Port Elizabeth is a city that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for culture, nature, adventure, or relaxation, you’ll find it in this friendly and vibrant city on the eastern coast of South Africa. Port Elizabeth is also known as the Sunshine Coast, thanks to its mild climate and sunny days throughout the year.
It has some of the best beaches in the country, where you can swim, surf, sail, or just soak up the sun. It also has a rich history and heritage, with many museums and monuments that tell the story of its diverse and colourful past. And if you’re looking for wildlife, you won’t be disappointed.
Beaches and Water Sports
If you love the sun, sand, and sea, then you’ll love Port Elizabeth’s beaches and water sports. Port Elizabeth has some of the best beaches in South Africa, where you can enjoy swimming, surfing, sailing, or whale and dolphin watching. You can also visit the Bayworld oceanarium and snake park, or take a catamaran cruise to see the penguins on St Croix Island. Here are some of the things you can do in Port Elizabeth’s beaches and water sports:
- Sardinia Bay Beach: This is an amazing beach set in a conservancy, with lovely rock pools and surf. The sea is dangerous and has rips, so be careful when swimming.
- King’s Beach: This is a sandy central beach, popular for sunbathing and swimming in the shallows. It’s also close to the city centre and has a huge car park.
- Hobie Beach: This is the beach of choice for windsurfers, sailors, and kite-surfers. It’s also good for sunbathing and swimming, and has a pier with a restaurant.
- Humewood Beach: This is a favourite beach of Port Elizabeth, with safe swimming and warm water. It’s also one of the three Blue Flag beaches in the city, which means it meets high standards of cleanliness and safety.
- Pollock Beach: This is a quiet and pleasant sandy beach, near the Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex. It’s good for surfing and swimming.
- Marine Training & Consulting: This is a scuba diving and shark diving centre, where you can learn how to dive or join an adventure tour. You can see sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins, whales, and more.
- Whale, Dolphin & Penguin Island Cruise: This is a catamaran cruise that takes you to see the marine life around Algoa Bay. You can see whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, and more.
- Bayworld: This is a complex that includes a museum, an oceanarium, and a snake park. You can see exhibits on natural history, marine life, reptiles, and more.
Nature and Wildlife
Port Elizabeth is not only a city of beaches, but also a city of nature and wildlife. Port Elizabeth is home to the Kragga Kamma Game Park, where you can see rhinos, giraffes, zebras, and more. It’s also close to the Addo Elephant National Park, where you can spot the largest land animal in the world. You can also visit the Cape Recife Nature Reserve, which has a lighthouse and a 4×4 Grysbok trail. Here are some of the things you can do in Port Elizabeth’s nature and wildlife:
- Kragga Kamma Game Park: This is a small but very good game park, where you can see a variety of animals in their natural habitat. You can do a self-drive or a guided game drive, or even walk with the cheetahs.
- Addo Elephant National Park: This is one of the largest national parks in South Africa, and home to over 600 elephants. You can also see lions, buffaloes, leopards, rhinos, and more. You can do a self-drive or a guided game drive, or join a horseback safari or a river cruise.
- Cape Recife Nature Reserve: This is a coastal reserve that has a lighthouse, a bird hide, and a 4×4 Grysbok trail. You can also see penguins, seals, dolphins, and whales.
- Shamwari Private Game Reserve: This is a luxury game reserve that offers an unforgettable wildlife experience. You can see the Big Five and other animals in their natural environment. You can also visit the Born Free Foundation and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
- Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds: This is a rehabilitation centre for seabirds, especially the endangered African penguin. You can see the penguins and other birds being cared for and learn about their conservation.
- Groendal Wilderness Area: This is a wilderness area that has hiking trails, waterfalls, rock pools, and caves. You can also see birds, butterflies, and small mammals.
- Animals in Wonderland: This is an animal sanctuary that offers educational tours and interactions with various animals. You can see monkeys, meerkats, porcupines, snakes, and more.
- Island Nature Reserve: This is a nature reserve that has six hiking trails through indigenous forest and grassland. You can also see birds, butterflies, and small animals.
History and Culture
Port Elizabeth has a rich history and culture, with many museums and monuments that tell the story of its diverse and colourful past. Port Elizabeth was founded in 1820 by Sir Rufane Donkin, who was the governor of the Cape at the time. He named it after his late wife, Elizabeth, who had died in India.
The Donkin memorial in the CBD of the city bears testament to this. Port Elizabeth also played an important role in the struggle against apartheid, as it was home to many activists and leaders. Here are some of the things you can do in Port Elizabeth’s history and culture:
- Fort Frederick: This is a stone fort built by the British in 1799 to defend the Baakens river mouth. It is the oldest British building in southern Africa and offers a beautiful view over Algoa Bay.
- Campanile Tower: This is a tall, majestic tower that marks the starting point of Route 67, a public arts project inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela. The tower has 204 steps and a carillon of 23 bells that play music.
- Route 67: This is a public arts project that consists of 67 public artworks placed around Port Elizabeth, representing the 67 years that Mandela worked as an activist and public figure. The artworks are made by local artists and showcase the history and culture of South Africa.
- Red Location Museum: This is a museum that showcases the struggle against apartheid, especially in Port Elizabeth. It is located in a former township that was one of the first sites of resistance. The museum has exhibits, photographs, and stories that depict the harsh realities of life under apartheid.
- No. 7 Castle Hill Museum: This is a museum that evokes a settler family’s life in the 19th century. It is located in one of the oldest surviving houses in Port Elizabeth, built in 1827. The museum has rooms furnished with period furniture and objects, as well as a garden with herbs and vegetables.
- Donkin Reserve: This is a public park that has a lighthouse, a pyramid, and a collection of public art. The lighthouse was built in 1861 and houses a tourism office. The pyramid was erected by Sir Rufane Donkin in memory of his wife. The public art includes sculptures, mosaics, and graffiti that reflect the history and culture of Port Elizabeth.
- Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum: This is an art museum that has collections of local, national, and international art. The museum has works by South African artists such as Gerard Sekoto, Irma Stern, Walter Battiss, and George Pemba. It also has works by European artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Marc Chagall.
- Port Elizabeth Opera House: This is the oldest theatre in Africa, built in 1892. The theatre hosts various performances and events, such as opera, ballet, drama, comedy, and music. The theatre has two auditoriums: the Main Stage and the Barn Theatre.
Fun things to do with kids in Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth is a great destination for families with kids, as it has many fun and educational activities to offer. Port Elizabeth has beautiful beaches, where kids can swim, surf, or play in the sand. It also has many attractions that cater to children, such as mini-golf, animal sanctuaries, amusement parks, and museums. Here are some of the things you can do in Port Elizabeth with kids:
- The Boardwalk: This is Port Elizabeth’s biggest entertainment complex, where you can find a mini-golf course, a carousel, a cinema, a bowling alley, a games arcade, and many restaurants and shops.
- Bayworld: This is a complex that includes a museum, an oceanarium, and a snake park. You can see exhibits on natural history, marine life, reptiles, and more. You can also watch dolphin and seal shows, or feed the penguins.
- Holmeleigh Farmyard: This is a farmyard that offers interactive tours and animal encounters. You can feed and pet farm animals such as cows, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, and chickens. You can also enjoy tractor rides, pony rides, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
- Kragga Kamma Game Park: This is a game park where you can see a variety of animals in their natural habitat. You can do a self-drive or a guided game drive, or even walk with the cheetahs. You can also visit the monkey walk and the bird aviary.
- Happy Valley: This is a park that has a fairy-tale theme, with gardens, bridges, ponds, and statues of characters from children’s stories. You can also find a mini-train, a playground, and a café.
- Splash Waterworld: This is a water park that has slides, pools, fountains, and jets for kids of all ages. You can also enjoy bumper boats, paddle boats, mini-golf, and trampolines.
- SAMREC: This is a rehabilitation centre for seabirds, especially the endangered African penguin. You can see the penguins and other birds being cared for and learn about their conservation.
- Storms River Bridge: This is a bridge that spans the Storms River gorge on the Garden Route. You can enjoy the scenic views of the river and the mountains from the bridge or from the viewing platform below. You can also visit the bungee jumping site or the zipline adventure park nearby.
Food and Drink
Port Elizabeth has a budding creative scene and emerging world-class eateries. You can enjoy some local delicacies such as bunny chow, bobotie, or braai (barbecue). You can also sample some of the best wines from the region. For nightlife, you can check out the Music Kitchen, a live music venue that offers a variety of performances and events. Here are some of the things you can do in Port Elizabeth’s food and drink:
- Backstreet Grill: This is a steakhouse that serves the best T-bone steak ever, according to some reviewers. You can also try their ribs, burgers, salads, and desserts.
- Muse Restaurant: This is a contemporary restaurant that offers European cuisine with a local twist. You can enjoy dishes such as duck samoosas, chicken and mushroom pasta, lamb shank, or chocolate brownies.
- SUKI Sushi & Asian Cuisine: This is a Japanese restaurant that serves sushi, teppanyaki, noodles, curries, and more. You can also try their red Thai curry, which is to die for.
- Theescombe Estate Wine Farm: This is a wine farm that produces award-winning wines from grapes grown in the Eastern Cape. You can visit their tasting room and enjoy their wines with cheese platters or pizzas.
- Dockside Brewery: This is a microbrewery that produces craft beers with natural ingredients and no additives. You can visit their taproom and taste their beers such as pale ale, lager, stout, or cider.
- The Music Kitchen: This is a live music venue that hosts local and national artists in various genres such as rock, blues, jazz, folk, or reggae. You can also enjoy their food and drinks such as burgers, pizzas, nachos, or cocktails.
Port Elizabeth is the ultimate destination for your next trip. It has everything you need to have a memorable and enjoyable time. You can explore its beautiful beaches and water sports, its rich history and culture, its nature and wildlife, and its food and drink. You can also experience its creative scene and nightlife, or join one of its many events and festivals.
Port Elizabeth is a city that will surprise you with its diversity and charm. So what are you waiting for? Book your trip to Port Elizabeth today and discover why it is the friendly city of South Africa.