The Eastern Cape, a huge expanse of land with 800km of coastline, is home to much of this country's history, both ancient and modern. Its earliest inhabitants left their mark in rock art sites across the area while European settlers of the 1700s stamped their own signature in the forts and garrisons from which they attacked resident Xhosa tribes. More recently, the Eastern Cape has bred many of the most influential names of the modern South Africa - Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Desmond Tutu to name but a few. Most visitors arrive via the Garden Route and it's worth stopping off at some of the great sandy beaches that line the coast for seafood, sunbathing and perhaps even a spot of surfing around St. Francis Bay. (Surfing is for some an exciting schuss down the slopes of steepling waves. For others, like me, it is an exhausting and painful way to half-drown yourself.)
Other highlights are historic Grahamstown which hosts the country's largest annual arts festival, and travelling on past East London you'll reach the rolling green Wild Coast, perhaps the country's most spectacular seafront.
Away from the coast the landscape rises through once fought-over pastures into the wilds of the Winterberg Mountains (an area I am personally particularly keen on) and, further north, the southern reaches of the Drakensberg. Agoraphobics beware, this is South African wilderness at its gigantic best. Public and private game reserves span much of this country, with Addo Elephant Park an institution in the world of wildlife conservation.