Traveling the Wild Coast of South Africa is probably one of the most beautiful areas you can travel in this amazing country. However, some people spread the word / noise / gossip, that it is not safe. This is simply NOT true!
For me the Wild Coast is a beautiful destination in a very poor area of South Africa. If you’re expecting to sip Cafe Lattes each day then perhaps the Wild Coast is not for you (although this is not impossible). If you’re quite happy to say ‘Molo’ (= Hello to one person) and ‘Molweni’ (= hello to 2 or more people) to engage with local people, are not scared to ask for directions once in a while and make sure to keep your car stocked with water, snacks and petrol, you will have the time of your life exploring the Wild Coast of South Africa. You will meet the most friendly and hospitable people, discover amazing places by the sea and most often will have the entire beach to yourself.
I’ve been wanting to write this article for the longest time because I think it is HUGELY important that the Wild Coast (and other not-so-well-marketed-places) of South Africa get some TLC from international travellers because it simply is pristine and not to be missed. So do yourselves a favour and take the time to travel between Port St. Johns and East London which is roughly the area of the Wild Coast. DO NOT fly between Port Elizabeth and Durban because you will completely miss out on the Wild Coast. We highly recommend to travel the Wild Coast! Did I say already that we highly recommend to travel the Wild Coast?
I’ve been living for 16 years (2019) in South Africa and during that time I had the chance to visit the Wild Coast on numerous occasions. About 12 years ago I did a 5 day hiking trail with 2 friends and with Rosie we went already 3 times to the Wild Coast.
The most epic and spontaneous SA road trip we did to the Wild Coast was with our Italian Airbnb guest who stayed with us a couple of months while she was studying English in Cape Town. During that trip we also visited Qunu which is now famous because this was the birthplace of Nelson Mandela. For that road trip we flew from Cape Town to East London and rented a car from the airport. The other road trips to the Wild Coast we drove in my own car and were joined by another single parent family, our friends Shereen and Sarah.
Last year December we went again for a more relaxing holiday and just stayed in one beautiful beach lodge on the Wild Coast in Cintsa. So yes, we think we know the Wild Coast at least a little bit and still we haven’t been to ALL the places on our bucket list.
- 1 Where is the Wild Coast, South Africa located?
- 2 Map of best accommodation on the Wild Coast
- 3 Hogsback
- 4 Cintsa
- 5 Bulungula Community Lodge
- 6 The Coffeeshack in Coffee Bay
- 7 Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa – Port St. Johns
Where is the Wild Coast, South Africa located?
The Wild Coast of South Africa is situated roughly between East London in the south and Port St Johns up north. East London has an airport which is fantastic if you want to fly in from Durban, Johannesburg or Cape Town (as we once did).
The main high way that travels through the Wild Coast is the N2. To get to the most beautiful places on the Wild Coast you will always need to travel away from the N2, often onto gravel roads, to get to your paradise, the hidden gems that you’re looking for. To drive from East London to Port St. Johns on the N2 is about 325 km in total. A bit further down in this article we will share an INCREDIBLE map of directions of how to get to Bulungula Lodge. The map is brilliant. I LOVE maps and can stare at them for hours on end to figure out where I want to go next so see below for a map of the Wild Coast.
Map of best accommodation on the Wild Coast
The following places are the places that we love on the Wild Coast. We have stayed in most of them, some on numerous occasions or sometimes I have send clients there and I got great feedback from them. So in case you’re planning your own Wild Coast trip you can use these as a reference.
I like special places and I’m not so much concerned about what star grading accommodation has. I think an itinerary should be a good mix of unique places where you can experience the destination in an authentic and responsible way because of course we promote responsible tourism in South Africa.
Although Hogsback is not part of the Wild Coast it is not too far and I highly recommend that you try to visit this area. Hogsback itself is obviously quite well known and it is a beautiful village. However, IF you REALLY want to go off the beaten track and experience one of the most authentic places I’ve ever been to, then I suggest you book a few nights at Elundini Community Lodge, about 20 km outside of Hogsback in the middle of the rural areas.
You will get to experience true village life in a responsible way and enjoy the relaxed and friendly hospitality from Elliot and his Belgian wife Lieve. We have been back already 3 times. You can join a bread baking experience, go for beautiful hikes to waterfalls and just take a stroll through the village. We also took a Xhosa language class with the girls which is highly recommended. Check out the pictures below.
Cintsa is situated about 45km from East London Airport so this is a good first stop for your start of exploring the Wild Coast if you fly into East London. Cintsa is really a sleepy seaside town with a few accommodation options. We stayed both in Buccaneers Backpackers on one trip and on the next trip we decided to upgrade a bit and stayed on the other side of the lagoon at Crawfords Beach Lodge.
We visited and stayed at Buccaneers Backpackers on our first Wild Coast trip with Shereen and Sarah. The kids are best friends and I think at that time they could JUST walk and were still very small. We always call it the banana SA road trip because the kids were BESOTTED with bananas which was the ‘padkos’ of choice on that Wild Coast Road trip. Buccaneers offers a variety of accommodation, from camping to dorm room to ensuite self-catering cottages.
At Buccaneers we rented a self catering cottage, with an AWESOME VIEW, see picture above, which was supposed to be kids friendly. However, at that time I didn’t know what questions to ask yet to find out what kids friendly exactly is. In case you’re wondering what questions to ask before booking child friendly accommodation, CLICK HERE, learn from my mistakes and ignorance.
Serving dinner at 7h30 and breakfast from 8am will not work with small children. We were looking forward to have the meals at the lodge but had to cook ourselves. It was our first big trip with the little ones and I would recommend Buccaneers with older children who can already run and walk as the resort is build against a hill and you need to walk up and down all the time. We had to carry our little ones so it was sometimes a bit tough. Older kids will enjoy the fantastic location and the great vibe. The beautiful beach of Cintsa is in walking distance and it is perfect for families because there’s a lagoon that is very shallow. It was great to enjoy the beach.
Now this is every single parents’ dream come true because at Crawfords Beach Lodge in Cintsa EVERYTHING is taken care off. We spend 5 days at Crawfords Beach Lodge on proper holiday after Christmas. It was pure bliss. All meals are included, there are 2 pools, a kids club, kids play area, the beach is right there for beautiful walks and on New Year’s Eve we even had a little party and had a little dance.
CLICK THIS LINK TO CHECK AVAILABILITY AND MAKE YOUR BOOKING NOW
We felt super relaxed when we were there, the kids had a great time, the hospitality and friendliness of the staff was great at Crawfords Beach Lodge, really just awesome. If you want a bit of luxury and relaxation and don’t want to go too far from the the East London Airport, this is your place. We drove from Cape Town and made our first stop at Elundini Community Lodge, see above, before we came here.
Find the best rates and deals for Crawfords Beach Lodge HERE.
Prana Lodge is one of the most exquisite lodges you will find on the Wild Coast. Prana Lodge is the perfect place for a family reunion. Kids under the age of 11 yrs old are only allowed with prior arrangement so it would be best to book out the entire place which consists of 8 individually designed suites. The suites feature pieces of a private collection of famous South African artists so I would actually only consider this lodge when Rosie would be old enough to understand that we have to be careful with everything.
Prana means: Breath, as in the life-giving force. I popped into Prana Lodge to do site inspection when it was pouring with rain so it wasn’t the best time to take pictures. I will leave it up to you to check out the web site and the amazing reviews and decide for yourself.
Click HERE to make your booking for Prana Lodge and arrive in paradise!
Bulungula Community Lodge
Bulungula Lodge is supposedly the most isolated place in South Africa so you REALLY have to make an effort to visit this place. Even more so if you decide to take public transport to get there. The community of Bulungula appreciates if you take the effort and time to arrive by public transport which may include the back of a ‘bakkie’ crowded with people, groceries, chicken and good fun. You will gladly be rewarded with your first night stay for free. So start planning to visit this incredibly beautiful place which is 100% owned and managed by Nqileni village,a Xhosa community.
Bulungula Community Lodge adheres to Fairtrade in Tourism is eco-friendly and we recommend a stay of at least 3 nights if not more. Unlike other resorts on the Wild Coast, at Bulungula Lodge there are no fences ‘to keep the locals out’, this is an integrated space where locals and visitors share common areas. They may not always speak English but there will always be a staff member around that does .
At Bulungula you an open your heart, mind and soul to show an authentic interest in the local community by spending time together.
The lodge offers different types of accommodation. We stayed in one of the 10 rondavels. The rocket showers are quite something. It was great to learn about this and then experience it. It is quite noisy so at that time I had to find a bucket for Rosie to give her a bath because she was scared of the noise.
I enjoyed a massage in our rondavel, we visited the edu care centre where Rosie spend a few hours, we checked out the cows on the beach and enjoyed this piece of Wild Coast paradise.
Check The map to Bulungula to see the directions to Bulungula. Isn’t this the most interesting map you’ve ever seen?
The Coffeeshack in Coffee Bay
Coffee Bay must be one of the most well known places to visit on the Wild Coast. From Coffee Bay you can take a day trip to Hole in the Wall which is once of those iconic places that you must have seen if you travel to the Wild Coast. On this particular trip in April/May 2016 we somehow had a lot of rain and so when we arrived in Coffee Bay it was POURING down.
We had rented private rondavels at The Coffeeshack across the river. The backpacking dormitories and communal spaces were on the other side so the rondavels were in a quiet space. Our rondavels actually flooded while we were staying in them but the wonderful staff did everything to make it dry again and look after our luggage while we were watching the rain from the communal areas.
What I love about The Coffeeshack is that they’re super involved in the community and put a lot of effort in helping the community to uplift their lives and create or find employment. They helped a lady start her own laundry which is the preferred supplier of The Coffeeshack, They helped mine workers to access their pension plans. They’ve also established homestays with Xhosa families so those who are interested can do a homestay and learn all about traditional Xhosa life. What are the different roles of men and women? Who fetches the water? Who looks after the animals? What are the typical Xhosa celebrations and of course meals are shared. I love recommending homestays to my clients as it is an authentic way to immerse and learn in a respectful way about different cultures.
Unfortunately we haven’t visited Umngazi River Bungalows YET because it looks and sounds like absolute heaven. It is always on my radar if I design an itinerary for clients who are including travelling the Wild Coast in their South African road trip. The feedback of the clients has always been amazing hence I would like to mention Umngazi River Bungalows in my write up of the Wild Coast.
If you want to visit Umngazi River Bungalows during the South African school holidays you will have to book well in advance because this is a very popular destination for South Africans. However, international holidays usually don’t coincide with the South African holidays which is great for my readers and clients, right?
I say this quite often and it is a bit cliche but 1 picture says more than a 1.000 words so I will just share a few pictures of Unmgazi River Bungalows so you can make up your mind yourself.
To get there, I would suggest you fly into Port St Johns landing strip from Durban which is a short flight and a treat for the eye as you fly over a slice of heaven which is the Wild Coast of South Africa.
Check out rates and availability for Umngazi River Bungalows HERE and secure a spot for your next holidays!
This article is still a work in progress. The following places still deserve my attention:
Mbotyi River Lodge
Mazeppa Bay Hotel
Morgan Bay Hotel
For now I hope to have convinced you that the Wild Coast is worth visiting and if you can to include it into your South African Roadtrip.