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It’s one of the largest cities in South Africa, yet East London still retains a chilled atmosphere. The city is mostly uncrowded and a stay in the CBD could easily be likened to a seaside resort holiday. At last census (2011), a quarter of a million people resided in the CBD area.
East London is located along the banks of the Buffalo River on the south-east coast of the Eastern Province. The city’s river harbour has attracted several large corporates, including a leading European car manufacturer.
A new concept in formal and informal trading, and linked with transport services, was recently opened in the CBD. The Gillwell Taxi Retail Park is expected to improve people and road traffic flow in the city. Along with the Hemingways Mall and 10 others around the city, East London has an abundance of retail facilities.
The CBD is within walking distance of the harbour and glorious beaches. The city is also the gateway to the wild coast where unspoilt beaches and tribal huts fill the landscape. And inland is the range of Amatola Mountains with its ancient myths and folktales surrounding the region.
Top 8 reasons to visit East London CBD
1. East London’s 3 main beaches are all worth visiting; Orient Beach is the closest, its breakwater ensures safe swimming, Nahoon Beach is a surfing and swimming beach with lifesavers on duty and Gonubie Beach, which has a lovely boardwalk and tidal pool.
2. The Hemingways Mall is attached to the Hemingways Casino & Entertainment Centre which gives the visitor an opportunity to indulge in shopping at the mega mall and continue the entertainment at the casino. There are a few restaurants and bars on the premises.
3. Ask your host to recommend late night restaurants and clubs to experience East London’s energetic nightlife. A few clubs are located in the city centre, however, most are on the beachfront.
4. Various boat rides can be taken from Latimer’s Landing on the Buffalo River. Boat operators offer catamaran trips, boat cruises and high performance inflatable rides along the river.
5. East London’s Guild Theatre playhouse packs in theatre goers, particularly when big names such as Nataniël comes to town. The Guild is soon to be hitting the road using mobile trucks to take their shows to the people.
6. Set in peaceful surroundings, the Ann Bryant Art Gallery houses important South African (and British) art in their collection. One of the more unusual annual exhibitions is the Peep Show, displaying miniature paintings.
7. A trip inland to the Amatola Mountains is essential for nature lovers. This beautiful range of mountains has dense indigenous forest, moss-covered rocks along clear streams, rural villages, waterfalls and profuse animal life. The Amatola Trail is a strenuous 6-day hike but sections can be hiked for those with limited time. Look out for traces of the giant earthworm.
8. The Buffalo City Urban Run is a festive occasion attended by most East London residents. The run happens in April and all proceeds go towards the fight against childhood cancer. Various forms of entertainment are provided by the organisers on the day.
The East London Airport is located on the outskirts of the city and all international flights are routed via the Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg airports. Various car rental agencies operate out of the city centre and East London Airport or you could book a rental online. Traditional taxi companies are available throughout East London. If you have the Uber app, book a ride using your mobile phone.
Did you know?
The Amatola Mountains has a resident that often causes panic amongst first time visitors when a bloodcurdling scream pierces the still night air. The perpetrator is the harmless male tree dassie (hyrax), active at night and the size of a large rabbit. The screams are used to warn other males when their territory is invaded.
East London has an unusual monument located on the beachfront. Called Multicultural Man, the structure was a gift from the Italian people, one of only seven worldwide and the only one in Africa. Seven doves represent the seven continents. The monument is a symbol of tolerance, designed to bring people of different cultures and backgrounds together.