Port Elizabeth is a coastal city located along Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Known as “The Windy City,” Port Elizabeth or PE for short is one of the country’s most underrated cities. Although PE has one of the busiest seaports in South Africa, the city has little traffic and is a great holiday destination for those seeking to unwind and escape from their busy lives.
Port Elizabeth is ideally located for those who dream of having the best of both worlds – a safari and beach holiday. Tourists who consider visiting South Africa seldom choose Port Elizabeth as a travel destination, which is a pity as Addo Elephant Park is only a short drive away. Not only is PE surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna, it also has some good restaurants and interesting activities from which to choose. From adrenaline pumping adventures to whale watching, relaxing on Blue Flag beaches and shopping – everything for a perfect holiday is within easy reach.
Attractions in Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape as a whole are as beautiful as the attractions in Cape Town and the remainder of the Western Cape, so perhaps you should begin your holiday in PE then drive to Cape Town. The journey will take approximately a full day, or two days if you decide to overnight somewhere along the beautiful Garden Route.
These are some of my recommendations for places to visit and things to do in and around Port Elizabeth.
Donkin Reserve Park & Monument
If you admire architecture and enjoy history, the Donkin Reserve presents a wonderful opportunity to admire a collection of old Victorian buildings and monuments that date back to when British settlers first colonised the shores of Algoa Bay. Along the reserve are landmarks, such as Fort Frederick, the city’s first structure, Prince Alfred’s Guard Drill Hall, old churches and cathedrals, as well as Settler cottages and old hotels. There is also an old opera house, lighthouse and memorial.
Route 67 is a walking trail of 67 public works of art that symbolise Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of dedication to the fight for freedom of South Africa. The art is an eclectic mix of urban design, heritage, visual art and media aimed at uniting previously divided communities into one incredible interactive showcase that represents post-Apartheid South Africa. Aside from the actual art on display, the trail itself is visually stunning with colourful mosaics, quirky statues and sculptures flanked by a beautiful indigenous garden.
St George’s Park
St George’s Park is an important historical landmark for Port Elizabeth as it’s the second oldest cricket club in South Africa. The park has hosted many cricket test matches, the first of which was played in 1889. Even older than the park itself is the conservatory, which opened in 1882. The conservatory is an exquisite example of Victorian architecture and hosts a pretty display of exotic flowers and orchids. Despite the history of St George’s Park, the area has undergone some modernisation where up-market apartments, galleries, businesses and schools line the streets. On the last Sunday of each month, St George’s Park is a hive of activity with the ‘Art in the Park’ event where theatregoers can enjoy Shakespearean plays outdoors.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum
Also situated in St George’s Park, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum houses an extensive collection of South African arts and crafts, specifically from the Eastern Cape. The art in the museum reflects the history, design and character of the Eastern Cape and its relation to South African and international trends. Inside, are numerous exhibitions with various themes that will keep you interested and entertained.
Addo Elephant Park
Addo Elephant Park is located in a stunning Bushveld Valley nearby the Sundays River, a mere half-hour drive from Port Elizabeth. Opened in 1931 with only eleven elephants calling Addo home, the park now takes care of over 550 elephants, as well as other wildlife, such as buffalo, black rhino, antelope and the flightless dung beetle. Addo Elephant Park boasts five out of the seven vegetation biomes and is home to the Big 7, namely elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, whale and great white shark. Addo’s reserve stretches all the way to the ocean, including the islands along the marine reserve that are home to the world’s largest population of Cape gannets and the second largest population of African penguins. The park also has interesting archaeological sites along the coast, and bushman rock art can be found in the Zuurberg area.
Port Elizabath beaches
Port Elizabeth has beaches that rival those of Camps Bay and Clifton in Cape Town. The best for swimming and tanning are King’s Beach, Hobie Beach, Humewood Beach, Pollock Beach and Denville Beach. Surfing, fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling are popular activities at Wildside, Sardinia Bay, Blue Horizon Bay, Bluewater Bay, and Beachview. PE is proud of its beaches, some of which carry Blue Flag status meaning that they meet international standards in terms of safety and cleanliness. The ocean is also slightly warmer than in Cape Town. King’s Beach is most popular among locals and visitors, as it has plenty of kiosks and restaurants overlooking the ocean.
Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex
The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex is located in Port Elizabeth’s exclusive suburb of Summerstrand. The Boardwalk Casino is regal in its Victorian architecture and classic white and red facades. Surrounded by Tivoli styled gardens, the complex is what you’d expect straight from a James Bond movie. Guests are welcomed inside by the glitzy lights of the sophisticated casino, while non-gamblers can enjoy other entertainment facilities, such as the cinema, bowling and go-karting. Restaurants at the Boardwalk Casino offer views over the ocean where diners can watch dolphins, whales and surfers while enjoying a breakfast or lunch. Evenings at the Boardwalk present a magical and romantic atmosphere with over 25 000 Tivoli lights, but the main attraction is the Boardwalk’s musical fountain show.
Bayworld is one of Port Elizabeth’s leading attractions. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is a natural and cultural museum combined with a snake park and oceanarium. Bayworld’s main focus is research and conservation orientated with the intention of educating the public about nature in a fun and stimulating way. The natural and cultural museum is the third oldest in South Africa and has various exhibition halls where visitors can learn about dinosaurs, marine life, birds, maritime history, and the history of South Africa. The best part of the museum though, has to be the 15m skeleton of a southern-right whale and the giant reconstructed dinosaur – the Algoasaurus.