A newbie's guide to Cinsta, Eastern Cape.

From the farmlands of Route 60, past the luscious vegetation of the Wilderness, the Knysna lagoon to the pine forests of Tsitsikamma until the rolling hills of the Ciskei; this drive gives but a taste of South Africa’s diversity of landscape, vegetation and climate.

You’ll leave Cape Town’s South Easter wind behind, encounter the Garden Route’s light rainfall and meet the humidity and warmth of the Eastern Cape.   Once you reach the Wild Coast, you’ll be hard pressed to find a petrol station, big shops or masses of people (except on New Year’s Day) which only serves to add to its semi-rural charm.

Without all these ‘Big City’ bits to distract you, you’ll be able to enjoy all the things that really matter such as swimming, eating, sunning, surfing, sleeping, canoeing and horse-riding.

Things to do:

Aside from the obvious and satisfying holiday activities such as tanning on the beach, reading on the beach, swimming and play card games, I have listed a couple of things that require a bit more effort but guarantee a maximum amount of holiday happiness and perhaps a few aching muscles…

Surf or learn

If you don’t have your own boards, are not yet in the groove of carving through the waves, then hire a board or join Buccaneers Backpackers for a lesson or two.  If you surf, this is no Jeffrey’s Bay, but there is fun to be had on the Cinsta East beach break (when the waves aren’t dumping, which was quite often) and also at a little reef break just off the big dunes to the right of the beach.  Jump in and hug the rocks as the rip tide will assist you to get out there with minimal paddling, and then paddle a bit to the left where the lip is peaking and enjoy the ride.  Even the locals had a tough time out there when the waves are unruly so don’t go out there alone and if you’re a beginner.  You could get pulverised.

Go canoeing
We happened to find an oar and borrowed one of Buccaneers canoes that were just resting beside the river.  There isn’t a more peaceful place for miles and you can float down the river while spotting fish eagles, kingfishers and herons, so take a camera and binoculars.  If you’re lucky enough to be with an avid rower, sit back and enjoy the glide.  If you're not staying at Buccaneers, perhaps you can hire a canoe from them.

Horse Trails
This is the perfect way to experience the diverse landscape of the wild coast.  A two and a half hour horse ride along the beach, through the bush, over the green hills and through the river is a surreal experience that anyone can do for R295.  Whether you’re a beginner or experienced rider, don’t miss out on a morning/afternoon exploring the territory on one of these beautiful horses.  It was by far the highlight of Cinsta for me. www.cintsahorses.co.za

Go Fishing

Bring your fishing rods, buy a mixed pack of bait such as sardine, squid and prawns from the corner store and wait for low tide.  Then take a walk across the beach from Cinsta East to the rocks in front of the high dunes.  And enjoy the sounds of the waves nearby, the bustle on the beach and wait for a Dassie or River Breemer to bite.

Places to eat and drink:

Nostalgia Coffee Shoppe
I merely noted this coffee shop as you will pass it once in Cintsa East.  If you don’t mind waiting an age before a waitress surfaces, then by all means visit this place and order a milkshake.  The lime and coffee ones aren’t half bad on a hot day, but you’ll constantly have to play the waiting game just to place an order, receive the order and get the bill.

Michaela’s Restaurant
This wooden restaurant on a hill boasts the best view in Cinsta.  Part of the excitement is taking the cable car up to the restaurant.  You can sip a cocktail beneath the sun umbrella; watch the surfers catching waves and sunbathers basking on the beach.   From the deck on the right, you’ll get a great view of the canopy of trees over Ardennes log cabins and surrounds. Our log cabin was the only one that peaked out from beneath the trees and the bright beach towels hanging out to dry acted as a beacon amongst the green.

Barefoot Café
This the funkiest bar around these parts.  It has the vibe of a backpackers with colourful walls, surfboards decorating the walls and travel photos hanging up all around.  On a hot night (most nights in Cinsta), it can get pretty toasty inside, so best grab a table outside.  As newbies we ordered pizzas which hit the spot, but weren’t too amazing.  I’ve heard the burgers are where it’s at.  Sadly, they don’t serve cocktails.

Buccaneers Backpackers
If you walk across the beach from Cintsa East side past the river on your right, you’ll have to cross a wooden bridge, walk up the steps through the trees , through the white wooden gate and turn left  at the sign reading ‘Buccaneers Bar/ Restaurant’.  There hot cheese fries melted in a pizza oven will change your life.  Plus they host killer New Year’s Eve parties.

Need to Know:


I spotted only one ATM in Cinsta East in the local shop.  If you’re not an ABSA banker, you’re going to pay a fee for withdrawals here, so try draw money before you get there as you’ll need it for shopping from stalls, horse rides etc.

You won’t find a petrol station in Cinsta, just a single pump; one for unleaded and another for diesel.  After the festive season, I’m guessing all the holiday-makers with their 4x4’s used all the available diesel as there was none by the time we arrived.

There are hardly any shops in Cinsta and two to be exact in Cinsta East; one with all the essentials such as milk, bread,  cool drinks, firelighters, ice and another with clothing, sarongs, slip slops, bikinis and other beach goodies.   But for a full shops and fresh produce such as meat for the braai, you’ll have to drive out to Hemingways Mall.