After visiting Port Elizabeth (PE) it is not hard to see why it has the nickname “the Friendly City”.
PE is one of the largest cities in South Africa, stretching 16km across Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape. Originally making its mark on the map as a trading station with Goa, a considerable 1.5 million people now call this city home.
What is now known as Algoa Bay was first occupied by the San people more than 10000 years ago. It later became home to ancestors of the Xhosa people.
Portuguese explorers first made an appearance here in the 15th century. This happened after the first successful expeditions of the explorers Bartholomew Dias and Vasco Da Gama. The aim of the Portuguese at this time was to strengthen trade between Africa and India. Hence the name Algoa, which means ‘to Goa’.
Following the arrival of the 1820 settlers, Port Elizabeth was given its name by Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin who named it after his wife Elizabeth.
Like many places in South Africa, PE was affected by the apartheid regime. It was where the famous activist and writer Steve Biko was first interrogated and tortured by the police before he died in confinement in Pretoria.
You can buy a tourist pass for a day, a week or a three-month period. This allows you access to various activities at discounted rates.
One of the most popular attractions in Port Elizabeth is the Donkin Heritage Trail. This features various historic sites including the bell tower and city hall.
Route 67 takes visitors on a walking tour of 67 artworks created by local artists. This attraction was created in memory of the 67 years Nelson Mandela dedicated to the liberation struggle.
Staying in Summerstrand
You couldn’t go wrong by staying in Summerstrand. This high-end area was once a large farm. It was owned by Piet Retief (a famous Voortrekker), for seven years during the early 1800s. You can book hotels in Port Elizabeth here.
From Summerstrand, you will have access to beaches, the Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Centre and golf course. You will also be within driving distance of the oceanarium.
The Boardwalk Casino in Summerstrand is the only licensed casino in Nelson Mandela Bay. It is open 24 hours a day all week. It has smoking and non-smoking facilities. The entertainment complex can keep you entertained for the whole day. Re-fuel for the entertainment marathon at one of the top-class restaurants.
Sporting activities in Port Elizabeth
PE city has been dubbed the ‘Water Sports Capital’ of South Africa. It is a mere 78km from the surf Mecca, Jeffrey’s Bay. Especially in summer, the mighty Indian Ocean becomes a playground for jet ski enthusiasts, canoeists and surfers.
The warm waters boast some spectacular reefs for snorkelling and diving. The Windy City is one of the best places in the country for kite-boarders and wind-surfers.
Visitors can also take a sunset cruise or book a whale-watching tour. King, Humewood and Hobie beaches are three of the most popular hang-outs for beach-lovers. They are ideal for those inclined toward spending their days on the sun-kissed sand of the eastern coast.
Back on solid ground, there are many hiking trails for those interested in exploring local plant and animal life. One of the more popular trails is the Coastal Fynbos Trail. This is a 7km route leaving from Schoenmakerskop Village. There is also the Aloe Trail, which consists of one 2km route and one 7km route. This trail is moderately difficult and is well suited to seasoned walkers. The Roseate Tern Hiking Trail starts in Summerstrand and takes the wild-at-heart on a 9km scenic walk.
Where to eat
Head to the Valley Market on the first Saturday of every month for a rustic feast in the Baakens Valley. Entrance fee is minimal, and all proceeds are given to the local community. Or you can kick back at the Fushin street bar for a relaxed vibe.
Nibble on some reasonably priced, yet tasty sushi and tapas at this new restaurant in the Sunridge Village Shopping Centre. For those who prefer fine dining, experience the alchemy of a Michelin star menu at Ginger, on Marine Drive. This restaurant offers a culinary experience that tops some of the best eateries in Dubai, Europe and London.
Exploring the surrounds
The Addo Elephant Park is about 70km away from Port Elizabeth. It is the third largest national park in the country. Activities include game drives, horse trails and hiking trails. It is considered to be one of the most diverse national parks on the planet. It is home to more than 600 elephants!
Addo Elephant Park
Or you could get ready for a day trip to the Gamtoos Valley, also known as the “pantry of the Eastern Cape”. There are many scenic routes you can take to this stunning location. The average distance for a round-trip journey from PE is about 200km.
The Nelson Mandela Splash Festival
The Splash Festival is an annual event that takes place on Hobie Beach. It attracts tourist from far and wide. It features live music, DJ’s and entertainment for the whole family. Kids can enjoy a range of activities. Families can watch the fireworks display at night and be entertained by Easter egg hunts and guest performers.
You can participate in or watch various sporting events. They may include wrestling, surfing and beach volleyball. Throngs of tourists and locals alike flock to this festival every year. During this festival, the streets and beaches of Port Elizabeth teem with life.
Prices of flights to Port Elizabeth tend to go up during this time, so book flights online as soon as you can to avoid disappointment.