There is something of the ‘wild’ South Africa to a weekend spent camping in the Eastern Cape. Little towns up near Barkly East and Rhodes offer inland vastness, undisturbed beauty and snow in winter, whilst game lodges in and around the Baviaanskloof give easy access to big wildlife viewing, and the coast offers seascapes, boulders and time out.
With all the available options and some incredibly popular campsites – Cannon Rocks at Boknes, Jeffreys Bay Caravan Park and Bruintjieskraal in the Baviaanskloof to name but a smattering – making a choice is not difficult.
We’ve put together a list of 8 campsites. Some of them provide you with tents so that you don’t have to lug yours along, and others are just sites we thought you should know about. Most of them are smallish, so private and (hopefully) quiet. Regardless, we know you’ll enjoy them.
I wanna go camping! 8 unique campsites in the Eastern Cape
Yellowwood Forest, Morgans Bay, Wild Coast
Situted in Morgan’s Bay, the owner run Yellowwood Forest is renowned for its warm hospitality and great atmosphere. Located just 1500m from the beach, Yellowwood offers a range of self catering accommodation options that suits all budgets.
Situated at the bottom of the campsite, the Bush Camp is wooden and rustic!The unit has a small open deck furnished with a table and chairs as well as a two plate gas stove and a kettle. The single room has a double and single bed. The campsite ablutions are 50m away.
Yellowwood Forest tea garden and pizzeria is a licensed family restaurant. Delicious, wood fired pizza and lovingly prepared food is served up and the coffee is really good! A variety of meals are available such as burgers, curry, soup, seafood and decadent cakes. On request traditional Xhosa meals and beer may be pre ordered.
Buccaneers Lodge & Backpackers, Cintsa
One of those ‘finds’ on the always popular Wild Coast, Buccanners overlooks the lagoon at Cintsa West. With views of the beach and the sound of the waves, the campsite, that consists of a series of small camping decks, lies just behind giant coastal sand dunes in what Buccanners call their ‘new forest’ – in amongst guava trees and indigenous bush.
Communal kitchen and ablutions blocks sweeten the deal. There are only 10 sites, so it’s small and cheerful. If taking your own is too much schlepp, there are also six safari tents in a different site with either double or twin beds and bedding, within easy walk of the bathrooms and kitchen, that take all the effort out of camping.
There are other options for self-catering and dorm-type accommodation too. Look forward to a restaurant and pub, canoeing on the lagoon, heading down to the sea, breakfasts at the Skebenga Bar and dinner at the Long Table Restaurant.
Tube N Axe, Storms River, Tsitsikamma
Tube ‘n Axe is is located in the main street of the quaint village of Storms River that forms the epicentre of attractions and activities in Tsitsikamma. Tube ‘n Axe is by far the largest and vibiest hostel in Storms River and they also operate the only licensed shuttle service in the Tsitsikamma area that is available to all visitors to Tsitsikamma and Storms River.
Tube ‘n Axe boasts a huge immaculate indigenous garden sculpted to provide secluded camping for those who love the outdoors. The hostel has a number of braai sites and a well stocked self catering kitchen. A regular supply of Karroo meats that make for delicious braai packs are available from the reception. A rustic African stone rondavel provides a central ablution facility with hot showers and a zesty outdoor atmosphere.
Kamerkloof guesthouse, Studtis, Baviaanskloof
Studtis Poort is a spectacular drive through the Baviaanskloof, and if coming from the Willowmore side, the estate is reached by a good quality gravel road, so you can even head here in an ordinary sedan. Whilst the main focus of the estate is a self-catering guesthouse, there are campsites available in the beautiful grounds amongst olive groves that make use of an ablution block in the house.
Admittedly the grounds can take as many as 50 campers, but the beauty of the Baviaanskloof and the myriad activities available to you should easily weigh up the balance. Look forward to hikes, off-road bike and 4X4 trails, rock climbing and kloofing, donkey cart rides (to the springs at Sewefontein), history (the original Studtis police station is on the farm itself) and stars as you have never seen them.
Noorspoort guest farm, Steytlerville, northern Baviaanskloof
Another closely guarded secret venue, Noorspoort may concentrate on its guest lodge (wonderful bedrooms with luxurious goose down duvets, that may well be worth a try after a few days’ camping) but the pretty sheep and angora farm, with its own geese, horses, cows and pigs that also has its own 10 inch telescope for you to enjoy the starlit skies, also has a camping boma on the banks of the Groot Gamtoos River.
If you’re lucky kudu may stroll by whilst you’re in the shower. This private campsite is secluded and, whilst it may not boast a grassy base for your tent, it does have two bush showers powered by a donkey water tank, your own braaipit, reed screen, bush table and water basin. All you need is a tent. And if even that is too much luxury, then head into the veldt and camp in the bush for the ultimate bush experience, sleeping amongst the kudu, zebra and buzzing night critters.
Quatermain’s Camp, Amakhala Game Reserve
Amakhala describe Quatermain’s Camp as an ‘Africa under canvas’ experience. This is not tenting as we know it. Instead you’ll stay in a 1900s style white safari tent fitted out with military campaign style furnishings, in the midst of sub-tropical thicket covered ridges, just 45 minutes’ drive from Port Elizabeth.
It’s rather intimate too, with only six beds available. Besides the tent, which basically comprises your beds, there is a central boma area where your food is prepared for you on an open fire, rustic bathrooms that come with all the modern conveniences, and access to Big 5 game viewing.
This is for those who like camping in style. Look forward to game drives, big 5 walks, bush walks and birding safaris.
Reedsdell Country Guest farm, Rhodes
Aside from a charming stone barn and farmhouse, Reedsdell also offers sheltered camping under a series of pines close to the farm shed, with views up Lundeans Nek and the sheer cliffs of the southern Drakensberg that are unbeatable. The campsite can accommodate fairly large groups and has 10 hot water showers and six flush loos.
Their big plus, when it comes to groups, is the sandstone shed that was once the Wartrail Cheese Factory and today can sit up to 200 people – great if it’s wet and you’re in nothing other than a tent. Look forward to scrambler and quad bike trails (bring your own), hiking, 4X4 trails and spectacular scenery.
Kleinrivier Wilderness, between Uitenhage and Steytlerville
Two rivers flow through the Kleinrivier Wilderness that borders on the Groendal Wilderness Area, only 70 km from Port Elizabeth. Despite sounding as though it is yet another game farm experience, Kleinrivier is anything but. Here you are encouraged to notice dragon flies and frogs, woodpeckers and dassies, not lions.
It is an escape where feeling the rush of wind through your hair as you leap from a boulder above a mountain pool, and the lonely cry of a fish eagle are highlights of your stay. Best of all, Soetdorings campsite is small, restricted to one camping group at a time, and set in amongst incredible lush vegetation around a man-made natural rock pool, beneath acacia trees and close to the bed of the Klein Rivier.
There is just room for about five tents, an open braai area, a covered lapa with a sink and coal stove and a stone hut with toilet and hot shower and large window overlooking the karoo hills. Nearby is the Kleinrivier gorge complete with shady pools and looming cliffs. And if that doesn’t grab you, Black Eagle tented camp offers four double tents, each sleeping two, that come complete with mattresses, showers, fridge and loo with a view.
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