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. You just need to be alert for potholes and roaming animals. We passed two young German girls had hit a pothole but kept on driving until their tyre was shredded, and they had no idea how to change a tyre. So don’t do that! Drive slowly and if you hit any potholes, just get out and make sure that you haven’t burst your tyre before carrying on.
Here are some of my favourite photos from the drive to Coffee Bay to set the scene to Eastern Cape’s rural retreat.
Guide to Coffee Bay
After driving through all of the rural villages, you’ll eventually get to a sand road leading into Coffee Bay. The roads from here on are sand, but still manageable while still in Coffee Bay. 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 rural and authentic lifestyle that’s there.
Coffee Bay is small, with most accommodations and restaurants located along either the river or the coastline. There are no shops, besides small spaza shops that rarely seemed open. There are also no ATM’s, so make sure to draw cash before. I wouldn’t rely on the places having working card machines, so plan to have enough while you’re there. Also take your own groceries if you aren’t planning on dining in the restaurants — even if it’s just water and a few snacks.
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 that a lot of the accommodation is suited to the backpacker lifestyle. We also came across a few older couples / single men who are ‘throwing it to the wind’ and using Coffee Bay as a chill out zone. There are a few budget friendly resorts / guesthouses for them.
We stayed at Friends Wild Coast while on our honeymoon road trip. There are a few other options though, so I’ve done a bit of research and included a few other good options for you to check out and compare. Because options are limited I’d recommend pre-booking (opposed to just pitching up), particularly in the high season.
Ocean View Hotel
Ocean View Hotel is probably the fanciest place to stay in Coffee Bay. We found if while walking along the beach on our first day, and seriously thought about cutting our stay at Friends and moving here. It’s located right on the beach and has it’s own swimming pool, lounge area, and restaurant. We peaked into some of the rooms and they looked lovely, all facing the ocean with a private balcony/terrace. They also have bigger family rooms, so this seems like a good option for families.
Rooms, including dinner, bed and breakfast, start from R750 a night in the low season and R1,000 per night in high season (only full board available). Check out their website for more information.
Coffee Shack Backpackers
Coffee Shack Backpackers is the most well-known backpackers in Coffee Bay. Most people that we talked to prior to going had recommended this backpackers. It is comes up in all Google searches and Coffee Bay accommodation listings – so they’ve done a good job at marketing themselves. It has a normal backpackers vibe, with both dorm rooms and private rooms as well as camping. They have a shared kitchen, bar, and restaurant. There’s a daily activity program which includes surf 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, with lots of international tourists. It’s the recommended backpackers among travelers using Baz Bus, so it’s quite popular. It’s best to book ahead, we went in the quieter season and couldn’t get a room when I tried booking a week before. Rates start from around R150 per night for a dorm room, R450 per night for Double Room (two people), and R90 per night for a campsite (per person). Find the detailed rates on their website.
Friends Wild Coast
We stayed at Friends Wild Coast which is directly opposite Coffee Shack Backpackers. It has a similar vibe about it, but much quieter and less ‘touristy’. Accommodation includes dorm rooms and private rooms along with the option to camp, we stayed in a private room. The rooms aren’t the best, but okay for what you’re paying. The best part about Friends was 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 (so delish!). Each night they make a different dinner, ranging from fresh fish to fish cakes or chicken potjie. They didn’t seem to have as many activities planned as Coffee Shack, but this may be because it was quieter (we were the only ones there!). But they did organise a guide to take us to Hole in the Wall, and offered a trip to see the local tribe leader.
Rates start from around R150 per night for a dorm room, R500 per night for Double Room (two people), and R100 per night for a campsite (per person). Find the detailed rates on their website.
White Clay Holiday Resort
White Clay Holiday Resort is located just outside of the ‘busier’ side of Coffee Bay. It has a stunning location, looking out over the sea, with a small private beach down below. White Clay Resort offers full board (dinner, bed & breakfast) as well as rustic self catering chalets and camping facilities. All rooms are sea-facing. We had lunch in the restaurant, which has beautiful views. The food was good (we had creamy mussels), but the service wasn’t great. You can wait for ages for someone to come and serve you – but at least you have a good view to enjoy while you wait!
The rates seem to be around R900 per night in the self-catering rooms, I can’t confirm the camping rates. You can find their contact details on their website.
The above accommodation options are all places that I personally had a look at. The below options came up in my online search, and look like good spots to check out:
- Backpackers: Sugar Loaf Backpackers
- Relaxed and family-friendly: Nenga River Lodge
- Remote and relaxed: The Real Kei
- Quaint, self-catering chalets: Geckos B&B & Self-Catering
Five things to do in Coffee Bay
While the beaches in Coffee Bay are beautiful, there are so many activities in and around Coffee Bay that you’ll likely have very little time for relaxing on the beach.
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 are a must, including going to visit Hole in the Wall. It’s about an 11-kilometer hike to Hole in the Wall from Coffee Bay – one way. We went on a guided hike, with just us and a local guide, though you are welcome to go on your own. There may just be a few spots along the way that you might have trouble finding the path – but just keep on going along the coastline and you should be fine.
2. Go Surfing
Surfing is extremely popular in Coffee Bay. The waves are great, particularly for beginners. Both Coffee Shack Backpackers and Friends Wild Coast offered surfing lessons. So if surfing is a skill that you’d like to add to your repertoire, then sign yourself up for a lesson.
3. Mpuzi Cliff and Caves
Join a day trip to go explore the Mpuzi cliff edge and caves, including Bat Cave. You can go yourself, but they are 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 village experiences where you can visit the local villages, including a traditional meal, visit to a shebeen (local bar), and visit a Sangoma (traditional healer).
5. Eat Seafood
A trip to a seaside destination is not complete without a fresh seafood meal. I can recommend both Friends Wild Coast Backpackers and White Clay for seafood – both were delicious, though admittedly not fresh (they both said that their fish was frozen). If you’re after fresh from the sea fish, then chat to the local fishermen. You may be able to pick up the catch of the day to cook for yourself.
I loved the ‘ruralness’ of Coffee Bay. 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.