Mini-Guide to Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape

As soon as we turned off the N2 and started our 80km drive to Coffee Bay, I knew that I was going to like this place. The landscape is so raw and beautiful. The green hills scattered with colourful rondavels and free roaming cows seemed endless and I fell in love with them. I probably took about 500 photos on that drive alone.

The roads are bad but manageable in a normal car, although you need to be alert for potholes and roaming animals. Drive slowly and, if you hit any potholes, get out and make sure that you haven’t burst your tyre before carrying on.

Guide to Coffee Bay

After driving through the rural villages, you’ll eventually get to the main road leading into Coffee Bay. Some of the roads further on are gravel but still manageable in a normal car. It was raining when we were there, which made parts of the road between Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall very muddy. They are, however, in the process of tarring the road. Which is a good and bad thing … good for tourism but bad for keeping the lifestyle rural and authentic.

Coffee Bay is small, with most of the accommodation and restaurants located along the river or the coastline. There are no shops (other than small spaza shops, which rarely seemed to open). There are also no ATMs, so make sure to draw cash before you go. I also wouldn’t rely on the places having working card machines, so plan to have enough cash for while you’re there. Also take your own groceries, even if it’s just water and a few snacks, if you aren’t planning to dine in the restaurants.

Did you know that Coffee Bay got its name after a cargo ship ran aground there many years ago and spilt a shipment of coffee beans all over the beach? The conditions weren’t right for the trees to thrive but the name stuck.

Coffee Bay Accommodation

The accommodation in Coffee Bay is mostly basic. The area is popular among backpackers (it’s one of the stops along the Baz Bus route), which means much of the accommodation is suited to the backpacker lifestyle. We also came across a few older couples and some single men who were throwing everything to the wind and using Coffee Bay as a chill-out zone. There are a few budget-friendly resorts and guesthouses for people like them.

Because options are limited, you should book in advance and not just pitch up, particularly in the high season.

Below are a few options to consider:

Ocean View Hotel

The Ocean View Hotel is probably the fanciest place to stay in Coffee Bay. It’s right on the beach and has its own swimming pool, lounge area and restaurant. The rooms are lovely and all face the ocean, with a private balcony/terrace. There are also have bigger rooms, making this a good option for families.

Rooms, including dinner, bed and breakfast, start from R750 a night in the low season and R1 000 a night in the high season (only full board available). Check out their website for more information.

Coffee Shack Backpackers

Coffee Shack Backpackers is the best-known backpackers venue in Coffee Bay. It has a normal backpackers vibe, with both dorm and private rooms, as well as camping facilities. They have a shared kitchen, a bar and a restaurant. There’s a daily activity programme, which includes surfing lessons, drumming lessons, hikes, drives to popular sunset spots and themed parties. They apparently have some legendary full moon parties, with free vodka and Sprite! Everything that a backpacker would need is here.

It has a fun atmosphere and attracts many international tourists. It’s the recommended stop for travellers using Baz Bus, so it’s quite popular and it’s best to book in advance to make sure that you get the accommodation that you want. Rates start from around R150 a night for a dorm room, R450 a night for a double room (two people) and R90 a night for a campsite (per person). Find the detailed rates on their website.

Friends Wild Coast

Friends Wild Coast is located directly opposite Coffee Shack Backpackers. It has a similar vibe, although it is much quieter and less touristy. Accommodation also includes dorm and private rooms, with the option to camp. The rooms aren’t the best but okay for what you’re paying. The best part about Friends is the restaurant. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinners, with a pizza oven running throughout the day. Breakfast options include French toast, muesli and yoghurt, and eggs and bacon with freshly made Xhosa bread. Each night they make a different dinner, ranging from fresh fish to fish cakes or chicken potjie. They offer a few activities such as guided hikes to Hole in the Wall, snorkelling and visits to the local tribes.

Rates start from about R150 a night for a dorm room, R500 a night for a double room (two people) and R100 a night for a campsite (per person). Contact them via their Facebook page for more information.

White Clay Holiday Resort

White Clay Holiday Resort is located just beyond of the “busier” side of Coffee Bay. It has a stunning location, looking out over the sea, with a small private beach beneath it. White Clay offers full board (dinner, bed and breakfast), as well as rustic self-catering chalets and camping facilities. All rooms are sea facing.

The rates for the self-catering rooms are around R900 a night. You can find their contact details on their website.

Five things to do in Coffee Bay

Although the beaches in Coffee Bay are beautiful, there are so many activities in and around it that you are likely to have very little time for relaxing on them.

1. Hike to Hole in the Wall

The Wild Coast is all about hiking and taking in the beautiful coastline. Hiking up and down the hills along the coast is a must, including going to Hole in the Wall. It’s about an 11km hike (one way) from Coffee Bay. You can go on your own or with a local guide.

2. Go surfing

Surfing is extremely popular. The waves are great, particularly for beginners. Both Coffee Shack Backpackers and Friends Wild Coast offer lessons.

3. Mpuzi cliff and caves

Join a day trip to explore the Mpuzi cliff edge and caves, including Bat Cave. You can go on your own, but they are relatively hard to find so it’s best to go with a guide. This is the best place for some epic cliff jumping!

4. Village experience

The Transkei is home to the Xhosa people, who still live a very traditional lifestyle. The backpackers in Coffee Bay offer you the opportunity tovisit local villages, where you can have a traditional meal and visit a shebeen (local bar) and a sangoma (traditional healer).

5. Eat seafood

A trip to a seaside destination is not complete without a seafood meal. Both Friends Wild Coast backpackers and White Clay are great options for seafood — both served meals that were delicious, though admittedly the fish was not fresh (they both said theirs was frozen). If you’re after fresh fish, then chat to the local fishermen. You may be able to pick up the catch of the day to cook for yourself.

The free roaming cows, sheep, and donkeys. The open green fields. The really bad sand roads. The colourful rondavels scattered throughout the hills. The steep cliffs. The spaza shops that are always opening “in an hour”. And the quiet beaches. These are what make Coffee Bay special.

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Bridget Langer
Bridget Langer
Freelance travel writer, blogger and business owner (Sparrow Digital).

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