Buffalo City boasts extraordinary tourist attractions and is rich in natural resources. The 68km of coastline includes 10 estuaries, conservancies, natural heritage sites, rocky shores and 14 sandy beaches.
The area is well suited to local tourism, ecotourism and historical tourism, especially that relating to the anti-apartheid struggle as many of South Africa's past and present political leaders hail from the region. More than 11 000 people visit Buffalo City during the peak holiday season.
The Indian Ocean coastline is the main feature - and attraction - of the Eastern area. The warm sea is good for swimming and fishing.
There are small resort developments at virtually all river mouths in the eastern part of the region.
East London, South Africa's only river port, is set on both the broad Buffalo River and Nahoon River and has the Gonubie River flowing around it. It is known as the gateway to the region's tourist corridors: the Sunshine Coast and the Wild Coast.
The Sunshine Coast is to the south and runs for more than 200km to Port Elizabeth. It includes Beacon Bay and the coastal towns of Gonubie and Kidd's Beach.
The Wild Coast is to the north. Rugged and unspoilt, the coastline is indigenous coastal forest. Resort areas and premier ecotourism destinations include Kwelera, Glen Eden, Cintsa West and Cinsta East, Haga-Haga, Morgan Bay and Kei Mouth.
Rich in history and culture
The Eastern Cape has played a prominent role in South African history. It was here where, in the latter half of the 18th century, black and white met for the first time.
For many years this territory was the contact zone between these two groups. The consequences of this delicate and somewhat temperamental relationship made a lasting impression on the history of modern South Africa.
Today, almost 200 years later, the Buffalo City community reflects this turbulent past in the kaleidoscope of its rich cultural heritage and proud history.
East London was set up by the British in 1836 as a military post. They used it as a base during the Xhosa wars. The arrival of German settlers, who had been serving as mercenaries in the British-German Legion, gave the place at the mouth of the Buffalo River an economic boost. In 1873 East London was given town rights.
Today, about half-a-million people live in East London and surrounding townships. The township of Mdantsane, 20km from East London, was established in 1962 as part of the government's racist apartheid policies to provide living space for cheap African labour. It is now the largest town in the area, with a population of more than 250 000. It's the second-largest township in South Africa after Soweto.
The port is on Buffalo River, the country's only river port.
King William's Town
Tourist attractions in and around King William's Town are a vibrant mixture of history, topography, culture and water sports.
King William's Town holds the unique distinction of being established twice within the space of 12 years.
According to historian Brian Randles, King William's Town owed its establishment to the tenacity of Scottish missionary John Brownlee in setting up the Buffalo Mission Station on the banks of the Buffalo River in January 1826 and to warfare between the Xhosa and British during the nineteen century.
In 1835 the Xhosa attacked and burnt the mission station. They, in turn, were driven away by the Rifle Brigade under the command of Colonel Harry Smith and, on 24 May 1835, the then Governor of the Cape, Sir Benjamin D'Urban, proclaimed King William's Town the capital of the Province of Queen Adelaide.
However, this status quo was short-lived and on 26 December that same year the new Colonial Secretary, Lord Charles Glenelg, reinstated the Xhosa people and the Province of Adelaide was abandoned and King William's Town deserted.
Brownlee returned to the area and once again continued his missionary work.
Ten years later the mission station was again razed - during the War of the Axe in 1846 and Sir Harry Smith, now the Governor of the Cape Colony, returned to the area. He proclaimed the Crown Colony of British Kaffraria and selected King William's Town to be its capital.
The small town - initially dominated by military buildings - continued to grow and after the last frontier war with the Xhosa in the mid 1850s population grew and the town developed into a prosperous trade centre for the regional tribes.
It's more recent political history has been equally turbulent, with its opposition to apartheid. King William's Town was home to Steve Biko, South Africa's father of Black Consciousness.
The economy of this large area is today based mainly on cattle and sheep farming, and the town itself has a large industrial base producing textiles, soap, candles, candy, cartons and clothing.
There are many interesting and well-presevered examples of 19th century architecture in the town and the Amathole Museum is well worth a visit. Just outside town, the Maden and Rooikrantz dams are perfect for yachting, fishing and other watersports.
For more on the history of King Williams Town, see excerpt from "A history of the Kaffrarian Museum" by Brian M Randles.
Bhisho is the provincial capital of the Eastern Cape. Immediately east of King William's Town, this recently built town used to be the capital of so-called independent homeland of the Ciskei in apartheid South Africa. It was reincorporated into the new South Africa in 1994.