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Port St Johns, Wild Coast, Eastern Cape

The Gates, Port St Johns, Wild CoastPort St Johns is perhaps the most popular town in the Wild Coast and, as a holiday destination, has gained the title of the ‘Jewel of the Wild Coast’. Deep coastal gorges, unique and impressive mangrove swamps, a tranquil river mouth and stunning stretches of unspoilt beach are all natural attributes that make Port St Johns a favourite Eastern Cape holiday spot and a place that is characteristically ‘Wild Coast’.

Despite being a place of incredible natural beauty, with dense indigenous forest on either side of the Umzimvubu river gorge, Port St Johns will probably surprise the visitor for its richness of culture. The traditional Xhosa culture is certainly one of vibrancy and colour, and although this area of the country is predominantly Xhosa occupied, nowhere is their culture more apparent than here.

This unique blend of culture and beauty has made Port St Johns a mecca for backpacking tourists. Being a place of incredible adventure, tourists of the backpacking way of life are in for great reward. As time is usually of little importance to backpackers, the appeal of hiking along the beaches and into the indigenous forest, canoeing up the river gorge and into the mangrove swamps, or surfing some of the most consistent swell on the Eastern Cape, is great. Culturally, spending time with the local Xhosa people, visiting their settlements and perhaps even befriending a sangoma (traditional healer) are all stories that have come out of the backpacking community of Port St Johns.

The town is also popularly visited for the drive from Umtata down to the coast. The contrast of the landscape from rolling green hills to deep river gorges and indigenous forest is a spectacular sight, and makes this drive one of the most popular in the Eastern Cape.

Indeed, with the exciting journey of simply getting the wonderful seaside destination of Port St Johns, it certainly cues the visitor in to what they can expect during their time in this place of pure magic.

Getting there: from East London, take the N2 going towards Umtata. Here, take the R61 going to Port St Johns. Exercise caution along the road going down to the coast as roads may not be always be highly maintained.

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