East London Tourist Attractions

East London, on the estuary of the Buffalo River, which here flows into the Indian Ocean, is the only river port of any economic importance in South Africa, handling mainly wool (auctions in Wool Exchange from May to September) and other agricultural products.

East London Museum

At the north end of Oxford Street is the East London Museum (established 1931), perhaps the most interesting natural history museum in the country, with numbers of unusual exhibits.
The star attraction of the museum is the coelacanth, a fish with limb-like fins which until it was caught in the Chalumna River, near East London, in 1938 was believed to have become extinct more than 50 million years ago. (There are now known to be between 200 and 300 of these "prehistoric" fish in the waters off the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean; the specimen caught here had presumably been carried south by the current.) The museum also has numerous specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as a dodo's egg. There is an anthropological section with material on the culture of the Xhosa
Address: 319 Oxford Street, Box 11021, East London, Eastern Cape 5201, South Africa

East London Beaches

Between the mouth of the Buffalo River to the south and the Nahoon River to the north are the city's three finest sandy beaches. The nearest to the city center is Orient Beach, with a playground, a paddling pool, a children's slide and mini golf. Adjoining is the Eastern Beach, with water warmed by the Mozambique Current. At Nahoon Beach, on a large lagoon 8km/5mi north of the city center, are an amusement park and a camping site, and an offshore reef provides ideal conditions for surfing.

Queen's Park Botanical Garden & Zoo

On a hill to the west of the city center is the Queen's Park Botanical Garden, area 34ha/84ac, with a small zoo. Ponies can be hired for children.

Gately House

The colonial-style mansion built for John Gately in 1878, is one of the oldest buildings on the east bank of the Buffalo River. It is now a museum, furnished with period pieces which belonged to the Gately family.

City Hall

East London's City Hall is a striking building between Oxford Street and Argyle Street (in which is the Visitors' Information Bureau). The clock tower was added on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. In front of it is an equestrian monument commemorating those who fell in the Boer War.

Railway Station

The railroad station, to the southeast of the City Hall, was built in 1877. It contains a steam engine made in Britain in 1903.

Lock Street Jail Shopping Centre

Beyond the railroad station was the town jail, built in 1880, which has been converted into a shopping center. Some of the cells can still be seen.


On the seafront, to the east of the railroad station, is the Aquarium with a large pool containing a variety of fish and other marine creatures, from sea-horses and brightly colored coral fish to great white sharks. The popular favorites are the penguins and the trained seals.
Address: 319 Oxford Street, South Africa

German Settlers' Memorial

On the Esplanade, the German Settlers' Memorial, by the South African sculptor Lippy Lipshitz, commemorates the German settlers who came to East London in 1857-58. On the monument are five bronze panels depicting their departure from Germany, their voyage to South Africa and their arrival in East London.

Shipwreck Bay

The coast round East London has a tragic record. A total of 82 ships have been wrecked here, 46 of them off the Esplanade alone. The most recent was the "Oranjeland", wrecked on August 13th 1984. Commemorative plaques on the Esplanade mark the spots where six ships came to grief. There are organized diving expeditions to the wrecks (information from tourist information bureau; diving certificate required).

Ann Bryant Art Gallery

Along Oxford Street to the north is the Ann Bryant Art Gallery, in a handsome house showing a mingling of Cape Dutch and Victorian styles. It contains a collection of older and modern South African art, together with some pictures by British artists.
Address: 9 St Marks Road, Southernwood, East London, Eastern Cape 5201, South Africa

Amalinda Nature Conservation Station

On the northwestern outskirts of East London is the Amalinda Nature Conservation Station (area 134ha/331ac), with a fish hatchery and research center. The reserve, mostly coastal forest and thornveld, is home to many species of birds and antelopes.

Soffiantini Castle

In Beacon Bay (to the north of the city), above the Nahoon valley, is Soffiantini Castle, a mock Italian castle erected by an Italian immigrant.

The Port

The port installations lie to the south of the city center at the mouth of the Buffalo River. On a tour of the harbor (run by the Greater East London Publicity Association) visitors will be shown the "dolos" - a type of breakwater constructed by an engineer named Eric Merrifield in 1961, formed from interlocking concrete blocks. Similar structures are now used in harbor construction worldwide.
Here, at the East London Yacht Club, is the finishing point of the annual Vasca da Gama Regatta, which starts from Durban.
Address: Box 101, East London, Eastern Cape 5200, South Africa

Buffalo Bridge

The Buffalo Bridge (completed in 1935), a two-level road and rail bridge, leads to the south bank of the river.

Powder Magazine

East of the Buffalo Bridge is the Powder Magazine, all that remains of Fort Glamorgan, built in 1848 to protect the settlement against Xhosa attacks.

Hemingways Mall

There are over 200 stores in Hemingways Mall as well as a custom designed amphitheatre that is used for fashion shows, music shows and exhibitions. The mezzanine level is home to indoor golf, a bowling alley and bumper cars.
Address: Cnr Western Avenue and Two Rivers Drive, South Africa

St Peter's Church

500m/550yd east of the Powder Magazine, in the West Bank district, is St Peter's Church (1857), now protected as a national monument.
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