
- Que Bar
Budget under R 200 a night
- Sugarshack Backpackers, 50 Eastern Esplanade Road., ☏ . Dorm beds, single/double rooms and camping. a nice clean backpackers overlooking the sea. free tea and coffee. Dorm bed from R100 per person.
- Buffalo Backpackers, 79 Moore Street. More like a workers' hostel than a backpackers'. Dorm bed R 95 per person..
- 1 [formerly dead link] The Thatch, 37 Flamingo Crescent, Beacon Bay, ☏ . A very good guesthouse overlooking the Indian Ocean. It is outside town but beautifully situated. From R 400 per person..
- Nahoon Eco Lodge (Nahoon Ecolodge) (nahoo). Woodleigh, East London
- Go west to Port Elizabeth and the Garden Route driving through Port Alfred.
- The Wild Coast is a rough and spectacular coast line to the east
- Go north to Bloemfontein, inside the Karoo.
- Heading in the direction of Cape Town, you will travel along Settlers Way through the semi-industrial area of the West Bank. Settlers Way becomes the R72 again as you pass the airport through the traffic lights.
- If leaving toward Durban, the Wild Coast of the Transkei lies before you. The Kei Bridge marks the entry into what used to be the Transkei.
- Stutterheim is the first small town one encounters following the N6 toward Bloemfontein. Take the North-East Expressway from Fleet Street or Pearce Street off-ramp.