A hiker’s paradise: 5 must-do Eastern Cape hikes to suit all levels of fitness

(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

The Eastern Cape is often made out to be the poor little foster kid of the country.

In the Western Cape, for example, municipal service crews landscape the grass next to perfectly tarred national roads, while in the Eastern Cape, everything aforementioned is unheard of. You shouldn't, however, let this facade of order fool you. 

In the first place, EC locals will hunt you down if you try to cut the grass next to the road. It’s meant to feed grazing livestock, you see. Also, terms such as ‘municipal services’ and ‘national roads’ take on vastly different and even completely irrelevant meanings in EC – and it’s a good thing.

The small misunderstandings modern civilisation imposes on the Eastern Cape makes this serene province seem dangerous, untamed and rural in the eyes of outsiders.

But the Eastern Cape is everything but violent, dangerous and poor. It is one of the richest, best-kept secrets of South Africa. National roads aren’t a big worry there, neither should they be. The province boasts EVERY kind of natural beauty and landscapes available in SA – from the bitterly cold, dry Karoo to white sandy shores and even tropical forests, ancient shipwrecks and majestic mountains!

The best way to explore this diversity is to walk right through it, so bugger the roads. 

Although there are certainly some rough and tough hiking trails available, hiking in the Eastern Cape shouldn't be a gruelling expedition if you don't want it to be.

Here are some of the more leisurely options available: 

Blue Duiker Trail in the Tsitsikamma National Park 

What: A scenic stroll where you’re most likely to spot the Blue Duiker – the nearly extinct smallest antelope in SA with small white bambi spots on its hindquarters. The trail takes you through the heart of the Tsitsikamma forest.

Where: At Storms River Mouth

How long: 2 hours

Distance: 3.7 kilometres

Cost: Free, although you might have to pay entrance to the forest

Info: Click or tap on this link and this link

SEE: #LoveSA: More hiking trails receive Green Flag accreditation in Garden Route's Wilderness

Doringkloof Day Hike

Where: In the Addo National Park

How long: 6 hours

Distance: 11 kilometres

Cost: Free, although entrance fee to the park will be charged

Info:  Click or tap on this linkthis link and this one for good measure. 

SEE: New Addo hiking trail your latest reason to plan an Eastern Cape adventure

Olive Schreiner’s Sarcophagus

What: The hike up the koppie to see the first famous female writer of South Africa’s sarcophagus is a must for all Karoo lovers – and especially those who enjoy literacy about this area. In Schreiner’s book, The Story of an African Farm, she vividly described the landscape and when hiking up this trail which she too walked, it is as if one literally lives inside her novel. 

Where: Buffelshoek Farm on the Mortimer Road just outside Cradock 

How long: 5 hours

Distance:+/- 10 kilometres

Cost: Free, just let the farmer know you’re heading up the mountain

Info: Click or tap on this link.

WATCH: SA's Otter Trail listed as the best hike in the World

Blindekloof Walking Trail 

A post shared by Lloyd Sayster (@lsayster) on

What: A unique and quaint hike alongside the Blindekloof Stream to the Crystal Cavern Pool. If you go on a hot day, it's the perfect spot for a dip in the ice cold water. 

Where: Just outside Uitenhage in the Groendal Wilderness Area

How long: +/- 4 hours 

Distance: 16 kilometres

Cost: Free

Info: Click or tap on this link.

SEE: #TummyMustFall: Top SA walk, run and hike trails

Hole in the Wall 

What: One of the most iconic Wild Coast activities is to visit Hole in the Wall just south of Coffee Bay. Hole in the Wall is a massive rock formation in the sea with, you guessed it, a hole in the middle! 

From Coffee Bay, a three-hour up-and-down hike will get you there. This hike is an active and cultural experience where you will meet and greet many locals en route. The perfect opportunity to practice your newly acquired Xhosa phrases.

Pack a picnic and spend the rest of the day on the rocky and grassy beach beside the hole. Take swim and relax before your hike back

Where: Coffee Bay

How long: +/- 3 hours 

Distance: 9 kilometres

Cost: Free

Info: Click or tap on this link.

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