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Perfect Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth is one of the most visually stunning large cities anywhere in the world. And although, like the rest of South Africa, there is a crime problem in areas, the city’s hierarchy has worked hard to ensure it doesn’t impact on visitors – and Port Elizabeth has certainly earned its reputation and nickname as the ‘Friendly City’.

Remember playing the Oregon Trail back in school? Port Elizabeth’s Historic Donkin Heritage Trail is even better, following the steps of the Boer settlers to Uitenhage and Despatch. As interesting as that is, though, it is Port Elizabeth’s beautiful bays and beaches that make the city. Although the beaches are safe, you still have to watch your belongings when getting your kit off at Nelson Mandela Bay. There’s a reason Port Elizabeth is also known as the ‘Windy City’…

Port Elizabeth's Top 10

10. Donkin Reserve The lighthouse here is open to the public and houses Port Elizabeth’s tourism offices.

5. Tsitsikamma National Park This national treasure has beautiful wildlife and natural waterfalls to explore.

9. South Africa Air Force Museum This museum is worth every rand you didn’t spend (cos it’s free!).

4. Port Elizabeth Opera House Hit the high notes at the oldest theatre in Africa.

8. St George’s Park The oldest cricket ground and bowling green in the country. You can swim here, but streaking is not advised.

3. Sea View Lion Park Experience a close encounter of the lion kind. Well worth fearing for your safety to see!

7. Alexandria Dune Fields Perfect your squint for the largest coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere – wind and sand don’t always mix.

2. Bayworld Has a museum, a snake park and a huge dolphinarium. Don’t come expecting a circus performance, however.

6. Humewood Beach Bustling cafés and shopping streets surround this popular beach.

1. Entertainment World You literally step out of the ocean and into shopping, dining and entertainment.

Port Elizabeth History

  • Donkin Heritage Trail – Located on Nelson Mandela Bay, this was the landing spot of the 1820 settlers.
  • Market Square, Govan Mbeki Avenue – A concert and lecture hall, the colonial-style city hall was built in 1858.
  • Donkin Reserve and Lighthouse – Built in 1861, the tourist information office about historical sites is located here.
  • Castle Hill Museum – One of the oldest buildings in Port Elizabeth, it was constructed in 1829.
  • Cnr. Belmont Terrace & Fort Street, Central – This fort was built in 1799 and named for the Duke of York.

Port Elizabeth Art & Culture

  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum – Collections of British, Asian and South African art.
  • Epsac Art Gallery – Collections of diverse art works from the Eastern Cape region.
  • Ron Belling Art Gallery – Collections of works of art featuring aviation by artist Ron Belling.
  • Port Elizabeth Opera House – A Victorian-era theatre built in 1892, it is the last one existing on the continent.
  • St George's Park – Features annual Shakespearian productions in an open-air theatre.

Port Elizabeth Shopping

  • Walmer Park – This shopping mall is busy on weekends and during Christmas holidays.
  • Forgarty's – Excellent bookshop with books about South Africa and Port Elizabeth.
  • GreenAcres Shopping Centre – The largest mall in Port Elizabeth, it features a variety of shops and restaurants.
  • Pier 14 Shopping Centre – Located in the historic district, this centre has several shops.
  • Moffett Retail Park – This shopping centre is located off William Moffett Expressway in Port Elizabeth.

Gay & Lesbian Port Elizabeth

  • Club Aqua – The top gay nightclub in the city is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Joy of Art Guesthouse – A gay guesthouse, art studio and gallery overlooking Sardinia Bay.
  • The Boardwalk – The Boardwalk Casino is one of the most popular nightspots.
  • Balizza – Popular with the younger crowd for the cheap drinks and live music.
  • Parliament Street – In central Port Elizabeth, this street has numerous nightclubs and bars. El Dorado and Dayzees, which are gay friendly, are two of the most popular.

Port Elizabeth Outdoor

  • Seaview Game & Lion Park – This wildlife reserve is home to wildlife native to South Africa and a sanctuary for injured animals for rehabilitation before returning to the wild.
  • Hobie Beach – A popular beach for swimming, shopping, dining and playing games.
  • Sardinia Bay – Beautiful for sandboarding, horseback riding, surfing and kite surfing, this beach borders Chelsea Downs Nature Reserve.
  • Addo Elephant Park – This park is a sanctuary for over 450 elephants and other native wildlife.
  • Kariega Game Reserve – These African safaris traverse through 6,000 hectares to view wild species.

Port Elizabeth Sports

  • Canoe through peaceful water or rivers and enjoy nature.
  • Fish on rivers, from a breakwater in the harbour or try surfcasting and deep-sea fishing.
  • Sail around Algoa Bay and choose the wind direction for your sail according to your skill.
  • Scuba dive to old wrecks or coral reefs to see an abundance of marine life.
  • Swim in warm waters at Bluewater Bay or St George's Strand.

Port Elizabeth Events

Things heat up in February with the Chili Festival. You can partake in tasting, buy a crop or two or even get some chili-themed jewellery and trinkets.

Human Rights Day falls on21 March and is a public holiday in South Africa, with various celebrations taking place across the city.

Freedom Day (27 April) commemorates the first democratic elections held in South Africa in 1994.

Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival is the biggest and most popular of all events held in the city. Over four days you’ll see water sports mixed with more land-based fun like fireworks.

September brings National Heritage Day, another public holiday. Locals celebrate freedom of expression and creativity, language and traditional cuisine.

When To Go

  • Summers in Port Elizabeth are mild, reaching an average 25°C (77ºF).
  • During the summer months it can get quite busy, but events and water sports make rubbing shoulders with thousands of other tourists more bearable.
  • Winter brings mild weather, with temperatures in June and August sitting between 7 and 20ºC (45-68ºF)

Getting Around

  • Taxisare the main form of transport in the city. Unlike conventional taxis, these operate on a specific route and are more frequent during the day than at night.
  • The archaic bus system was overhauled for the 2010 World Cup, and you’ll now wait no longer than 15 minutes for one.
  • Stay in groups if walking around the city, and beware of pickpockets. After dark, stick to hailing cabs to get around.

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Hotels in Port Elizabeth

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