I grew up in East London and since I left, aged 12, I’ve managed to return only twice. Recently I decided I needed to change that and that it was time to introduce my kids to this special part of the world… One of my happy places!
As with all good road trips we woke up bright and early (OK it was more like dark and early). Bags, snacks, entertainment – the prep for a road trip can be endless but once you’re all finally in the car and heading out towards the highway it’s all worth it!
With our road trip motto “We’re on the road again!”, we headed off. For 12 hours! Yes we did the drive in one day. A verrrrry long day, but one day! We left before sunrise and arrived after sunset. It’s really very far. I wouldn’t recommend it. All I can say is thank goodness for ipads, mini DVD players and Roald Dahl audio books. We also stopped every 2 hours for a quick leg stretch and toilet break… and we had to stop off at the cow farm in Nature’s Valley!!
The reason why we just kept on driving was that we wanted to get to our destination as quickly as possible and wanted to rather spend 2 nights in East London instead of our originally planned 1. Fortunately my kids are both avid travellers and managed the car trip really well. (Hooray for no more toddlers!!) I’m so glad we did get to spend 2 nights in East London. It meant we had one full day to explore the town of my childhood and it was a dream….
On our first morning we woke up pretty early and headed down to the beach. My favourite beach in all the world… Nahoon!
It’s here that I spent days of my life as a kid. We would come down early on Saturdays to watch my dad surf or explore the rockpools. I vividly remember climbing the MASSIVE sand dunes and zoning into a special happy place perched right on the top so that is exactly what I wanted to recreate for my kids.
We all headed to the very top of the sand dunes – now slightly smaller than I remember them but nevertheless beautiful, and steep!
It was hard work, but such fun!
And at the very top, the view was exactly as I remember it….
I sat up there for ages remembering the happy days of my own childhood spent in this special place… and then it was time to run down! And get completely full of sand… bliss for kids, hell for parents!
Ben wasn’t in too much of a rush to leave this incredible natural playground, so Abi and went off to explore the rockpools down the other end of the beach as it was low tide.
Unfortunately they didn’t seem to harbour the same natural treasures we used to find and we left feeling a bit disappointed, until we came across a pair of men kitted out with their metal detectors searching the sand for buried treasure of their own. My kids were fascinated!!
They’d never seen these devices and it was all the more exciting when there was a beep and a bit of digging followed by a discovery!! They showed us the coins and bullets that made up the most of their finds, but there was even a diamond ring or two in their haul which really impressed the 10-year-old!
I wasn’t in a hurry to leave just yet so we went walking in the opposite direction towards Nahoon River. This is another part of the beach my family would visit every weekend and a spot we loved as kids!
The beauty of this river mouth is that it’s always different and my kids loved splashing around and creating mud pies on the sandy bank while I went for a walk and met a few of the locals and their dogs!
After our amazing morning at the beach it was time to introduce my kids to an East London institution… Friesland milkshakes. Known far and wide as the best milkshakes in the world, they didn’t disappoint! In fact we went back again the very next day before moving on to our next destination just to be able to enjoy another one! As in Italy where a gelato a day is the only way, a Friesland a day is standard when on holiday in East London. I declare it!
Then it was time for a bit of nostalgia as we drove past my old family home and my old prep and primary school…
For lunch we headed back to Nahoon Reef to try out the restaurant located at the Nahoon Point Nature Reserve. The wind had picked up so we were rather windswept while walking the board walk but I found this (new to me) museum really interesting. It’s small but interesting with displays about the 24 000 year old human trace fossil footprints and incredible surfing history. The boardwalk was also really fun, despite the gale!
Our time in East London was brief but beautiful. I loved revisiting my home town and introducing my kids to my roots. It’s such a beautiful city and I’m sure there are plenty of other great spots to visit but this was all we had time for during our stay… and to be honest it was perfect!
Have you been to East London? What were your favourite spots? Any kid-friendly suggestions of things to do in town? Please leave a comment below…
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Images: Kathryn Rossiter