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Port Elizabeth is a beachfront city in the Eastern Cape Province, looking out over the beautiful deep blue Algoa bay. The capital of the Sunshine Coast, it is situated on a glorious unspoilt coastline with magnificent beaches and mountain scenery.
As one of the country’s main cities, it is a major seaport and the second oldest city in South Africa. The Sunshine Coast starts here and stretches 300 kms along the eastern seaboard of South Africa to East London.Three rivers run through Port Elizabeth, the landscape is lush and green.
The British built a stone fort overlooking the bay in 1799. Port Elizabeth was founded soon after in 1820 by British settlers, the town grew around the fort, and there were 100 houses by the1830’s.
The oceanic climate is subtropical with light rain throughout the year. Winters are cool and mild, and summers warm. It is a perfect family holiday destination all year, sunny and temperate.
What to Do
Port Elizabeth has coastal and mountain scenery, and is famous for beautiful beaches. The wide golden beaches, vast stretches of sand and dunes, clear warm water and calm sea of Algoa Bay make it an amazing water sport destination.
Three beaches have Blue Flag status. Humewood, Hobie and King’s Beach have the prestigious award for pristine conditions and a protected environment. South Africa is the only country outside Europe with Blue Flag accreditation. Humewood is the only beach in Africa with Gold Status.
The many sport facilities include swimming, boating, fishing, surfing and sand boarding. Long beach walks can be taken along the 40 kms of exquisite beaches around the bay. There are consistently good surfing conditions.
There are exciting diverse diving sites in the warm protected waters, with beautiful reefs, colourful varieties of fish, soft coral species and 18th century shipwrecks.
Whales, seals and dolphins can be seen all year as there is a huge variety of marine life in the calm bay. St Croix Marine Reserve is a small island in the bay.
The rugged coastal and mountain scenery is a place for adventure activities like rock climbing, gorge gliding, abseiling, paragliding, quad, mountain and dune biking. Game drives and river cruises can be booked.There are incredible scenic drives along the gorgeous coastline, with coves, rock pools, lush countryside and tea gardens.
The Port Elizabeth Golf Club opened in 1890 and has a 18 hole course.
Port Elizabeth is an elegant Historical city with some of the finest Victorian, Edwardian, Cape Dutch and Art Nouveau architecture in South Africa. There are beautiful colonial buildings with intricate stonework, wrought iron and stained glass.
The Castle Hill Museum from 1829 is the oldest surviving Victorian settler’s cottage.
The lighthouse at Cape Recife was built in 1861 to warn passing ships of the deadly spine of rocks at the Thunderbolt Reef, and is in a misty nature reserve, well worth visiting.
The splendid colonial City Hall was built in 1862.
The Main Library building is an example of Victorian Gothic architecture.
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum exhibits a superb collection of art, craft and Design. The ceramics, beadwork, textiles and paintings depict the rich culture and traditions of the Eastern Cape.
The rich heritage is a result of the diverse history and culture, combining Khoisan, Xhosa, British and Dutch influences.
The Boardwalk Waterfront Complex and Entertainment World, is a stunningly beautiful unique development unlike anything else in South Africa, overlooking the beaches. It is in an exquisite setting, around a manmade lake, with restaurants, hotels, cinemas and entertainment for children.The architecture of the complex is a graceful Romantic Victorian style, with a red and white facade, in harmony with the refined architecture of the city.
Port Elizabeth has numerous suburban shopping centres, upmarket boutiques and craft markets throughout the city. The premier fashionable shopping mall is Greenacres. A new gigantic sophisticated shopping mall is the Baywest, with everything necessary under one roof.
Port Elizabeth is one of the best sailing venues in the world . The Algoa Bay Yacht Club opened in the 1880’s and is situated on the Dom Pedro Jetty in the harbour and hosts many international events.
A large internationally famous Flight School is in Port Elizabeth due to the good flying conditions.
Where to Eat
Seafood is the local speciality, and the surrounding farming region provides the wonderful food. Port Elizabeth has dozens of excellent restaurants, like Fushin, Vovo Telo and Hacklewood.
Where to Stay
There are luxury hotels and holiday resorts all along the beachfront. Guest houses include b&b’s, self catering, and elegant manor houses. Port Elizabeth has an enormous selection of delightful accommodation available.
Car: Port Elizabeth is on the N2, 770 kms from Cape Town.
The road continues northeast to East London and eventually Durban, and to the west is the scenic Garden Route.
The R72 is a straight route along the coast to East London and the R75 goes inland to the Karoo.
Air:International flights are to Cape Town or Durban, from there domestic flights connect to Port Elizabeth.
Did You Know
Port Elizabeth is often called the Friendly City, due to the extraordinarily laid back, casual, fun loving atmosphere and sociable population.
In 1488 Bartholomew Diaz, the Portuguese explorer, was the first European to land at Algoa Bay, and it became a main stop off point with fresh water for ships sailing to the East.
In 1799 the British built Fort Frederick armed with cannons and muskets, on a strategic site on the bay, as a garrison in the Napoleonic wars, but it never fired a shot.
The British settlers arrived to develop farming in the area. Citrus, pineapples, bananas, avocados, pawpaws, chicory and pecan nuts are some of the crops of the region, the food in Port Elizabeth is superb.
Port Elizabeth is the centre of the South African motor vehicle industry.
For those who are a little adventurous and enjoy the company of other travellers, you can decide to stay at a Backpackers. Often having to share a room with others as well as costs, it is incredibly inexpensive. Often the best choice for those who may be just passing through or will be occupied for the majority of their day. It comes with the most basic amenities and is often formed as part of a bar or similar establishment. Not recommended for those who want privacy, this is best suited for those who wouldn’t mind meeting various other interesting travellers.