The Morgan Bay Cliffs are located along the scenic Wild Coast, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Carved over centuries by the relentless crashing of waves against the rock face, the cliffs are a mesmerizing sight. Rising to a towering height of 50 meters, the dramatic rugged cliffs stretch from Morgan Bay all the way to Double Mouth Nature Reserve. The cliffs offer a range of exciting experiences, from witnessing breathtaking sunsets to thrilling abseiling adventures. However, hiking the Morgan Bay Cliffs remains a perennial favorite.
Hiking Trails along the Morgan Bay Cliffs
The start of the trails
To find the start of the trails, go west across the causeway and head for the trail signboard, just visible in the distance.
The official start of the trail is indicated by a signboard that provides valuable information about the various routes available along the cliffs. The signboard presents three hiking options, each with its own level of difficulty and distance. These options include a 4km, 6km, and 8km hike.
After some thought, we decided to take the 8km route but made a small change. We added a detour through the river at the Double Mouth Camping site, so we could include Bead/Treasure Beach in our plan. This brought our total round-trip distance to around 10-11km.
Hiking from the Morgan Bay Cliffs to Double Mouth
As you begin the route, you’ll need to squeeze through the fenced area and then make your way up the cliffs.
As you go up the hill, take a moment to look back and enjoy the beautiful views of the Indian Ocean below. There’s a bench where you can sit, rest, and enjoy the fresh ocean air.
The views are fantastic right from the start. Even though you can move along the cliffs quickly, I recommend taking it slow to fully enjoy the beauty around you.
Top Tip: Regardless of whether the weather is sunny or overcast, it’s important to bring enough water and sunscreen, even if you’re just going for a short walk.
As you walk along the cliffs, watch for footprint signs to show the way. Each route has a handy color code, so just follow the color for your chosen path. But even if you happen to get a little off track in this amazing spot, it wouldn’t be such a bad experience!
Keep an eye out for all the gorgeous flowers along the trail!
From the Cliffs to the Beach
When you reach the last cliff, you’ll enter a forested area. The shady trees and gentle breeze provide a refreshing break as you keep going on the trail.
Bright markers along the way continue to show you’re on the right track.
As you descend through the forest, you will reach a clearing and see the ocean in front of you.
Now, make a right turn and follow the rocky terrain along the coastline. Keep going, and you’ll go through another fence. The path on the other side of the fence will take you to Double Mouth.
Be careful of a ‘Wrong Turn’
Continue along the path for about 10 meters, but be careful when you reach the spot near the bush shown in the image below. We made the error of turning left around the inner side of the bush, which resulted in a somewhat tricky descent down the cliff. However, it’s much easier to stay on course by going to the right and going around the bush from that side.
If you turn right here, the pathway goes up the hill and meets the main tarred road above. Following this road will take you downhill to the entrance of the Double Mouth Nature Reserve. Whether you take the “wrong” path along the rocks or go for the uphill route, both paths eventually lead to the same destination. However, it’s essential to consider that descending the cliff might not be suitable for everyone, especially those hiking with young children.
Because we turned left at the bush, we walked along the rocks toward Double Mouth River. Consequently, we completely missed the main road and the reserve’s entrance station/hut.
Rest and enjoy the view!
Feeling a combination of hunger and a wish to enjoy the scenery, we reached a spot where we felt it was a good time to stop and have a snack. We enjoyed some Droëwors and Granola bars while watching the ocean.
Wondering what Droëwors is?
Droëwors is a traditional South African dried beef snack. Renowned not just for its impressive shelf life but also for being a protein-rich source during extended hikes. Its roots go back to the Voortrekkers, Dutch-speaking groups that traversed South Africa from 1836 onward. Faced with the need to preserve meat, these pioneers gave rise to the cherished cured meat product that continues to be a favorite among South Africans today.
Granola Bars – a high energy hiking snack
When it comes to hiking, I love having snacks that are both delicious and nutritious. And what could be better than homemade granola bars? They are a fantastic high-energy treat that you can make yourself, and they’re much better than store-bought options anyway. If you’re interested in learning how to create your own granola bars, simply click on the link below.
After soaking in the beautiful sea view for about 10 or 15 minutes, we felt energized and ready to head to Bead/Treasure Beach.
Double Mouth Nature Reserve
We kept going, carefully walking on the rocky shore. Around a bend, we found a steep cliff that surprised us. Getting down needed a bit of scrambling. At first, we thought it was part of the trail, but later we realized we had slightly gone the wrong way. Still, we just laughed it off and saw it as a fun part of our adventure.
After coming down the cliff, we looked back and realized where we should have been. If we had taken the right path, we would have reached the tar road above. Then, it would have been a relaxed walk past the hut and signboard to Double Mouth.
Double Mouth got its name from the unique Double Mouth, where the Umzimvubu River meets the Indian Ocean, creating two separate river mouths. The reserve’s beautiful beaches and forests are also home to a diverse range of plant and animal life. So, whether you’re looking for wildlife sightings, relaxing beach walks, challenging hikes, or a camping weekend, you will find something to enjoy at Double Mouth Nature Reserve.
You need to pay a small fee to get into Double Mouth Nature Reserve. Adults pay R26, and kids from 2 to 11 years old pay R16. These fees help maintain and protect the reserve so everyone can keep enjoying it.
To pay the entry fee, head to the little hut at the hilltop, right before going down to the campsite.
Another interesting place to visit in the area is ‘Bead/Treasure Beach,’ famous for its historical importance. This is where you can still find remains of the Portuguese ship Santo Espirito, which ran aground in 1608.
To get to Bead Beach, you have to cross the Double Mouth River. Pay attention to the tides because they will affect whether you can cross the river or not. When it’s low tide, the river is shallow, just ankle deep. But as the tide comes in, the water level rises quickly. We saw it reach knee depth just an hour after low tide. So, it’s best to check the tide timetable and plan your hike to cross the river at low tide for safety.
Top Tip: Allow yourself at least 2.5 hours from the beginning of the trails to reach the river.
As you stroll along Bead Beach, take a close look at the sand and shingle—you might just discover remnants from the shipwreck. These could include ‘money cowries’ (shells used as currency), carnelian beads (red beads mined in India over a century ago), and fragments of Chinese blue and white Ming porcelain. Although we were in a bit of a rush to reach the river crossing before the water level rose, preventing us from exploring much, the beach’s pretty seashells and the wide white sand were still a beautiful sight.
The Road back to Morgan Bay
After checking out Bead Beach and crossing the river, we went back along the road to the cliffs and then headed to Morgan Bay. The way back has some uphill parts, so you need a decent fitness level. Going uphill in the midday sun was a bit tough, but the awesome views of the cliffs and the ocean made it worth it.
On our way back, we saw cows grazing in the fields atop the cliffs near Morgan Bay. The sky was a bright blue, making the scene even more beautiful..
To wrap it up, hiking the Morgan Bay Cliffs is a truly special experience and the scenery is spectacular!
Useful Information for the Morgan Bay Cliffs
Location of the Morgan Bay Cliffs
To get to the Morgan Bay Cliffs, begin at the parking lot near the Mitford Hotel in Morgan Bay. Head west across the causeway and up the hill until you reach the trail. Look for a small signboard in the distance, which will guide you to the cliff trails. Once you reach the signboard, you’ll see a display presenting various Cliff Trails with different distances and difficulty levels. Choose the hike that suits you, like the 4km, 6km, or 8km options, based on your preference and fitness level.
You can also drive up the road to the top of the cliffs. But for a nicer view, I suggest walking up the grassy hill instead.
Here’s a link for GOOGLE MAP DIRECTIONS to the parking lot at Mitford Hotel.
How long should you spend here?
How long it takes to explore the cliffs depends on how fast you walk and how much time you want to spend. If you enjoy taking your time, especially if you’re into photography, it might take even longer. Personally, I like to go slow, taking in the scenery, lingering, and snapping lots of photos. On average, the longer 11km round-trip hike to Double Mouth takes about 4-6 hours, and shorter hikes will be quicker. Even if you’re just going for a stroll and a view of the cliffs, you might end up spending more time than you think.
Given this, I suggest setting aside a whole day to explore the cliffs because they’re really amazing, and you might regret not having more time!
Do you need to be fit to hike the Morgan Bay Cliffs?
Here is an overview of the trails based on fitness levels:
- Easy Trail (4km): This trail is designed for beginning or those looking for a more leisurely walk. The trail also has a minimal elevation gain. The path provides a relaxed and enjoyable experience, allowing you to appreciate the beauty of the Morgan Bay Cliffs at a comfortable pace.
- Moderate Trail (6km): Intermediate hikers and those seeking a bit more challenge will find this trail ideal. It has a moderate elevation gain and covers a longer distance compared to the easy trail.
- Challenging Trail (8km): For fit hikers or those seeking a more strenuous adventure, the challenging trail is perfect. The path includes a steep ascent, uneven terrain, and is a longer distance. It does require a higher level of fitness and stamina.
It’s important to assess your own fitness level before hiking the Morgan Bay Cliffs. Choose a trail that suits you. Remember, though, to always stay hydrated and take breaks as needed. Regardless of the trail you choose, hiking the Morgan Bay Cliffs will provide incredible ocean views and an unforgettable experience for hikers of all fitness levels.