Thinking about the Eastern- Cape, destinations like Addo National Park and Storms River suspension bridge comes to mind but there are definitely more than meets the eye with this underrated but beautiful gem in South Africa. If you enjoy road trips to lesser-known places and exploring the unknown, the Eastern Cape in South Africa is the ideal place for you. The province covers 170,000 square kilometers and is filled with different climate zones and landscapes. Below we will take a look at some of the lesser-known but still beautiful places to see in the Eastern Cape.
Mkambati Nature Reserve
The Mkambati Nature Reserve is situated on the coast of northeast Pondo land in the Eastern Cape and is one of the Wild Coast’s best-kept secrets. Mkambathi Nature reserve is a beautiful, tranquil reserve with open grasslands, fascinating flora and fauna, and, beautiful waterfalls. Fun fact: Mkambathi is one of the very few places in the world where a waterfall falls straight into the ocean. (But we will discuss this phenomenon later in this article)
This Nature reserve is home to a large number of grazing herbivores like Eland, Red Hartebeest, and Zebra. Bird watchers are in for a treat as there are plenty of bird species to observe in this area like Red-shoulderdow, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Common Waxbill, and Croaking Cisticola, with Gurney’s Sugarbird and Greater Double Collared Sunbird seeking the nectar from the flowering strelitzias. Mkambathi Reserve provides astonishing and absolutely breathtaking views of the Msikaba gorge and visitors can take beautiful hikes and canoe trips to explore this beautiful gem. Hiking is one of the main attractions and hikers will have a blast experiencing everything nature has to offer.
The reserve offers accommodation in cottages, rondavels and there is a lodge available. This reserve is the perfect option if you are looking for someplace that is not mainstream, crowded, and busy and you are looking for a peaceful space in nature. The climate at Mkhambathi is mild sub-tropical with relatively high humidity. The warm Agulhas current provides for minimal differences between minimum and maximum daily temperatures. So, make sure not to forget to pack your swimwear!
Waterfall Bluff & Trail
The Waterfalls and Trials are located Between Port St. Johns and the Mkambathi Nature Reserve. Waterfall Bluff is best accessed via the Mkambathi Nature Reserve. Waterfall Bluff is one of only 19 waterfalls worldwide that fall directly into the sea. There are only two such waterfalls in Africa. This is definitely not a quick drive and takes some effort to get there but absolutely worth it. If you do a return trip from the lodge, the distance is 28km. Guided hikes are definitely recommended.
The ocean is visible most of the way, and with some luck, you will see tons of dolphins from the shore. You will come across Cathedral Rock, a well- known landmark. After crossing the Mlambomkulu River, with its pristine pools, the trails lead you down to the coast and Waterfall Bluff. The cliffs form a huge overhanging cave, called Grotto Cave. This is a beautiful picnic spot so do not forget your lunch and swimsuit! A lot of visitors have described the experience as a spiritual journey- an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle and to clear your head.
What do Rusks and this small town have in common? Well, Molteno is the home of the well-known South-African favorite “Ouma Beskuit”. Ouma rusks started in 1939 in the small Eastern Cape Town Molteno. The great depression led to Ouma Greyvensteyn to start baking rusks using her family recipe. The orders started pouring in and the the rest is well-known history. You can visit the Ouma factory at the Friedenheim Farm.
Molteno ,a small charming town northwest of Sterkstroom is also known for its historical homes and stone churches. It is also known for being one of the coldest towns in winter in the country. Molteno reaches record winter temperatures promising the excitement of snow! This area is also rich in fossil finds and diggings close to Molteno. Three extinct volcanoes in the vicinity add to the suggestion that perhaps this little unheard-of town is worth more than just a cursory glance.
The Molteno museum is housed in the sandstone library building. Its exhibits cover local European cultural history, and a history of the area’s indigenous people. Agriculture, and specifically sheep farming, is now Molteno’s primary economy. Molteno is definitely one of those small charming towns that are definitely worth a visit.
The Big Pineapple
Definitely, the quirkiest attraction on the list, the big pineapple just outside of Bathurst is the world’s largest pineapple building. So, take a wild guess about what you think Bathurst’s favorite fruit is. Farmers in the area in the 18th century struggled to grow any successful crops. Pineapples, however, had no issue growing in the area and it brought in a lot of funds for the community. The community decided to celebrate and honor the fruit by building a huge pineapple. It was constructed in the 1980s.
The pineapple is three stories tall and is made out of metal and fiberglass. It also has an observation platform that offers magnificent 360°views over the surrounding farmlands to the Indian Ocean. Inside the pineapple is a museum where you can buy a variety of pineapple products and learn how to grow your own pineapples. Guided tours are also available.
Technically not off the beaten track but definitely still worth a mention. This pleasant hilltop park is a good place to get your bearings, particularly if you climb to the top of the lighthouse. The pyramid is a memorial to Elizabeth Donkin, wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, governor of the Cape Colony in the 1820s – who named PE after his beloved wife.
A heritage trail leads between the park’s monuments and artworks, which narrate important periods of the city’s history and form part of the wider Route 67 trail through the center. The Donkin Reserve tells a fascinating story of the discovery and development of the Friendly City. In preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, the Donkin Reserve was completely revamped. Today, it boasts exquisite mosaics, metal artwork, modern benches that reflect contemporary graffiti art, a chrome statue of an African woman, as well as plenty of abstract art. There is a restaurant that boasts stunning views over the city center and the harbor, as well as a tourism office for visitors wanting more information on what to see and what to do in Port Elizabeth.