The gateway to the Wild Coast, East London was built around the mouth of the Buffalo River, which forms South Africa's only river port. Although fairly urban, East London is still close to the rural heartland, so it retains a pleasantly small-town air. There's a great museum here, and you can take a half-day city tour, an escorted visit to a local township, or a full-day tour of a rural village. Although the beaches on the outskirts of the city are wonderful, those within the central business district are crowded and not very pleasant.
Nahoon Beach, at the mouth of the Nahoon River, about a 20-minute drive from the city, has some fantastic surf—but only for people who know what they're doing. It's also just a lovely beach for sunbathing and watching surfers, and the lagoon is great for swimming and snorkeling.
East London Museum
There's definitely something fishy going on at the East London Museum. In addition to a whole section on the discovery of the coelacanth, the museum has a large display of preserved fish, including an enormous manta ray. For a different kind of fishy, check out what is claimed to be the world's only surviving dodo egg. Jurassic Park, here we come! Probably the most worthwhile exhibit, though, is the extensive beadwork collection; it's culturally interesting and just plain beautiful.
Gonubie Beach is at the mouth of the Gonubie River, about half an hour northeast of the city. The riverbank is covered in dense forest, with giant strelitzias (wild banana trees) growing right to the water's edge. A lovely beach, tidal pools, and a 500-yard-long wooden walkway make this a fantastically user-friendly beach.