Tripping Along the Wild Coast with Car Hire in South Africa

The Wild Coast meanders in a thick green and golden swathe from East London to Port St Johns along the South African Coast. It’s one of those rare places where you can truly escape from the fetters of modern-day life, for the most part devoid of cell phone signal, traffic, and people, too.

It’s the perfect place for a road trip from the airport at East London or Durban which are easily accessible via direct flights from major airports across the country. From there, you can pick up your car hire and set off to explore this unique part of South Africa.

These are some of the top off- and on- the beaten track destinations to explore.
 

Planning Your Route

A 4×4 is one of your best options for car hire in South Africa, but especially in this part of the world.

The N2/R61 will take you the full 325km from A to B along this route, but you’ll need to go off this arterial road to experience the best of everything in between.

 

Durban to Port Edward

When you start from Durban you’ll immerse yourself in the Wild Coast vibe within a few hours as you head along the N2 toward Port Edward. Tropical vegetation, rolling hills, and sugar cane plantations line the way.

If you want the added benefit of sea views and you’ve got time to spare, turn off onto the R102 after Illovo. This route will take you through all the South Coasts holiday towns, with plenty of places to spend the night if you choose.

At Southbroom, you’ll rejoin the N2 (now the R61) and drive into Port Edward, directly across the river from the Wild Coast Sun Casino. If you’d like to enjoy one last luxurious splurge before things get real, stopover for a night of glitz and glamor at this seaside playground.

 

Port Edward to Port St John’s

 

road tripping the wild coast

 

Once you leave Port Edward, you enter the Eastern Cape, and everything changes. The highway curves steeply inland toward Bizana and then back again to Port St John’s.

You’re in for a three-hour trip, but it will feel longer as you stop and start due to poor road conditions and courageous cattle wandering out into the road every so often.

You’ll find a few hotels and lodges in town, but all the best ones are just outside this hamlet, secluded in the lush indigenous forests that line these shores. This is a place of roadside vendors selling fresh seafood and crafts, narrow sandy roads and tall cliffs towering above the restless Indian Ocean.

You’re bound to see dolphins and even whales and wonder at the absence of other travellers as you amble along these sandy, undisturbed shores.

The Silaka Wildlife Reserve is a 400-ha showcase of indigenous fauna and flora, nestled in a river valley and rimmed by a lush forest filled with birds. You’ll amble along these paths among trees heavy with orchids, moss, and lichens in search of elusive blue duiker and bushbuck as you make your way to the beach for a swim.

Along the craggy shoreline, you might encounter cape clawless otters, yellow-throated longclaws, and thick-billed weavers.

 

Port St Johns to Coffee Bay

Unfortunately, you’ll need to venture back to modern times long the tarred R61 via Mthatha to get to Coffee Bay from Port St Johns, but the interruption is short-lived and boasts pastoral scenes of rural huts and green rolling hills.

Coffee Bay offers an otherworldly vibe of arts, crafts, and slow seaside living. The highlight of any trip here is the Hole in the Wall, an interesting rock structure, complete with occasional Nguni cows sunbathing on the sands before it.

Close by, Coffee Bay Beach offers opportunities for walking, fishing, and swimming but be aware that there aren’t any lifeguards on duty and the undertow is strong at times. This small town boasts tiny local businesses, backpackers, a relatively luxurious resort overlooking the Hole in the Wall, and the chance to enjoy a home stay with traditional Xhosa people.

Coffee Bay has a strong sense of community, where the locals support each other, and you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to do the same.
 

Coffee Bay to Cintsa Including Qunu and Bulungula

 

wild-coast

 

From Coffee Bay, it’s back inland you go to make your way to the forested haven of Cintsa via Qunu, the homeland of Nelson Mandela. His gravesite is off limits to the public, but you’ll come across the Youth and Heritage Centre just outside town.

Regardless, it’s still a good feeling to be in the once-stomping grounds of this eminent leader.

If you simply can’t get enough of wild spaces, you can divert your trip to Bulungula back at the coast, known as the most isolated place in South Africa, for a true immersion in traditional seaside living.

It’s about a four-hour drive from Coffee Bay to Cintsa along the R61, although the pretty countryside makes it well worth your while.

Cintsa is yet another secluded seaside town offering abundant opportunities for reflection and relaxation. Here the beaches boast crisp white sands, abundant rockpools, and glorious, lush surroundings.

You can walk, swim, fish, or head out on horseback to explore further afield. Be sure to stop off at the local craft brewery for a chance to meet some of the locals while you’re in town.
 

Cintsa to East London ‘Via’ Hogsback

Nobody wants to end their road trip just yet when they’ve come this deep into the Wild Coast, so it’s worth taking the 85km detour to the infinitely charming town of Hogsback before heading back to the city.

Hogsback is nestled in the forested slopes of the Amathole Mountains overflowing with waterfalls.

It’s easily one of the most unique places in South Africa, and the self-proclaimed Middle Earth (of The Hobbit Fame) of the country.

As such, it has a magical fairytale quality, enhanced by the beautiful mountains and meadows filled with wild blooms. Here you can indulge in artisan-everything, gawk at an amazing array of arts and crafts, and lap up the warmest hospitality.

When you’re not shopping or eating, you can walk, bike, and horse ride among the forests and fields.

From Hogsback, it’s a three-hour trip to East London where you can enjoy all the city attractions, like museums, beaches, galleries, and malls, before heading back home.
 

Explore More with Car Hire in South Africa

While most destinations in the country offer abundant tours and excursions, there’s no better way to explore the country than with car hire in South Africa.

When you have a vehicle at your disposal, you’re free to go where you want to, when you want to. Discover more destinations by browsing our blog and start planning your next outing today.