East London
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 33 01.167 E 027 54.325 | pop. 480,000 | elevation 53 m/174 ft

Officially renamed to Buffalo City, almost everyone still refers to this bustling port city as East London. Many of the city’s restaurants, accommodations and attractions hover around the beach that is popular with vacationers and surfers alike although the majority of the city is quite industrial with a few dilapidated Victorian-style buildings. This is not one of South Africa’s top tourist destinations but gets a good amount of foot traffic as a major city and well-served transportation hub.

East London Museum

The East London Museum is best known for housing a coelacanth, the prehistoric fish with limb-like fins that was thought to be extinct prior to being caught by fishermen in the nearby Chalumna River in 1938. In addition to the coelacanth fish, there are other animal displays, model ships, shipwreck artifacts and an exhibit on Nguni culture.


Ann Bryant Art Gallery

Ann Bryant Art Gallery hosts an excellent permanent collection of paintings and sculptures by established South African and international artists, housed in a elegant turn-of-the-century Edwardian mansion. There are also rotating exhibits by emerging young artists and the Coach House next door is a great place for a coffee or light lunch as you enjoy the tranquility of the gardens.


East London Zoo

East London Zoo is spread over 10 hectares with a wide variety of animals, including nearly 50 mammal species as well as numerous birds and reptiles. There is a small café, a large playground. Special night tours and behind the scenes tours can be arranged with advanced notice.


Gately House

Gately House was built in 1876 and was the family home of John Gately, the first mayor of East London. The house was occupied by the Gately family from 1876 to 1966 and today is still furnished with many of the family's original possessions. It is best accessed from within the East London Zoo.


Aquarium

Aquarium has two halls lined with fish tanks and seals, penguins and pelicans on display. Outside there is a seal playground, a shark and stingray pool and an elevated whale-watching boardwalk. Seal shows are at 11:30am and 3:30pm.


Nahoon Beach

Nahoon Beach is located 5 kilometers northeast of the city center and on the southern end of the beach is the Nahoon Reef, the area's top surfing spot. If surfing is not your thing, the main beach area is good for sunning and swimming.


Vincent Park Shopping Center

Vincent Park Shopping Center is a large two-story mall with a Pick 'n Pay, Woolworth's, Clicks, cinemas and dozens of clothing stores.


Budget

Sugar Shack Backpackers

Sugar Shack Backpackers is popular with surfers and partiers who want to be as close to the beach as possible. Dorms and small single room cabins are scattered outside, but plan to spend most of your time at the hostel bar, which gets lively most nights.


Niki Nana Backpackers

Niki Nana Backpackers is a chill family-run backpackers spread over two connected houses with a braai and swimming pool in back. Though its zebra-striped roof screams "party," it's much more low key than Sugar Shack and one of the better budget options in town.


East London Backpackers

East London Backpackers has changed its business plan from welcoming backpackers to providing low-cost long-term accommodation for local students. The place has a large TV room and lounge area but is unkempt and fairly messy, and the staff unfriendly. It would beat sleeping in your car in a pinch.


Mid-range

Devereux Lodge

Devereux Lodge is a set of Victorian-style cottages built in 1923 that offer quiet refuge in the middle of East London. Rooms and villas are neat, nicely decorated and have a distinctly British feel. The hotel also has two beachfront self-catering apartments on offer in another part of the city for both long and short-term rental.


Castle House

Castle House, with seven chic and spacious en suite rooms, is perched atop a beachfront hill. All front rooms have private sea views and the common area is sleek and relaxed.


Coral Reef Lodge

Coral Reef Lodge by the same owner as East London Backpackers and Deep Blue Lodge, Coral is a clean and modern guest house with art and antiques in every room. There is a shared kitchen and one room has its own small kitchen. There is a braai area but no swimming pool.


Windsor Cabanas & Spa

Windsor Cabanas & Spa is located close to the beach with spacious but somewhat dated apartment-style suites with a full kitchen and sliding patio doors that open up onto a private outdoor patio. They also have small studio style rooms that surround the internal garden courtyard and miniature waterfall.


Top-end

Quarry Lake Inn

Quarry Lake Inn has 16 smart and spacious rooms each with TV, AC, a minibar and pillow-top comforters. The upstairs rooms have a balcony and the main house has a veranda overlooking the Quarry Lake. The lodge is located in the middle of a lovely residential area and is quite safe.


Premier Hotel Regent

Premier Hotel Regent is an upmarket hotel with classic mahogany decor. The rooms haven't been remodeled for some time, however, so if you are looking for more modern digs, head next door to its recently completed sister hotel - the Premier Hotel Cascades - for nicer rooms at higher prices.


Smokey Swallows

Smokey Swallows is a fabulous restaurant and bar oddly located inside a strip mall. It's usually very quiet for lunch but come evenings, the crowds pile in for its large array of wines, the award-winning Asian-inspired cuisine and occasional live South African jazz. Call or e-mail to find out when it's hosting its next music event.


Guido's

Guido's is a family-friendly chain restaurant that serves a large selection of pizza as well as grills, seafood and pasta.


La Terrazza

La Terrazza has a long Italian-influenced menu full of pasta and seafood. Its views are the best in the city, from the outdoor terrace and indoor floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the ocean and the aquarium next door.


Grazia

Grazia is the best restaurant in town. The chefs take their food seriously and prepare a range of fresh seafood options as well as delicious, gourmet thin crust pizza and homemade pasta. Save room for the wide dessert selection and local and imported wines.


Buccaneers

Buccaneers is located right above the beach and just next door to the popular Sugar Shack Backpackers. It's a great spot to kick back and drink a beer, but don't expect anything special in terms of food. Free wifi is spotty, but available.


Y-Knot Pub & Restaurant

Y-Knot Pub & Restaurant is located right on the waterfront and offers a great view of the ocean while you sip your beer. There's only a scene here on the weekend, but if you just want a quiet place to chill during the day it's not a bad spot.


Buccaneers

Buccaneers is known for tabletop dancing and wild foam parties. Come here on a Thursday night and you might not go home till the sun comes out.


Numbers

Numbers is the biggest dance club in the East London area, which accounts for the outrageous line to get in on Friday and Saturday nights. The crowd is primarily 20 and younger and dressed to the nines. Inside the house, DJs blare pop and the crowd gets messy quickly.


Rhythm Divine

Rhythm Divine is one of the few dance clubs downtown. Though there are all the accoutrements of a hip spot - a VIP lounge, large dance floor, disco balls and strobes - you might want to come with a group as you are probably going to have to bring the party to this place.


Guild Theatre

Guild Theatre hosts local and international performances. Check online or call for upcoming events.


Hemingways Casino Resort

Hemingways Casino Resort has a Southern Sun hotel, restaurants, 400 slot machines, roulette and plenty of tables to sate your thirst for a gamble.