If you are looking for things to do in East London, we have compiled our alternative list of activities when exploring the coastal town. East London is one of the smallest cities in South Africa and smaller cities always get the reputation of being boring and not fun because that what society demands you to think of smaller towns. However, East London is not that small. I could list twenty-five towns right now that are much smaller than East London. East London is more of a medium-sized city, and that means, this place has tons to do, but you have to know where to look.
East London has a beautiful blend of activities ranging from your basics like going to a pub (and there are a lot of them) and having a beer with your friends to taking a hike on 5km trail. Did you know there is so much more to do and experience here?
Our List Of Things To Do In East London
In this article, I will list some of the bare basics that you can do in East London. I will list some of the less spoken about activities or places that no you might not have heard of and thanks to the diverse crowd that lives here, Xhosa people, white people, and Indian people; there is a beautiful blend of different cultures sown into the town that no one spots or takes the time to see. Regardless of the remarkable history that this town already has there is so much more to offer if one pays attention.
Luckily for you, I have paid attention, written them all down and put it here for you to peruse at your pleasure, so sit back or lean forward, put your glasses on like I had to and absorb what the little town of East London has to offer.
Khaya La Bantu Cultural Village
Visit Khaya La Bantu Cultural Village, situated thirty kilometers outside of East London and get a firsthand look at the traditional Xhosa culture and hospitality. Witness and enjoy the music of their culture as you enter the village, and if you so choose, you can participate in various ritual dances.
Expand your mind and see how crafts, arts, bead work and much more play an integral part in the identity of the Xhosa people. Learn about the coming of age that all Xhosa boys must go through and other rituals that are still equally important. Meet a traditional Sangoma and experience Xhosa food the way it should be experienced. You’ll get to see and learn how Xhosa women create beautiful and colourful outfits and how they intrinsically weave beads into skirts and headrests which represent the different stages of a Xhosa woman’s life.
Your tour guides will also give you a brief history of the village, and at the same time, you can enjoy some locally crafted beer and don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs such as clay sculptures, masks and even a traditional Xhosa smoking pipe. It is a beautiful little village well worth experience, especially if you have an appreciation of different arts and cultures.
3 Silos Mountain Biking and Jogging Trail
I discovered this place about two years ago thanks to a friend of mine, and I’m glad I did. 3 Silos is a privately owned piece of land. There are multiple jogging and biking trails that children, adults and mountain bikers can venture on. They range in different difficulties and length and are easily identifiable by boards that have been hung on trees and other structures. There is a restaurant on-site as well in case you get hungry after your cardio and believe me you will be hungry.
This is one of the best places to go for exercise and just peace and quiet, especially during the week and the best part about 3 Silos, is that there is no official cost. The owner doesn’t ask for anything in return instead opting for an honesty box type system which means the trails are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
With that in mind, if you do visit 3 Silos at night, and you want to cycle or jog, make sure you can be seen so that other people and animals can see you, have lights with you, wear reflective pads. Safety first and that includes wearing a helmet, when cycling not when jogging or with your girl.
Three Sisters & Mermaid’s Pool Diving Spots
East London only has two diving spots. One called Mermaid’s Pool, and the other called Three Sisters.
Mermaid’s Pool is excellent for snorkelers and children because when low tide hits, it forms a tidal pool which is perfect to view some coral and sea grass. You might spot a tropical fish here and there, but the point it’s safe for kids and people just dipping their toes into aquatic surroundings.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, there is a reef maybe about 2km out to sea. It has gorgeous pinnacles, ledges and overhangs and caves that are housing a neighbourhood of aquatic life. Fair warning that is this specific spot is labelled as a Great White hot spot, so be careful; however, the chances are that you’ll most likely see young Ragged-tooth sharks.
Now at Three Sisters, named for its three deep pinnacles. This can only be accessed by boat but this an excellent place for divers of different levels. There are deep caves where more ragged-tooth sharks gather, and there is a bunch of fish that can be spotted.
Marlene Neumann Centre for Photography and Light
Marlene Neumann is, in my opinion, one of the best photographers in the universe. She has this unique perspective and can capture such intimate moments and reveal such emotion within landscapes and using her own specialised techniques. The result is something I still can’t describe. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m looking at a painting or a photograph.
She owns and runs what is called the Marlene Neumann Centre for Photography and Light. She has her own art exhibit here where she showcases her new work, she teaches photography courses, and it’s a place where you can go and meditate, something I am also into. The place draws a crowd and everyone that visits her, leaves with a whole new perspective on what photography and art is.
This is definitely a place to check out if you want to catch a breather and appreciate some awe-inspiring photography from a local legend. Did I mention that Marlene is also an inspirational speaker? Yup, this lady is awesome.
The Nahoon Estuary Nature Reserve
This Nature Reserve is a non-profit organisation run solely by the community of East London, those who want to help can.
This estuary is easily 25 hectares and within these hectares is completely preserved coastal land, and it’s situated right in the heart of our city. This organisation has managed to keep alive highly sensitive vegetation and hundreds of indigenous coastal plants, insects, and sea and land animals, beaches, ponds and a variety of other flora and fauna by designing a recycled boardwalk.
There are directional signboards which help guide visitors through the reserve, protecting our lovely nature and the reserve is used for educational and research purposes and also if you just want to relax. A wide range of activities can also take place here.
It is a beautiful place to go for a walk and appreciate nature, take time for yourself, get away from the busy stresses of life and just breathe that kind of environment in. A place to ease your mind, revitalise your soul and heal your body because everyone needs a breather and this nature reserve is the place to do it.
The Arts Theater
The Arts Theater might not have the most original name, but it does have its own unique personality.
Throughout the year a variety of shows will be performed here, by our local residents. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have other people that come from all over South Africa just to see what these shows are all about and if they can contribute in some way.
The Arts society here in East London firmly believes that everyone has the right to perform if they want. Since it is a small town, we use this platform to flex our acting muscles and encourage those who might be too afraid to take the risk to try it at least once.
If performing is definitely not in your wheelhouse, then that is okay too because fun can be had by all. People from all walks of life attend these shows for a night off from their busy lives, enjoying the creativity that pours from the actors leave a mark on everyone, leading to a wonderful time to be had by all. It’s a great place to meet new people, speak about arts and culture and just embrace the creativity that everyone has to offer.
Emerald Vale Brewing Company
It’s all in the name. Located on a farm in the Wild Coast, Emerald Vale Brewing Company specialises in original and handcrafted beers. They use all local ingredients plus an exact process utilising yeast, malted barley rainwater and selected hops to generate a variety of tastes.
They offer five separate types of beer starting with Pale Ale, which is crisp and smells light, for lack of a better word. Gold Ale, which is comparable to Pale Ale but it holds more body and is somewhat more bitter. Amber Ale, a very dark beer with a smooth body and with just a hint of toffee flavour at the end and Dark Ale, a dark rich stout type of beer combining coffee and chocolate for a mind-blowing taste.
The Emerald Vale Brewing Company offer more than their craft beer though. They also have a restaurant where they serve excellent pub-style meals, and they even provide a tour of the brewery over the weekends if you’re curious about the finer details of what goes into making beer.
The Avalon Market is a craft market held in Kidds Beach and supported and created by the local community of East London. It features live music, fantastic food, craft beer, some actually from Emerald Vale Brewery and they host activities that the whole family to be able to participate in if they so choose.
The Avalon Market only opens on the first Sunday of every month, and it has more than 80 stalls, and it gets bigger every few months. It offers a variety of different products, services and competitions. The kids have a blast with pony rides and face painting while the men test their skills with fishing and chugging down beers and the woman sample wine and champagne while chowing oysters. It’s a lot of fun, and you get to support the residents while getting to meet new people and perhaps sharing ideas and giving suggestions.
They offer some excellent marmalades like homemade jam and baked goods, scones, muffins and biscuits. It’s a great place gorge yourself in some guilty pleasures
Mpongo Park Private Game Reserve
The Mpongo Park Private Game Reserve is a huge place. The game reserve is a tourist spot where you can see the big five and other various animals, it is rather expensive though but it is awesome.
They offer a beautiful private hotel with very secure 24/7 security guarding the front gates, just in case. You’ll be able to go on game drives that usually last about three hours, seeing the different animals and along the route; you’ll take breaks, taste wine and beers, eating ordure’s. They treat you like royalty, and they keep you safe. It is absolutely gorgeous there especially at sunset where the golden rays are just reflecting off the lake.
And it’s always nice to have a giraffe come up to you wanting to steal your ice-cream. It’s a treat if you wish to scare children.
Burnside Touch Farm
Burnside Touch Farm is a great little place where you and the whole family can enjoy yourselves and where you can get in touch with nature and maybe feel like a kid again. It’s about 10km from Beacon Bay going along the N6.
The whole point of this farm is that you get to feed and pet the animals. They are mostly all babies obviously, and they are freaking cute. You can feed donkeys, goats, bunnies, chickens, cows, turkeys, emus, geese, pigs, ducks and a whole bunch more. It’s like cuteness vomited over this place. Have you ever bottled fed a baby goat or cow? It’s adorable.
Once you’re done having all kinds of cute moments and finally allowing your children to play with the animals, you can have some food from their little tea garden. They also have jungle gyms and tires for the kids to play on. The kids being distracted gives you more time to feed the baby goat or cow. It’s a delightful place, perfect for kids birthday parties, school outings and a Monday morning.
The East London Museum
The East London Museum is one of the best places to visit. East London has a very remarkable history that few know, and here is one fact that speaks for itself on why this museum is so impressive. We have the last remaining dodo egg., East London was the place where footprints of a child dating back 140, 000 years ago were discovered, in Nahoon in fact and we have the remains of a prehistoric fish that nobody else has.
The museum is a gem that is in desperate need of a shine, but it has such a range of fascinating and excellent exhibits, and it’s is home to some significant historical artifacts. It is also “home base” to an essential international collaboration on archaeological studies in Pondoland.
It is very well managed, and the curator is super passionate that you cannot help but get excited when he starts explaining the history of things to you. He has an extensive knowledge base, and you’ll be able to converse with him for hours, especially over history, local and international.
Electric Avenue is our arcade centre here in East London, which is on the bottom floor of Hemmingways Mall.
It offers a variety of games and activities for all ages. We have a small bumper car track which is immense fun provided you still have the spine for it and right next to that we have a 4D interactive roller coaster ride. Then, in the arcade itself, there is a range of games from the basics such as air hockey to toddler level games. The next section is more the traditional arcade games like Pac-Man, motorbike racing, various fighting games, but what steals the show is the bowling alley that is connected right next to the arcade.
I had only ever see bowling on television and in movies, and when this finally opened here, I was ecstatic. It features an animated and modern sleek look, and the sound that pins make when knocked down is nothing short of magnificent. It might not be as big as other venues bowling alleys, but hey, at least we have one, and you can have one hell of a good time there.
Extreme Golf (Putt-Putt)
So this is Putt-Putt in essence. It has your typical courses, the colourful balls and your scorecard but what makes it extreme is that you might want to severely hurt someone due to the course being so freaking challenging.
It offers your three fundamental courses, easy, medium and hard, but it’s when you reach the middle of medium difficulty course that things are going to go south very quickly. Putts that you made as a child convince you that you can still step up the game except you can’t. The difficulty spike is insane; you have to Russell Crowe in a beautiful mind to get through the medium course, so I’m sure can you imagine what the hard course does.
The extreme in Extreme Golf translates to an essential fundamental trait that we as humans all share in our everyday lives, and that is self-control. Extreme Golf is extreme self-control because of fights breakout. On the plus side, you can spend a whole day playing putt-putt for about R80.00. That’s good value for money regardless of the rage. They also have a restaurant where you can eat, but the chances are high that when you finish playing, you will probably storm out.
Well, we have paintball, and it’s not much on the surface when you look at it because a lot of places have paintball, but East London takes it seriously at times.
The reason I say that we take paintball seriously isn’t that the kids or the people having fun take it all that seriously, it’s because of the guys that used to be in the army that still plays paintball, run their teams like a military squad. It’s impressive because after you watch kids having fun, laughing and shooting at each other, and then you watch the hardcore soldiers at work, it gets real intense quick. You can see the teamwork coming through, the military coordination and following through with pin-point planning for their respective teams to win.
I don’t play paintball as much as I watch because I find that more satisfying than getting shot in the face. And I’m glad I do because there is a level of respect that you can’t help but obtain when you see these guys working together. So if you want to see an actual military operation in action, you should check out warrior paintball.
Border Stock Car Racing
Put the pedal to the metal and get ready for an evening of non-stop
adrenaline-fueled fun with the Border Stock Car Racing circuit at the
Summer Pride Oval. Families of petrol heads rock up to this event,
either to see all the awesome, custom built-up stock cars, to cheer for
their favourite racers or just to hang out with like-minded people.
Nearly everyone who attends is down to earth. After the races are
done, you can have a conversation with the drivers themselves, coming
from different parts of South Africa, you’ll never run out of a
conversation. Either way, while, there you can have a lekker braai or
buy some boerewors rolls and hamburgers for the family. Have a few a
drinks with some friends, as long as you are not driving, of course,
relax and just watch the action unfold in pulse-pounding fashion. Be
sure to bring sunscreen and maybe a jersey because if you are here all
day, you will experience the different types of weather East London goes
through in one twenty-four period.