The winter festivals in the Eastern Cape are an open invitation to ditch your blanket and get festive; put on your beanie, jacket and wool socks and rub shoulders with friends and family from Karoo to Coast. With sunny weather during the day, a bit of a bite at night and the possibility of seeing snow, you can be certain that you’re in for a treat.
Whatever you like, just know that there’s something for everyone. The province hosts a multitude of events throughout the year, from sporting events to agricultural shows; there’s something for the artsy ones, the foodies and even the book worms.
Now technically winter only starts on the first of June, but there’s something about the month of May that takes me back to the smell of soup on the stove. So below you’ll find winter festivals in the Eastern Cape during the cooler months, from May to August; and yes, some of them are already done and dusted for 2019 but now you know more or less which dates to keep open on your calendar next year!
Winter Festivals in the Eastern Cape
Graaff-Reinet: Stoep Tasting Wine Weekend
Wine estates and craft beer breweries, brandy and gin makers from all over South Africa, pack up their finest selection to showcase it at a small and intimate wine festival in the Karoo. You get a map, a tasting glass and walk from stoep to stoep to taste wine, sample some street food and attend some master classes. Tickets are limited so book your place as soon as you can.
When: 24-25 May 2019
Visiting Graaff-Reinet? Read my post on Why you should visit Camdeboo National Park.
Grahamstown: National Arts Festival
The National Arts Festival needs no introduction and it is a highlight on the South African (and African) art calendar. Here, a spade is called a spade – this not a ‘bokkie kom ons sokkie‘ festival – no censorship or artistic restraint has ever been imposed on works presented in Grahamstown. The 11-day festival with its 90 different venues is home to some of the best dance, theatre, music, performing art and visual art you’ll come across.
When: 27 June to 7 July 2019
Visiting Grahamstown? Read my post over on www.ectour.org.za about Road Trip Suggestions if you travel on Route 72.
The Wildsfees is one of the most popular festivals, not only in the Eastern Cape, but also in South Africa as it takes place over three days in the Sundays River Valley, less than an hour from Port Elizabeth. If you love shopping at stalls for arts, crafts, delicious treats and home-made goodies, this one is for you. Plus, some of SA’s favourite singers will sing the winter blues away while there are also agricultural, car, mohair and outdoor expos.
When: 28-30 June 2019
Visiting Kirkwood? Watch my video of What you can get up to in and around Kirkwood/Addo.
Jeffreys Bay: JBay Winterfest
This festival might be smack down in the middle of winter, but Jeffreys Bay knows just how to put its summer face on, so don’t forget to pack your hat and sunscreen. The JBay Winterfest has the Corona Open JBay as its anchor event which means a whole lot of surfing will be going on as pro surfers from all over the world compete on the Eastern Cape’s waves. But there’s also more than just surfing, and other events include mountain biking, trail running, open water swimming and there’s great lineup at the JBay Musicfest as well.
When: 6-22 July 2019
Visiting Jeffreys Bay? Read my post on a Road Trip to the Gamtoos Valley.
Cradock: Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Festival
Cradock is home to two popular festivals, and while one is about actual food, the other is soul food. The Schreiner Karoo Writer’s Festival is for everyone who loves reading, writing, poetry and the Karoo and it takes places every year in Cradock. Prepare to leave inspired as the programme is packed with creative writing workshops, informative talks, new books and stimulating encounters.
When: 6-9 June 2019.
Visiting Cradock? Read my post on Cheetah Tracking in Mountain Zebra National Park.
Hogsback: Winter Celebration
Also known as Christmas in July, Hogsback’s annual Winter Celebration is probably one of the few events where weather conditions, such as snow, won’t put a damper on the weekend (instead, it is welcomed). Go find a bit of magic in Hogsback around the theme of slow living, outdoor entertainment,authentic craft, rural and sustainable green tourism. One of the highlights is the thrilling “Chill Dip” for the brave ones and of course there are art exhibitions, themed dinners, live music, cooking demos and more.
When: 26-28 July 2019.
Visiting Hogsback? Read my post on some Magical Hogsback Highlights.
Bathurst: Bathurst Country Affair
There’s more than just a massive pineapple (or smaller sweeter pineapples) that attract visitors to the small village of Bathurst, the Bathurst Country Affair is one of the biggest events on Sunshine Coast’s calendar. Stroll through the artists’ galleries, indulge in delicious food and just soak up the countryside air next to exhibitors, live entertainment and a whole lot of festivity.
When: August 2019 (date to be confirmed).
Visiting Bathurst? Read my post on Gladys, a talented craftswoman from Bathurst.
Patensie: Citrus Festival
The Gamtoos Tourism Citrus Festival (which forms part of the Citrus Expo 2018) is a fun-filled family event with something for young and old; there will be an Agri expo, a tea garden, live entertainment, food stalls, a bit of rugby and of course, a fresh fruit and vegetable market with produce straight from the Gamtoos Valley.
When: 15 June 2019 (now part of the Gamtoos Bash).
Visiting Patensie? Read my post on Baviaanskloof.
Crowds make me run the other way and I’m not standing front in line when it comes to festivals but luckily, some of these winter festivals in the Eastern Cape have a more intimate and peaceful nature where you won’t feel squashed. So when I say that there is something for everyone, I mean it. There is even something for the not-so-avid festival goer.
Not seeing your favourite winter festival in the Eastern Cape here that usually takes place in May, June, July or August? Comment below and let me know.
(Hey, that rhymes.)