As many parts of the world tentatively emerge from travel restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a better time to explore our own country — and the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast is a perfect starting point.
The Eastern Cape, having earned a solid reputation as South Africa’s “Adventure Province”, offers a plethora of activities, places of interest and unrivalled adventures – making the region ideal for road trips.
Historic hamlet of Bathurst
Situated at the heart of the Sunshine Coast is the quaint and historic hamlet of Bathurst where travellers will be awestruck by the world’s largest replica of a pineapple.
Located around 40km from the equally historic university city of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) and less than 20km inland from the seaside gem of Port Alfred, The Big Pineapple stands 16.7m tall and functions as a walk-in building and tourism centre with three levels.
Big Pineapple a delight for all ages
As an enlarged replica of the original Big Pineapple in Queensland, Australia, the attraction is popular with both domestic and foreign tourists who can visit the unique structure between 08:00 16:00 daily, including weekends.
The installation is based on Summerhill Farm on the R67 and is naturally an integral part of the area’s extensive agricultural sector where pineapples are among the crops which are grown prolifically in the area.
The wider region, which encompasses Makhanda and further south-east, Alexandria, is historically recognised as “Frontier” country with the 1820 Settlers having established agricultural enterprises — such as livestock and chicory farming — there from around 200 years ago.
To some observers, and for young travellers in particular, the Big Pineapple may appear like a real-life version of Spongebob Squarepants’ home in Bikini Bottom which only adds to its uniqueness.
This could make the visit a delight for little kids or the more grown 1990s and early 2000s babies who spent their childhood watching the Spongebob Squarepants cartoon.
Inside the Big Pineapple
Each of the three levels offer something different to experience. The first level contains a gift shop where goods such as souvenirs and pineapples are available. And since it is situated on a pineapple farm, the fruit is pleasantly inexpensive and cheaper than when being purchased at a supermarket.
The second level boasts a museum which provides a historic account of the attraction and other elements of historic interest, while the third floor holds a viewing deck where visitors can enjoy a pleasant, panoramic elevated view of the farm and its surrounds.
Road-tripping through the region can now be done from anywhere in South Africa since inter-provincial travel is now permissible.
Should any travellers prefer to wing their way into the province, visitors can fly into Port Elizabeth International Airport which is about 170km away from Bathurst or East London Airport — which is a shorter 140km from the region — which also abounds with natural beauty.
Other attractions along the Sunshine Coast
Waters Meeting Nature Reserve and Horseshoe Bend
This pretty, but small nature reserve lies just 4km west of Bathurst and north-west of Port Alfred, on the Kowie River and is well worth the visit for nature lovers and hikers.
The area provides access to a scenic viewpoint – known as “Horseshoe Bend” and which is located not far from the entrance to the reserve and over the bend in the Kowie River. The river itself flows through the reserve and into the Indian Ocean, with the river mouth forming another popular attraction where it spills into the ocean at Port Alfred.
Bathurst Agricultural Museum
Bathurst Agricultural Museum is situated in Bathurst itself and hosts an impressive display of machinery, transport modes and equipment used in the area more than a century ago. The collection provides an insightful peak into Bathurst’s agricultural heritage and the history of the town itself.
Items dating back to the early British Settlers can be found and include collections of dairy farming items, household antiques and much more.
A stroll through the transport section is sure to amaze visitors with the collection of carts, buggies, ox-wagons, vintage tractors and of course the steam engine, which was used up to the 1930’s for pumping, sawing and driving threshing machinery – all being on display.
The Bathurst Toposcope
Another attraction of interest is the Bathurst Toposcope, which is from where the 1820 British Settlers locations were surveyed.
By definition, a toposcope is a monument that is dedicated to people or past events and typically sits on hills or mountains in various locations. They indicate directions and distances to certain landmarks around the area.
The Bathurst Toposcope is placed in the spot where the British Settlers surveyed the region in 1820. There visitors will find information about their ships, departure ports, along with plenty of other historical information. From this location visitors can see the Great Fish River and other spectacular sights.
This water-driven wool mill was built by a British Settler named Samuel Bradshaw in 1821 and is a historic heritage site for the province.
Discover your wild side
In addition to the many seaside villages and resorts which can be found along the Sunshine coastline, the greater region also boasts a significant number of game reserves and game farm resorts where visitors can view the Big Five and thousands of square kilometres of pristine and spectacular scenery.
This, and so much more that is on offer in the region, makes the Sunshine Coast an ideal adventure get-away and relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.