Port Elizabeth

The Port Elizabeth Quick Travel Guide  

Why go?
Port Elizabeth or the ‘friendly city’ is a top seaside destination at the end of the picturesque Garden Route in South Africa. Beautiful beaches – great for swimming and water sports, fantastic wildlife spotting, good shopping, bars and restaurants and plenty of outdoor activities make it a fun place for all the family to visit.

Who for?
Port Elizabeth is mostly a family destination as there are lots of activities for people with children. It’s also a good place for couples with lots of waterfront bars and restaurants to enjoy and some great nearby safari resorts.

A good year round destination, like much of the and Eastern Cape, as summers are warm and sunny and winters are mild. Most popular time to visit is December – February (peak summer time), but we’d recommend visiting Port Elizabeth in March or April when the weather is still very good and beaches and hotels are less crowded.

How long?
We’d recommend 2-3 days in Port Elizabeth, which will give you time to chill on the beach, tour the historical and cultural areas, do some shopping and see some wildlife. There is of course plenty to do for longer in Port Elizabeth and the surrounding areas, but 2-3 days will give you a good taste of the friendly city.

Must see/do?

  • Donkin Heritage Trail – this takes in most of Port Elizabeth’s historical sights including the No 7 Castle Hill Museum and the Donkin Reserve, although it is advisable to walk this trail during the morning and always take care.

  • Kragga Kamma Game Park - spend a few hours on a game drive.

  • Spend a day at King’s Beach - great beach for all the family.

  • Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World - take a stroll around the shops and the lake.

  • Sundowners on the waterfront – we like Algoa Bay Yacht Club for great views of Algoa Bay.

  • Take a Port Elizabeth Township Tour and explore South Africa's colourful past and present.

  • Head to trendy Richmond Hill and enjoy all this Port Elizabeth area has to offer

Port Elizabeth Full Travel Guide (for those who want a little more info!)

Port Elizabeth Overview
The Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth and its surrounding areas are known collectively as Nelson Mandela Bay, named in honour of the Eastern Cape’s most famous son. Port Elizabeth itself is not a large town but those wanting a truly South African experience are well catered for in what is known as South Africa’s friendly city.

Set along the beautiful shores of Algoa Bay at the end of the famous Garden Route, Port Elizabeth has a wide choice of excellent restaurants, many situated along the picturesque waterfront, where you can enjoy cuisine from all parts of the world. The nightlife in Port Elizabeth is varied and vibey and there are plenty of activities to keep the whole family amused, including a great range of water sports, excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, museums and shopping.

How to get to Port Elizabeth
By air
Port Elizabeth is home to its own airport – Port Elizabeth Airport. Known locally as the "ten minute airport", it is just a short drive to the city centre and the waterfront. Port Elizabeth’s airport is serviced by a number of airlines including British Airways, South African Airways and the low-cost airline Kulula, and all offer flights to various places within South Africa as well as across the African continent. For those arriving from further afield into ’s OR Tambo airport or International, Port Elizabeth is very well connected to both these cities with several flights departing every day.

By car
Another great way to get to Port Elizabeth is to drive from Cape Town or Johannesburg. Driving from Cape Town is a fantastic way to see what the delightful Garden Route has to offer and taking a few days or even a few weeks to explore the wonderful Garden Route coastline is well worth it.

Drive from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth and you will experience the wonders of an entirely different but no less striking landscape with a route taking through the vast and scenic Karoo – also well worth a visit. International visitors could also choose to fly into the exciting city of Durban and travel by car down the Wild Coast to Port Elizabeth.

Hiring a car and exploring Port Elizabeth and other beautiful and Eastern Cape towns such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Oudtshoorn and Jeffrey’s Bay makes for an excellent holiday and would be our recommended way of seeing the Garden Route and Eastern Cape.

When to go
With its mild Mediterranean climate the Eastern Cape’s Port Elizabeth is a fantastic holiday destination all year round, even in winter outdoor activities can still be enjoyed and temperatures rarely drop below double figures during the day.

The most popular time to visit Port Elizabeth tends to be between December and February, when temperatures are generally around 25°C, it is fairly dry and many people flock to the coast to enjoy the numerous water sports and other activities on offer, it can get a little busy at this time of year.

March and April are often a little quieter, but still enjoy great weather and are a great time to visit Port Elizabeth. The winter months of July and August are generally very quiet and are a great time to go if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the peak season and you can often experience very pleasant weather. It is worth booking accommodation in advance during peak and holiday seasons (Dec – Feb), but on the whole any time of year is a good time to visit Port Elizabeth and indeed the whole Garden Route.

Things to do in Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth has a wealth of things to do and most of them are great for children and adults alike.

Beaches and Water Sports
Port Elizabeth is lucky enough to enjoy a temperate climate and as a result of this is a Mecca for water sports enthusiasts.

The calm, clean waters and breezy conditions mean that sailing, surfing and wind surfing are extremely popular (although you may need your own gear), Kite surfing is also a big favourite in Port Elizabeth - lessons are available for both beginners and more advanced kite surfers and scuba diving is also possible all year round with plenty to see from ship wrecks and coral reefs, teeming with small marine life to larger fish and sharks.  

A day at the beach is a must in Port Elizabeth – we like King’s Beach for a family day out as it has a swimming pool, playground, paddling pools and a mini golf course. Hobie Beach is also a good Port Elizabeth beach and is good for swimming – it’s just opposite the Boardwalk Entertainment Centre, so there are plenty of places to eat and shop nearby. Surfers should head to Summerstrand where there are decent waves.

A whale watching or fishing trip are also a great way to keep the kids entertained.

Cultural and Historical
Lovers of history, art and theatre have many options.

Follow in the footsteps of the 1820’s settlers on the Donkin Heritage Trail, which takes in many of Port Elizabeth’s historical areas and sites. The Donkin Heritage Trail takes you through the picturesque Donkin Reserve, Port Elizabeth’s Market Square and past the historical City Hall, Library and to the famous No. 7 Castle Hill Museum – an original 1820’s Settler Cottage which showcases the way of life of the European settlers to this region. We would advise if you plan to walk this trail, that you go during the morning and in a group. 

Port Elizabeth also has many beautiful landscaped parks such as the Settlers Park, which are great for gentle strolls and bird watching and the Manville Open Air Theatre in St George’s Park as well as Fort Frederick in Central Port Elizabeth are well worth an explore for a short afternoon or morning activity, although we would recommend never going here alone and to always take care.

There is no shortage of museums and art galleries in Port Elizabeth. Try a visit to the iconic Bayworld museum complex with a variety of exhibits such as an aquarium and reptile park or spend a morning taking in Port Elizabeth’s more artistic side in Richmond Hill.  

Another truly South African experience that should not be missed is a township tour. Nelson Mandela Bay Townships exude tradition, history and culture and offer a great insight into the many facets of life in South Africa. The Red Location Museum also provides an interesting and moving insight into South Africa's Apartheid past. 

Nature and Wildlife
Those passionate about nature do not have to venture far from Port Elizabeth, with some of the world’s most luxurious Safari Lodges a stone’s throw away and the chance to see South Africa’s ‘Big 5’, Port Elizabeth is an excellent base from which to see South Africa’s diverse wildlife.

Take a day trip to Addo Elephant National Park from Port Elizabeth (just over an hour’s drive) or for something a little closer spend a family day at Kragga Kamma Game Park, which is just a 10 minute drive from the city and has a great range of animals to see and you can drive yourself around or take an organised game drive – whichever you prefer.

Bird watching is also a popular activity in Port Elizabeth and the Settler’s Park is a great place to do this – there are even guided bird watching walks every first Saturday and third Thursday of the month from the main car park – but get there early as they start at 08h00 in the summer and 08h30 in the winter.

Whale and dolphin watching are a great way to spend some time seeing the local wild life in Port Elizabeth and fishing trips also offer a great way to keep the kids entertained on your Port Elizabeth holiday.

Golfers are also in their element, as Port Elizabeth offers some of the finest golf courses in South Africa including Humewood, a challenging course which has played host to the South African Open four times. For a more relaxed but very enjoyable golfing experience the Walmer Golf Club, one of South Africa’s oldest golf clubs is great for a game or two.

Eating out and Nightlife in Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth has lots of great restaurants, cafes and bars and it is easy to spend a fun night out here. Head to Hobie Beach and the Boardwalk and try some of the bars and restaurants here on the waterfront or sample some of the great seafood and steak restaurants Port Elizabeth has to offer – we like Shanna’s for its excellent prawns.

Accommodation in Port Elizabeth
There is definitely a good range of accommodation available in Port Elizabeth. Whether you are looking for top-class hotels, luxury apartments or cosy B&Bs on your trip to Port Elizabeth there is accommodation to suit every budget.

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