Looking to combine a beach holiday in South Africa with a trip to see the Big 5? Well this isn’t as complicated as it might sound and doesn’t have to involve internal flights from one end of the country to the other. The Sunshine Coast along the shores of the Eastern Cape in South Africa is an excellent way to combine both and means you don’t have to worry about any malaria tablets.
The Sunshine Coast stretches all the way from Tsitsikamma up to East London a distance of some 460km by road with some of the best game reserves in South Africa to visit plus endless wide sandy beaches to explore. It’s an ideal trip to tag on to a trip to Cape Town or the Cape Winelands offering a host of things to do for all the family. Another option is to fly to Port Elizabeth or East London which both have good connections with OR Tambo International and Cape Town International Airports.
They don’t call the Eastern Cape the Adventure Province for nothing. All over the Eastern Cape there are opportunities to go quad-biking, surfing, deep-sea fishing, game-viewing, swimming, sand-boarding or just relaxing on a sunny beach. Your journey along the Sunshine Coast route will take you through or passed towns such as St.Francis Bay, Cape St.Francis, Jeffrey’s Bay, Port Elizabeth, Kenton-on-Sea, Port Alfred, Kleinemonde, Hamburg and Kidds Beach before you finally reach East London.
Along the way there are some of the best game reserves in South Africa to visit including Shamwari, Lalibela, Pumba, Amakhala, Scotia and the large Addo National Elephant Park. Many of the game reserves you will find in this area are extremely luxurious and offer Big 5 game-viewing experiences. We have personally visited Pumba Private Game Reserve on two occasions staying at both their Pumba Water Lodge and Msenge Bush Lodge. The Water Lodge is the main lodge at Pumba and offers accommodation overlooking the large dam where hippo are often seen and heard. The dining experience is first-class and the rangers that take you out on your morning and evening game drives are extremely knowledgeable and only too happy to pass on all they know and answer your questions.
Addo is an excellent place to do your own self-drive safari especially if you love elephants as they have over 550 of them for you to see. Day visitors are welcome and you can access the park via the turn off at Colchester along the R72. There are lions at Addo National Elephant Park but spotting them is not easy. We have visited several times and although we have never seen lions there our friends went there recently and saw them on their first visit! You can also enter Addo via the Main Camp entrance along the R342 between Paterson and Addo town.
Dotted along the Sunshine Coast of South Africa are a number of seaside holiday towns. In addition to Port Elizabeth there are popular smaller holiday hot-spots like Port Alfred, Kenton-on-Sea, Kleinemonde, St.Francis Bay, Cape St.Francis and Jeffrey’s Bay.
Situated almost exactly at the midway point between East London and Port Elizabeth this seaside town has something for everyone. East Beach on one side of the town is popular with kite-surfers and surfers and has large sand dunes perfect for sand-boarding. Sand boards can be hired from Outdoor Focus which is located on Beach Road right by Kiddies Beach. They also rent out hydro-bikes, boogey boards and canoes. We can thoroughly recommend hiring a canoe for a couple of hours and then exploring the river channels through the marina or just taking a trip up the Kowie River. Port Alfred has it’s own Blue Flag beach at Kelly’s Beach. There are plenty of shops to get supplies if you are on a self-catering holiday and a selection of restaurants if you don’t fancy cooking yourself – try the Ocean Basket on the banks of the Kowie River and then pop next door into Barmuda for cocktails.
Follow the R72 from Port Alfred heading towards Port Elizabeth and the next town you will come to is Kenton-on-Sea. This beach holiday town lies in-between two rivers – the Kariega River on one side and Bushmans River on the other. Kenton-on-Sea also has its own Blue Flag Beach called Kariega Beach. The Kariega River on high tides joins with the Indian Ocean but also creates a superb lagoon during lower tides. It’s a great spot for young families and there are excellent facilities by the car park to the beach which include toilets and seating. Between the town and the sea lies the Joan Muirhead Nature Reserve which is protected and has a lovely and easy 2km walking trail through it.
The largest town along the Sunshine Coast of South Africa with plenty of things to do for everyone. To escape the hustle and bustle of the city head towards the southern end of Algoa Bay and you will discover the Cape Recife Nature Reserve. Just by the reserve is the very interesting SAMREC (South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre). For just R10 entrance fee the volunteers that work there will take you on a tour of the critical work they do to rehabilitate marine life. Their awesome work is highlighted in this Port Elizabeth blog from our recent visit there.
Suggested driving route along the Sunshine Coast
Start your journey leaving Tsitsikamma and then take the R330 down to St.Francis Bay and Cape St. Francis. From here head back up the R330 and then take the R102 down to Jeffreys Bay and Wavecrest. From here head to Port Elizabeth and the popular beaches at Humewood, ….. From Port Elizabeth take the N2 passing Colchester (entrance to Addo) and then take the R72 turn off signposted Port Alfred. Follow the R72 all the way to Kenton-On-Sea and then Port Alfred. From Port Alfred keep following the R72 through Kleinemonde, passing the turn off to Hamburg and Kidds Beach before reaching East London. This suggested route is 458km in length and would take you approximately 6 hours and 10 minutes to drive without any stops.
Here are some ideas of where to stay along the Sunshine Coast of South Africa.