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Eastern Cape Tourism Information

Quick Facts: Eastern Cape

  • Capital of the Eastern Cape: Bisho
  • Major city in the Eastern Cape: Port Elizabeth
  • Languages spoken: 83.4% isiXhosa, 9.3% Afrikaans, 3.6% English
  • Population: 6 919 071 (2006)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 14.6%
  • Area: 168 966 square kilometres
  • Share of total South Africa’s area: 13.9%
  • Population density: 41 people per square kilometre
  • Gross regional product: R88-billion (2003)
  • Share of total South Africa’s GDP: 8.1%
  • Home to the magnificent Wild Coast
  • Port St Johns which is the largest town on the Wild Coast
  • Hub of South Africa's motor industry

Introducing Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape is located on the southeastern South African coast.  It is a region of great natural beauty, particularly the rugged cliffs, rough seas and dense green bush of the stretch, which is referred to as the Wild Coast. 

The Eastern Cape in South Africa has a diverse climate and landscapes range from the dry and desolate Great Karoo to the lush forests of the Wild Coast and the Keiskamma Valley, the fertile Langkloof, renowned for its rich apple harvests, and the mountainous southern Drakensberg region around the town of Elliot.

The Eastern Cape's main attraction is its spectacular coastline, lapped by the temperate Indian Ocean. With long stretches of unspoilt sandy beaches, rocky coves, secluded lagoons and towering cliffs, this magnificent coast is the Eastern Cape’s main tourist attraction.

Major cities and towns in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Port Elizabeth is situated in Algoa Bay, which is the province’s largest city with an important harbour.  Other major towns in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, include Bisho, the capital; Uitenhage, which plays an important role in the motor vehicle manufacturing and related industries; King William's Town, rich in early settler and military history; Grahamstown, also known as the City of Saints because of its more than 40 churches; as well as Mthatha, Graaff-Reinet, Cradock, Stutterheim, Aliwal North, and Port St Johns which is the largest town on the Wild Coast.

The size of the Eastern Cape

At 168 966 square kilometres, the Eastern Cape is roughly the size of Uruguay. The Eastern Cape is South Africa’s second-largest province after the Northern Cape, taking up 13.9% of South Africa's land area and with an approximate population of 6.9-million people.
Languages spoken in the Eastern Cape

The majority of the people living in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, speak isiXhosa, followed by Afrikaans and English.
Eastern Cape’s vegetation and landscape

In the Eastern Cape of South Africa, various floral habitats can be found.  The long curve of coastline, large area and the considerable east-west and north-south distances provide the Eastern Cape with an extremely varied vegetation.

Along the coast of the Eastern Cape, the northern tropical forests blend together with the more temperate woods of the south, creating an interesting forest habitat of various species endemic to this region. Ancient forests are found around Keiskammahoek, Dwesa, Port St Johns and Bathurst, dune forests near Alexandria, and mangroves along the Wild Coast.  Rolling grasslands characterize the eastern interior of the province, while the western central plateau is savanna bushveld. The northern inland is home to the aromatic, succulent-rich Karoo habitat.

Industry in the Eastern Cape

Port Elizabeth and East London are based primarily on manufacturing, the most important being automotive manufacturing.  The Eastern Cape is the hub of South Africa's motor industry.  Several of the world's biggest vehicle manufacturers have plants here including Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors and Daimler Chrysler.

Featuring two harbours and three airports offering direct flights to the main centres, and an excellent road and rail infrastructure, the Eastern Cape in South Africa has been earmarked as a key area for growth and economic development.

Environmentally friendly projects in the Eastern Cape include the Fish River Spatial Development Initiative, the Wild Coast SDI, and two industrial development zones, the West Bank in East London and, near Port Elizabeth, Coega which is the largest infrastructure development in post-apartheid South Africa.

Plans for the development of the area as an export-orientated zone include the construction of the deepwater Port of Ngqura.  Other important sectors include finance, real estate, business services, wholesale and retail trade, and hotels and restaurants.

Agriculture in the Eastern Cape (South Africa)

South Africa’s Eastern Cape is home to fertile land which makes agriculture a major contributor to the province’s economy.  The fertile Langkloof Valley in the southwest of the Eastern Cape grows enormous fruit orchards, while sheep farming predominates in the Karoo region of the Eastern Cape.

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 cattle, maize and sorghum-farming. An olive nursery has been developed in collaboration with the University of Fort Hare to form a nucleus of olive production in the Eastern Cape.

There is excellent potential for forestry as the coastal areas of the Eastern Cape receive good summer rainfall and have a moderate climate.  The climate gets more subtropical to the north-west of the province. The Tsitsikamma National Park on the southern border is home to dense indigenous forest.