Southern Cross Boat Cruises East London
DESTINATIONS,  Eastern Cape

10 Fun things to do in East London, South Africa

Located on the southeastern coast of South Africa within the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality of the Eastern Cape Province, East London is bordered by the scenic Buffalo River and Nahoon River. Boasting stunning beaches and renowned surfing spots, this city offers a plethora of attractions for adventurous travelers seeking to stray from the conventional tourist paths. Despite its offbeat appeal, East London is a treasure trove of historical landmarks, multicultural experiences, picturesque landscapes, and fun activities. Also erving as a gateway to the stunning Wild Coast, loved for its pristine beaches, traditional Xhosa settlements, and spectacular hiking routes, East London promises a memorable journey off the beaten track. In this blog, I’ll share fun things to do in East London, so continue reading to uncover more about this coastal gem.

1. Go on a whale watching cruise with Southern Cross

Southern Cross Boat Cruises East London

This has to be one of my favorite things to do in East London. As the only East London ‘boat based permit holders’ for Whale & Dolphin watching, Southern Cross Boating offer a variety of Ocean and river Cruises in East London, for all ages. The vessels are fully equipped with life jackets (including life jackets for dogs) and all the relevant safety equipment necessary. Wait…what? Dogs? Yes! The cruises are dog-friendly, provided you get permission beforehand. The cruises depart from Latimer’s Landing, located within the Port of East London. Notably, this port is distinguished as South Africa’s only commerical river port, so visiting here is in and of itself is an interesting stop.

What’s more, Southern Cross Sailing Academy also offers a range of SAMSA Approved courses for skippers of both Ski and Sailing Boats. So, if you’re in town for a while and want to learn how to sail a boat, here’s your chance!

  • Cost: Cruise prices vary considerably between group and private charters, as well as the type of cruise. It’s best to see a full list of prices through their website here.
  • Contact Information: southerncrosscruises.el@gmail.com, Telephone: +27(0)73 257 2319
    Mobile: +27(0)73 257 2319
  • Address: 25 Pontoon Road Latimers Landing East London Harbour
  • Directions: Exit the East London Airport left onto Settlers Way/R72. Continue on Settlers Way until you cross over the Buffalo Bridge. At 1st traffic light turn right. At T-Junction turn right. Take 1st Road Left and follow the road down to Latimers Landing.

2. Visit the East London Museum

East London Museum

Established in 1921, the East London Museum is notable for holding the type specimen of the coelacanth, a fish previously believed to be long extinct. It was also the workplace of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, the fish’s discoverer. The museum showcases the natural and cultural history of East London and its surroundings through a variety of exhibits. These include a complete southern right whale skeleton, exhibitions on coastal fauna, shipwreck history, life sciences, and an array of artifacts representing the region’s cultural heritage like traditional clothing, tools, and artwork, among other attractions.

  • Cost: Adults: R30.00, Children (5-12yo): R20.00, Pensioners: R25.00, School tour: R20.00pp [Prices valid from 01 April 2024]
  • Museum hours: Mon – Fri 9.00 am – 4.00 pm, Sat  – 9.00 am – 1.00 pm. Closed Sunday & Public Holiday
  • Contact Information: Telephone Number: 043 743 0686, e-mail: derekh@elmuseum.za.org
  • Address: 319 Oxford Street(Entrance from Dawson Road), Southernwood, East London

3. Catch some live music at event venues around East London

Table 58 music

East London is buzzing with musical talent, from budding artists to seasoned performers, all contributing to its dynamic music scene. Local musicians often take the stage at various venues across the city, showcasing their passion and creativity. Some of the best spots to catch live music events are The Deck Hotel, Table 58 and Bay Collective.

4. Visit the Windmill Roadhouse, an iconic eatery of East London since 1946

Windmill Road House East London

The Windmill is One of East London’s oldest and most loved road houses, known for its delicious burgers, pizza, fries, toasties and milkshakes! You drive up and the friendly staff will approach your car with menus (of course, you can also just go up to the order window yourself if you prefer). After getting your meal, there are scattered benches around where you can sit and enjoy your food. Alternatively, grab takeout and take a wander down to the Esplanade for some sea views while you eat. For East London folks, the Windmill is a little slice of Nostalgia that brings back wonderful memories of days gone by.

  • Address: 128 Moore St, Quigney, East London, 5201
  • Contact Information: +27 43 722 9208

5. Try a Friesland Milkhake, East London’s nostalgic favorite

A trip to East London isn’t complete without a visit to Friesland Milk Bar, a cherished local spot. Established in 1924 by Mr. Sonny Van Der Walt and his family, it initially sold dairy products from a wooden shack. By 1948, it had expanded to offer ice creams and milkshakes from its corner shop on Tennyson Street, where it remains today. The milkshakes still use the original secret recipe, now safeguarded in a bank. Many return to Friesland for the nostalgic taste of childhood, often taking frozen bottles home. For me, Friesland evokes memories of sipping milkshakes while strolling along the Esplanade and Orient Beach. Though times have changed, enjoying a Friesland milkshake remains an iconic East London tradition, especially by the beachfront.

friesland milkshake

Address: 49 Tennyson St, Quigney, East London, 5201

6. Spend a day in Gonubie

Gonubie East London

Although a suburb by definition, Gonubie has somewhat become its only little town with a close-knit community. Because it is relatively secluded from the rest of East London, though, Gonubie has kept its laid-back coastal vibe. Relax on Gonubie Beach, famous for its soft sand and great swimming beach, or enjoy a walk along the boardwalk to soak in the beautiful ocean views. Bird lovers can check out the Gonubie Mouth Bird Sanctuary or go for a walk to Gonubie Point for some amazing scenery.

Learn more here >>> GONUBIE GEMS: 10 THINGS YOU WILL LOVE IN THIS CHARMING TOWN.

7. Play some Mini Golf at Thornwood Valley

putt putt in East London

The only mini golf (or, putt-putt) in town is next to Thornwood Valley Restaurant in Beacon Bay. For only R30pp, the 18 hole golf course is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon. While you’re there, you can grab a drink from the restaurant and sip it while you play. And if you work up an appetite, you can enjoy some great American-style BBQ food at the restaurant afterward.

  • Address: Beacon Bay Crossing, Bonza Bay Road, Beacon Bay North

8. Visit the MBSA Coastal Visitors and Education Centre

MBSA visitors and education center

The center is in Nahoon Point Nature Reserve, adjacent to the popular Reef Cafe. The museum features three small exhibitions. The first one explores the history of surfboards, surfing, shark encounters, and Nahoon Reef. The second exhibition focuses on Middens, while the last one provides information about ancient trace fossil footprints, including a replica slab of these footprints.

So, what’s so special about some footprints? Well, in 1964, Mr. Bill Hartley and Rhett Kaiser found fossilized trackways, later identified as belonging to two antelope, a human child, and a bird. With better technology, it was discovered that these prints from Nahoon were about 124,000 years old, making them the oldest footprints of their kind.

  • Address: Nahoon Point Nature Reserve, Nahoon

9. Eat at East Londons best Fish and Chips Spot

sea spirit fish market

Arguably East London’s best spot for fish and slap chips, the Sea Spirit Fish market is a laid back eating establishment near the Harbor. The fish here is as fresh as it gets, with local fishermen bringing in catches daily. The menu is fish, calamari, prawns…or…fish & chips! (They do also have a chip burger and regular hamburger, although most people come here for the fish, of course). The views are fantastic, the vibe excellent, the staff friendly and the food delicious. What more could you want?

  • Address: Old Power Boat Club, East Bank of Buffalo River, East London

10. Explore the Wild Coast near East London

Haga-Haga Coastline

East London enjoys a prime location as the perfect starting point for exploring the unparalleled beauty of the Wild Coast. Many of its iconic destinations are just an hour’s drive from the city center, offering endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Unwind with some drinks and scenic hikes at Emerald Vale Brewery, or enjoy wildlife safaris at nearby reserves like Inkwenkwezi, with fantastic animal sightings and accommodation options. Seeking thrills? Try ziplining at Areena. For ultimate relaxation, indulge in spa treatments at Prana Lodge or Crawford Cabins. Chintsa is another beautiful region, with a gorgeous beach and friendly community. Don’t miss out on the scenic hiking trails along Haga-Haga’s coastline and the Morgan Bay cliffs. And of course, the Wild Coast’s beaches are unrivaled, with vast stretches of sand extending for miles. It’s no wonder they call it the Wild Coast!

In short, East London is a city full of exciting things to do and see. Whether you’re taking in the coastal beauty, hiking, or exploring the beautiful Wild Coast nearby, there’s something for everyone. So come and experience the fun and beauty of East London for yourself!

Looking for more?

Find out why East London is Why East London is South Africa’s most Underrated Coastal Gem

Helpful Resources for things to do in and around East London

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