Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

Port Elizabeth offers visitors a choice of stunning beaches, interesting museums and memorials, award-winning wildlife destinations, cultural and historical nuggets, and some of the friendliest folk in the country.

Port Elizabeth – aka the Windy City, Ibhayi (‘the bay’ in isiXhosa) or the Friendly City – is a coastal hub in the Eastern Cape where locals proudly proclaim that everything lies within 15 minutes’ drive of the airport.

It is one of the largest cities in South Africa, and lies 770km east of Cape Town, where it forms part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, which links the city with the inland industrial towns of Uitenhage and Despatch.

Algoa Bay, the coastal strip of Nelson Mandela Bay, incorporates a 40km stretch of beaches, with protected areas for swimming at Kings Beach, Hobie Beach, Humewood Beach (which has world-class Blue Flag-status), Pollock Beach and Denville Beach. Fishing, surfing, scuba diving, snorkelling and sailing are enjoyed at less-populated spots such as Wildside, Sardinia Bay, Blue Horizon Bay, Bluewater Bay, Beachview and Schoenmakerskop.

Historical and cultural icons worth visiting in Port Elizabeth include the Red Location Museum, a museum in New Brighton township that portrays ‘both the horrors of institutionalised racism and the heroic efforts of the anti-apartheid movement’; the South African Air Force Museum; the Donkin Reserve, proclaimed by city founder Sir Rufane Donkin, where birds, benches, walking paths, an opera house, a lighthouse and a memorial may be seen; and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum and Prince Alfred's Guard Memorial, both located in St George's Park – the oldest park in Port Elizabeth and home to the St George's cricket oval.

Port Elizabeth is also home to Route 67 – a collection of 67 art pieces celebrating the years Nelson Mandela devoted to public life. It is a mix of visual arts, urban design and heritage, showcasing old Victorian churches; terraced cottages on Donkin Street – where massive silver pipes catch the famous winds of Port Elizabeth and make music; a lighthouse that once guided ships into Algoa Bay; and a large pyramid built by Donkin in memory of his wife.

There is also a large metal cut-out of Nelson Mandela symbolically leading South Africans to vote in the country’s first democratic election.

While in the Windy City, you cannot pass the opportunity to visit the city’s multipurpose, multi-tiered Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, an impressive legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Nelson Mandela Bay prides itself on offering the Big Seven of the animal kingdom. In addition to the Big Five – lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard and elephant – visitors to the nearby 180 000ha Addo Elephant National Park can see the great white shark and southern right whale in the bay waters off the park.

The city is a outdoor-lover’s paradise, so don’t miss out on boat cruises; diving opportunities; a visit to the Seaview Predator Park; an excursion to Bayworld (which incorporates an oceanarium, museum and snake park); or a trip to the lush forests of the Kragga Kamma Game Park, where white rhino, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, nyala, bontebok, lechwe and other animals roams freely.

Topping the fun stakes is the Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex, where shops, eateries, an amphitheatre and casino keep patrons entertained for hours.

Also worth a visit is a 52m tower with 204 steps leading to the top, known as the Campanile Memorial, a monument that stands sentinel over the Port Elizabeth harbour. It was built in 1923 to honour the arrival of 1820 British Settlers.

Another memento of Settler influence is No 7 Castle Hill, built in 1830. This is one of the oldest surviving Settler cottages in the city and encapsulates domestic life of 19th-century middle class, complete with cobbled courtyard and an operational well.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

The centrally situated Port Elizabeth Airport is within easy reach from all parts of the city. Domestic flights connect Port Elizabeth with larger domestic centres such as Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The N2 coastal arterial route takes you to the city by road from Cape Town in the south or Durban in the north.

Best time to visit

Summer holiday time during December and January is most popular since the city comes alive with planned fun-in-the-sun activities. Beaches are less crowded and the weather is as good just before or after the high season if crowds are not your thing.

Around the area

The award-winning luxury Shamwari Game Reserve is the perfect destination for day visitors from Port Elizabeth to enjoy a game drive.

Tours to do

Addo Elephant National Park; the cultural hub of Grahamstown; and Jeffreys Bay, famous for its waves.

Get around

Self-drive is recommended.

Length of stay

A long weekend would be sufficient to explore the beaches, wildlife, places of cultural interest and golf courses.

Where to stay

A number of classy hotels line the waterfront; there are five-star game lodges at Addo and Shamwari; and township guest houses make an interesting departure from traditional accommodation options.

Need a Help for South Africa Visa?
We also provide Visa
Services to South Africa