The East Coast of South Africa is vast.
So vast that it’s not known as the ‘East Coast’, the way the West Coast is known as the ‘West Coast’ – probably because the Eastern Cape makes up such a large portion of it, leading to confusion.
But also because there are so many different tourist coasts along its length.
The East Coast South Africa includes: the Sunshine Coast, the Wild Coast, the Hibiscus Coast, Dolphin Coast and the Elephant Coast!
The East Coast of South Africa stretches from Port Elizabeth, past East London Accommodation – the city named after the east of London (it rests on a river that could be misconstrued as the Thames) – all the way north of Durban Accommodation almost to the border with Mozambique.
Along this incredibly long strip of coast (1 200 km worth of road, not all of it in good condition, particularly along the Wild Coast) you’ll find beach after beach, beachside cities (Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban), towns, river mouths and sleepy hamlets.
Choosing where to go and what to see can be a daunting task. We make it easy for you with these…
Gorgeous places to visit on the East Coast of South Africa
The wild sand dunes of Alexandria
For extraordinary beauty and solitude you can’t beat the Alexandria dune field, often also called a dune sea. Not only is it huge, but it’s an evershifting ocean of sand that forms the southernmost Woody Cape section of the Addo Elephant National Park.
The dune stretches over 80 km, sometimes 5 km wide, and there are a couple of hikes to explore the beach wilderness: one a day hike (7 km Dassie trail) and the other a two-day trail (Alexandria Trail).
Browse through Greater Addo accommodation options to stay nearby.
Kenton-on-Sea’s three incredible beaches
The seaside Sunshine Coast village of Kenton-on-Sea (across the river from Boesmans Rivier, another equally stunning riverside town) is striking.
Virtually surrounded by nature reserve it supports two river mouths, one on either side of town, and three beautiful beaches – Kariega (with blue flag status plus a lagoon), Middle (with its family rock pools, particularly Mermaid’s Pool & coffee shop food truck) and Shelly (admittedly involving a bit of a trek over sand dunes, but the secluded bay is worth it!)
Book the perfect Kenton-on-Sea accommodation to access these beaches.
Kasouga River Mouth
This totally off-the-beaten-track little hamlet lies on a river mouth, a quiet and seriously laidback preparation for what’s coming in the form of the Wild Coast.
The residents of this little enclave won’t thank us for sharing it with you, so treat it with the care it deserves and don’t head there unless you really do want to participate in sitting bankside, fishing or boating – because there isn’t terribly much else to do, unless you want to forge your way across the sand dunes to the beach. But the beauty here is unmissable.
To stay in this secret enclave browse through our exclusive Kasouga accommodation options.
Let the Wild Coast begin! Cintsa (sometimes spelled Chintsa) lies just outside what is technically the Wild Coast but, for all intents and purposes, it’s wild enough to qualify. Lying on a river mouth, Cintsa is quaintly split into Cintsa West & East, whilst the bay of the beach is protected by foliage strewn sand dunes.
Things slow, the sunrises are spectacular, and you can take your canoe up the river or walk to Cefani Mouth.
Stay in Cintsa: Browse through our Cintsa accommodation options to book.
The place of two nature reserves
Dwesa Nature Reserve lies in the west, Cwebe in the east (with corresponding rivers – Mbashe in the west, Mbanyana in the east) but they are effectively one reserve. With long beaches and quintessential Wild Coast appeal, this is a heavenly part of the coastline.
Access roads are tough, but the reserves protect one of the biggest portions of indigenous coastal forest, so the scenery is spectacular, and the reserve less frequented than it should be.
Stay nearby at Qolora Mouth accommodation to explore these two reserves.
The Hole in the Wall
You simply can’t miss out on the Hole in the Wall (not far south of Coffee Bay). It’s one of South Africa’s most photographed and iconic landmarks (giving Table Mountain a run for its money).
Recent drone footage and photographs have given it a lot of airtime on Instagram, but because of where it is (on the Wild Coast), it’s not all that easy to reach for most visitors to the country.
Book accommodation in Coffee Bay to be close to the Hole in the Wall.
Third Beach, Port St Johns
Forget First or Second beaches of the popular Wild Coast town of Port St Johns (which is beautiful, by the way).
Rather try the less popular and isolated Third beach (it’s not a swimming beach, swimming happens on Second beach, but there are rock pools), in the Silaka Nature Reserve.
Book the perfect Port St Johns accommodation to visit these beaches.
Umzumbe village & beach
Anywhere on the Hibiscus Coast is going to bring you a place to chill and do the beach thang! But Umzumbe particularly so.
Umzumbe is only about 100 km south of Durban but it’s a great place to spot dolphins and it’s one of the the places for scuba-diving. Also, the beach is blue-flag, which means it’s family-friendly and not everyone knows about it yet.
To stay here browse through our accommodation in Umzumbe.
The main reason you visit the Dolphin Coast is to find a great swimming beach. Because the Indian Ocean begs one to swim – it’s warm, the waves are just right, the sun seems to shine all the time (you get the picture).
So we had to pick a beach (a difficult task, given how many great beaches there are on this coast), and this one, just north of very popular Ballito Accommodation, is part of the Blythedale Conservancy, and a great swim with less of the press of people you would expect (although you may want to avoid Blythedale beach during the festival and the festive season).
Stay at accommodation in Blythedale Beach – lots of options!
A coastal forest beach
Mabibi beach is one of the least known beaches on this coastline. It’s a snorkeling beach in the coastal forest of iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the Elephant coast and close to Lake Sibaya, the country’s biggest freshwater lake where you can spot hippos or crocs.
You’re not going to find a more pristine coastline quite so beautiful within this World Heritage Site.
Stay at accommodation in Mabibi to access this beach.