10 of the best backpackers in the Western and Eastern Cape

Posted on 9 October 2012

I might live in my car, occasionally a tent but even I feel the need for a some home comforts, clean sheets and piping hot showers. Here are ten of the best backpackers in the Western and Eastern Cape in South Africa that I’ve stayed in .

Find out if you are cut out to be a backpacker here – then learn how it’s done with 10 tips for first time backpackers.

1. Cape Agulhas Backpackers

Cape Agulhas, Western Cape 

The Meru Wreck

This was where it all started. Genesis if you will. And it didn’t disappoint. The Southern most tip of Africa. Aside from a cool war story to tell everyone, it really should be a must for visitors to South Africa.

Cape Agulhas Backpackers is sweet as and handily own the activity centre across the road that offers all manner of watersports from Adrenalin Boat rides, Stand Up Paddle Boards and some of the best kite surfing conditions in South Africa. You can also hangout with stingrays in the harbor if you just want to get your toes wet.

Aside from all the usual goodness you’d expect at a backpackers they have undoubtedly one of my favourite bars to have a beer in. I can’t really explain why. Maybe it was the start of it all. But the beer was sweet, the staff unbelievably chilled and friendly and it set the tone for the Going Homeless Project up perfectly.

It also was the first place I stayed longer than I intended. For good reason. Drop by. It’s full of goodness.



2. Backpackers Paradise

Oudtshoorn, Western Cape

It's about the birds

Oudtshoorn, on the R62 and separated from George by the Outeniqua Mountains, is a travellers’ heaven so to speak. Activities a plenty and a backpackers that is centrally situated and pretty darn cool.

The Backpackers Paradise offers all manner of in-house tours, a lot of biking options and is within range of the incredible Swartberg Pass. Daily braai’s and a busy bar make your stay social. A giant indoor fireplace and a lounge full of couches is the ideal place to get to know your fellow travelers.

You cannot visit Oudtshoorn without dropping by one of the ostrich farms or miss out on the Cango Caves, if you have a car be sure to visit the Swartberg Pass – it’s a stunning mountain pass. It also offers a diverse and different stay to the coastal destinations on the Garden Route.



3. Fairy Knowe

Wilderness, Western Cape

Sunrise from the porch

Wilderness is probably one of the most underrated destinations on the Garden Route in South Africa. Sandwiched between the Kaaimans and Touws river it offers a relaxing yet truly beautiful experience.

The Fairy Knowe Backpackers is situated on the lagoon and adjacent to the Wilderness National Park, making pretty much every activity within walking distance. Very handy. That aside it is set on an incredible piece of land with established trees and offers space, hammocks and a porch that just begs to have the sunrise watched from it.

Be sure to visit the waterfalls in the National Park, Clifford Cave on the walk to Victoria Bay and the Map of Africa in the Wilderness Heights. Stop driving by. Wilderness is sweet as.



4. Tsitisikamma Backpackers

Storms River, Eastern Cape

You've crossed it before

Tsitsikamma is a travellers’ paradise: aside from being truly beautiful it caters to both the adventure heads and the more easy-going traveller. Situated in the Eastern Cape about 65km north of Plettenberg Bay, Storms River village and the Tsitsikamma Backpackers offer the ideal base to experience all this area offers.

The backpackers set on a large piece of land, teeming with indigenous trees and plants offers a serene place to relax after a hard day of activities, the porch gets the morning sun and is a good way to start any day. The Bar area offers an indoor braai and a great place to have a drink and meal with your fellow travellers.

A visit to Tsitsikamma has to include a visit to the national park at Storms River mouth to hike the iconic suspension bridge and the start of the Otter Trail (Read about hiking the Otter Trail here) to visit the waterfall, the area offers a variety of day tours from Zip lining across waterfalls or through the indigenous forests, off road Segway tours and many more. Tsitsikamma is diverse, beautiful and should be should be on any traveller’s itinerary.



5. Island Vibe

Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape

On the beach means on the beach!

The biggest shame about my time in Jeffreys Bay was that it was way to short and the sea was flat, for a surf destination not ideal, but that no fault of anyone but mother nature and its hard to be angry when she delivers beauties like Jeffreys Bay.

That said Island Vibe Backpackers surely must be a designated stop on anyones travels up the Garden Route. The saying goes Location location location … and Island Vibe’s panoramic views from just about all accommodation and the bar over the beach is truly spectacular. Upgrade to the Beach house if you want the sensation of living on the beach.

Be prepared to shake your booty and party every night as Island Vibe is undoubtedly one of the party locations on the Garden Route and your days can be filled with a variety of activities – the obvious one is surfing and there is a full fledged surf school for beginners, and a variety of day tours that range from township tours, sand boarding and game viewing make it an excellent destination for adventure heads and surfers.



6. Aardvark Guesthouse and Backpackers

Outside Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape

Photo bombed by an Elephant

Ten minutes from the main gate of Addo Elephant National Park (Read more about the Addo Elephant National Park here) is a little piece of paradise, hammocks hanging in trees, sunshine and wide open space. The Aardvark Guesthouse and Backpackers, beautifully decorated and adorned with local arts and sculpture, is the place to stay when visiting Addo National Park.

Graciously hosted by Daniel And Claude, I discovered that the Addo area has a lot more to offer than just the national park. Local knowledge trumps the interwebs again. A canoe trip up the Sundays River with Criss Cross Adventures and a visit to Daniel cheetah farm rounded out an unexpectedly epic stay in Addo. If you need road tripping or route advice chat to Daniel who is a veritable back road wizard.

Try their scrumptious breakfast, it is epic and save some time to chillax in the hammocks it’s good for your body and soul.



7. Away with the Fairies

Hogsback, Eastern Cape

the bath at the end of the world

Aside from the fact that I am totally captivated by Hogsback, it offers a very different and unique experience to the rest of my travels up the coast. Set inland in the magnificent Amathole mountains, it’s hard not to be wowed by the place.

Away with the Fairies, perched atop a cliff overlooking the beautiful indigenous forests, offers the perfect base to do all that Hogsback has to offer. Walk from the bottom of the garden into the forests to visit the numerous waterfalls, visit the local artists and potters. Be sure to drop by the Ecology Shrine for a different perspective and find the answers to life by walking the Labyrinth.

Hogsback is a truly beautiful place and offers a completely different experience to travelers. It’s a must visit place for those looking for a more than a costal view of South Africa. Oh and be sure to take a bath at the end of the world …



8. The Falls

Tsitsa Falls, near Maclear in the Eastern Cape

Tsitsa Falls

The biggest surprise of my journey so far, an unheard destination for me. Located about 40km from Maclear in the Eastern Cape, Tsitsa Falls is an off-the-grid experience that is truly awesome and that’s before you even see the falls.

The backpackers is housed in the old farmhouse, its front porch lords over the valley and offers a spectacular view to appreciate the space and serenity. Off the grid but by no means lacking, the beers are cold, the showers piping hot and you want for nothing … you forget about modern life and this is what makes this place special.

There are some excellent hikes and bushman paintings but the jewel without a doubt is the falls – I lack superlatives to describe it. Aside from the spectacular views from above, next to and behind the waterfall, Tsita Falls can be walked into but the opportunity to zip line down into the gorge is the only choice. There is also world class kayaking on four different rivers. The Falls Backpackers won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – but you missing out on a destination that is truly beautiful and good for your soul.



9. Buccaneers

Chintsa, Eastern Cape

Bridge to the beach

This place is legendary, if you haven’t heard about it you’re probably talking to the wrong people or reading the wrong travel information. Situated in a primo spot on the lagoon in Chintsa, Bucs offers an excellent all round place to stay, great accommodation, free daily activities, killer dinners and a very festive in-house bar.

Surf lessons and board rentals, horse riding and a multitude of other cool activities are available for those who feel the need to be active, or head to the beach for a swim and just laze in the sun. Grab a freebie bodyboard and hit the waves or canoe up the lagoon.

A free daily activity, often involving free drinks, kick off good evenings so be sure to participate. They also offer themed dinners fit for a king and are definitely bang for your buck, they also help create the awesome social vibe Bucs has got going for them.

Don’t skip Chintsa because its a small dot on the map – its pure awesomeness.



10. Coffee Shack

Coffee Bay, Transkei, Eastern Cape

Coffee Bay

Uhm, one word should suffice. Heaven. Well there are also cool people and beer. And a beach. So probably better. Situated in Coffee Bay, Transkei, the Coffee Shack is epic. Comfy, welcoming and well pure backpacker porn so to speak.

Daily activities that waver between vaguely strenuous and super chilled. Perfect surf for both beginners and experienced surfers. Lessons and board rentals are cheap cheap – so learn to surf while you there. Hike to the Hole in the Wall, Cliff Jump and chow down in the local village and get the skinny on the area on the various day trips.

Yum Breakfasts and communal dinners and coffee i’d put my name to are available from the kitchen and make cooking for yourself obsolete they are so good. Cool, friendly and helpful staff make the Coffee Shack a “you’re stupid if you miss it” when visiting South Africa.

There is something about the Coffee Shack that gets everyone on the same page and that makes for late nights and fun filled days. Good times. Indeed.



Find more awesome backpackers in this blog: 22 of Southern Africa’s best beach backpackers.


Are there any other hostels or backpackers I should be visiting on my trip around South Africa? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to pay them a visit.


You can follow my trip on www.goinghomeless.co.za or you can follow me on Twitter – @going_homeless.

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