Eastern Cape



The Eastern Cape is located on the east coast of South Africa between the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. Inland, it borders the Northern Cape and Free State provinces, as well as the Kingdom of Lesotho. The region boasts remarkable natural diversity, ranging from the semi-arid Great Karoo to the forests of the Wild Coast and the Keiskamma Valley, the fertile Langkloof, and the mountainous southern Drakensberg region. The Eastern Cape’s main feature is its spectacular coastline bordering the Indian Ocean.

It covers an area of 168 966 km² and has a population of over six million people. It is the second-largest province in South Africa by surface area and has the third-largest population. The capital is Bhisho. Other major cities and towns include Port Elizabeth, East London, Grahamstown, Mthatha (previously Umtata), Graaff-Reinet, Cradock and Port St John’s.

The Eastern Cape is one of South Africa’s poorest provinces incorporating large areas of South Africa’s former homelands. The Eastern Cape has excellent agricultural and forestry potential. The fertile Langkloof Valley in the south-west has enormous deciduous fruit orchards, while the Karoo interior is an important sheep-farming area. The Alexandria-Grahamstown area produces pineapples, chicory and dairy products, while coffee and tea are cultivated at Magwa. People in the former Transkei region are dependent on the farming of cattle, maize and sorghum.

The metropolitan economies of Port Elizabeth and East London are based primarily on manufacturing, the most important industry being motor manufacturing. The province is the hub of South Africa’s automotive industry.

The Eastern Cape is divided into two metropolitan municipalities (Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality and Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality) and six district municipalities, which are further subdivided into 37 local municipalities.

Nelson Mandela


Buffalo River near mouth – Author: D. Prinsloo

Buffalo City Metropolitan: Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality is situated on the east coast of the province. The boundaries of the newly established municipality now include a large area characterised by very different features.

The municipality was established as a local municipality in 2000 after South Africa’s reorganisation of municipal areas and is named after the Buffalo River, at whose mouth lies the only river port in South Africa. History was made in Buffalo City when the City elected its first female mayor on Friday, 17 March 2006.

The area has a well-developed manufacturing base, with the auto industry playing a major role. The climate is mild, with year-round sunshine. Average rainfall is 850mm.

Cities/Towns: Bisho •  Dimbaza •  East London •  Kidd’s Beach •  King William’s Town •  Mdantsane •  Phakamisa •  Zwelitsha

04_Aerial shot of Sunday's river mouth
Aerial shot of Sunday’s river mouth – Author: K. Stone

Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan: Nelson Mandela Bay was the first city in South Africa to establish a fully integrated democratic local authority and the only city in the world named after Nelson Mandela, who was born and spent his formative years in the Eastern Cape.

Nelson Mandela Bay is a major seaport and automotive manufacturing centre located on the south-eastern coast of Africa. It is the economic powerhouse of the Eastern Cape Province and one of six metropolitan areas in South Africa. Its boundaries are formed by Cassie Mountain View in the north, Cape Recife in the south, Van Staden’s River Mouth in the west, and Sundays River Mouth in the east.

The city is a holiday hot spot for both national and international tourists. The predominant languages spoken are English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa.

Cities/Towns: Bethelsdorp •  Bloemendal •  Blue Horizon Bay •  Clarendon Marine •  Despatch •  KwaNobuhle •  Motherwell •  Port Elizabeth •  Uitenhage

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Pink church along the road to Mount Ayliff – Author: DJ

Alfred Nzo District: The District is located in the north-eastern corner of the province and stretches from the Drakensberg Mountains, bordering Lesotho in the west, Harry Gwala District Municipality (previously Sisonke District Municipality) to the north and OR Tambo District Municipality in the east and south.

Cities/Towns: Bizana • Cedarville • Matatiele • Mount Ayliff • Mount Frere • Ntabankulu

06_EC_Morgan's Bay_Jacaranda shipwreck, Wild Coast
Jacaranda shipwreck, Morgan’s Bay along the Wild Coast – Author: J. Jones

Amathole District: The District is situated in the central part of the province stretching along the Sunshine Coast from the Fish River Mouth, along the Eastern Seaboard to just south of Hole in the Wall along the Wild Coast. It is bordered to the north by the Amathole Mountain Range.

Four heritage routes have been developed that are named after Xhosa kings and heroes. They are the Maqoma Route, the Makana Route, the Sandile Route and the Phalo Route. These intertwine with the other tourism routes located within the district, namely the Sunshine Coast Route, the Wild Coast Route, the Amathole Mountain Escape Route and the Friendly N6 Route.

Cities/Towns: Adelaide • Alice • Amatola Coastal • Bedford • Butterworth • Cathcart • Dutywa • Elliotdale • Fort Beaufort • Hamburg • Hogsback • Kei Mouth • Kei Road • Keiskammahoek • Kentani • Komga • Middeldrift • Morgan Bay • Ngqamakhwe • Peddie •  Seymore • Stutterheim • Willowvale

Rugged Rural Ndondo Route – Source: http://www.visiteasterncape.

Chris Hani District: The District is situated in the north-eastern part of the province, a linking node to all regions in the province. The area, which is vastly agricultural, provides an ideal investment opportunity for agro-processing, and its proximity to the ports of East London and Port Elizabeth, with links to major routes like the N6 and N10, is an advantage.

Cities/Towns: Cala • Cofimvaba • Cradock • Dordrecht • Elliot • Engcobo • Hofmeyr • Indwe • Lady Frere • Middelburg • Molteno • Mount Zebra National Park • Queenstown • Sada • Sterkstroom • Tarkastad • Tsomo • Whittlesea

08_Rock Paintings at Moshes' Ford_FGous
Rock Paintings at Moshes’ Ford, Barkly East – Author: F. Gous

Joe Gqabi District: The district was previously known as the Ukhahlamba District Municipality) and it borders the Free State province and country of Lesotho to the north.

The municipal area is located to the west of Alfred Nzo, north of OR Tambo and Chris Hani District Municipalities, and to the east of the Northern Cape Province. It lies approximately 34 km north of Queenstown and its northern border is formed by the Orange River, which also forms the southern boundary of the Free State.

Cities/Towns: Aliwal North •  Barkly East •  Burgersdorp •  Jamestown •  Lady Grey •  Maclear •  Mount Fletcher •  Oviston Nature Reserve •  Rhodes •  Rossouw •  Sterkspruit •  Steynsburg •  Ugie •  Venterstad

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Aloe Marlothii on the side of the road in Libode

OR Tambo District: The area covers about 80% of what used to be marginalised homeland in the Transkei and is located to the east of the province, on the Indian Ocean coastline. It is bordered by the Alfred Nzo District Municipality to the north, the Joe Gqabi District Municipality to the north-west, the Chris Hani District Municipality to the west and the Amathole District Municipality to the south-west.

Cities/Towns: Flagstaff • Libode • Lusikisiki • Mqanduli • Mthatha (previously Umtata) • Ngqeleni • Port St John’s • Qumbu • Tsolo

Mom & her young in Addo Elephant National Park – Author: J. Amira

Sarah Baartman District: The district was previously known as the Cacadu District Municipality, stretching from Graaff-Reinet in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south, and between the Bloukrans River in the west and Great Fish River in the east. The district surrounds one of the largest metropolitan ports in South Africa, Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth).

Cities/Towns: Aberdeen • Addo •  Adendorp •  Alexandria • Alicedale • Bathurst •  Boknes/Cannon Rocks • Bushmans River • Cape St Francis • Clarkson • Cookhouse • Gamtoos Mouth • Graaff-Reinet • Grahamstown • Hankey • Humansdorp • Jansenville • Jeffreys Bay • Joubertina • Kareedouw • Kendrew • Kenton-on-Sea • Kirkwood • Klipplaat • Krakeel River • Loerieheuwel • Louterwater • Misgund • Nieu-Bethesda • Nompumelelo • Oyster Bay •  Patensie • Paterson • Pearston • Petersburg • Port Alfred •   Riebeek East •  Rietbron •  Sanddrif •  Seafield •  Sidbury •  Somerset East •  St Francis Bay •   Steytlerville •  Storms River •  Thornhill •  Waterford •  Willowmore •  Woodlands advertisehereredSource: Information extracted from http://www.localgovernment.co.za