Port Elizabeth
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 33 56.097 E 025 35.100 | pop. 1.1 million | elevation 39 m/128 ft

Port Elizabeth, commonly referred to as PE, is one of the country’s largest cities and has some of the country’s safest and most beautiful city beaches that can be enjoyed year-round. The center of this haphazardly planned industrial city has suffered from urban flight and lack of upkeep in the past, and while many attractions have moved out to the safer and more modern suburbs such as Humewood, the downtown area is verging on a revival.

The greater Port Elizabeth area, encompassing the surrounding towns and township was officially named Nelson Mandela Bay to commemorate President Nelson Mandela and the pivotal role the surrounding townships played during the anti-apartheid struggle.

Red Location Museum

Red Location Museum is unlike any other museum that you have seen. Named for the first black township of Port Elizabeth, the Red Location became a focal point in the struggle against apartheid. It was the birthplace and home to many anti-apartheid leaders and also the site of the first MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe) cell, the former military wing of the ANC. The history and memory of the Red Location as a site of resistance and resilience is today represented by a dramatic museum and community center located in the heart of the township. The museum's unconventional design is based on the work of Andreas Huyssen and his concept of weaving memory and history into our understanding of lived urban spaces. The result is highly experiential. Wander through the 12 Memory Boxes, 6-meter-by-6-meter rusted exhibition spaces that each represents a specific event. The stories in each space conflict and intertwine, yet taken as a whole attempt to reconstruct how human memory works. Unlike other museums that displace history from its origins and place it in polished buildings in city centers far away from the communities they are supposed to represent, the museum serves as an art center and community space and is a continual work in progress to rejuvenate and develop the township.

To get there take the M4/Settlers Way 6 km north towards the N2/Gramhamstown/Cape Town. Do not take the N2 exit ramps, but continue straight onto Burman Rd toward the traffic lights. Turn left on Baxter Rd, left on Grahamstown Rd and then an immediate right on the ramp to Ferguson Rd. Turn right on Singaphi St/Ave C and then right on Olof Palme. It's the biggest building around, you can't miss it.


South End Museum

South End Museum stands as a site of collective memory of a once-bustling neighborhood that fell victim to the infamous Group Areas Act during apartheid. Between 1965 and 1975, the coloured and Indian populations of South End were forcibly removed from their homes and most of the buildings in the area were flattened. The museum is small but rich in history with poignant exhibits on the Khoikhoi culture, Indian immigration to Port Elizabeth, and the struggle of area residents against the apartheid legislation, which displaced them from their homes. The museum is also the start of the Heritage Trail, a walking tour that takes you through the South End and past the few historical and religious buildings that were not demolished. Pamphlets for self-guided tours or information about guided tours are available at the museum.


Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum is a respectable two-building art gallery at the entrance to St. George's Park. One building is dedicated to animal-inspired art collected from all over the world. The other has beautiful large-format paintings from contemporary South African artists, as well as a smaller gallery that features mostly portraits. The museum is also open on the first Sunday of every month from 9am-2pm during Art in the Park, when St. George's transforms into an open-air gallery and flea market.


Donkin Reserve

Donkin Reserve is the central focus of historical Port Elizabeth. The hilltop park was declared an open public space in perpetuity by former Cape Colony Governor Sir Rufane Donkin in the mid-1800s. In its center, he erected a stone pyramid in honor of his beloved wife, Elizabeth, after whom the city is named. The lighthouse was built in 1861 and overlooks much of the city and the harbor below. It now serves as a small museum and the tourism information office. It is also a good place to start a walking tour along the Donkin Heritage Trail to explore the city center's historical buildings and appreciate its bygone beauty. Maps of the walking tour are available at the tourism office.


Bay World

Bay World is a huge amalgamation of exhibits covering local, natural and marine history, attached to an aquarium with a reptile house and daily seal and penguin shows (11am and 3pm). The museum feels very old school, but the array of things to look at and the corny paleontological mockups make the complex fun for all ages.


St George's Park

St George's Park is the oldest of Port Elizabeth's parks and is popular for picnicking and games of cricket. The St George's Park Swimming Baths have a large municipal swimming pool and diving board. The park also has some nice walking trails shaded by large and leafy trees.


The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk for better or for worse, is one of Port Elizabeth's main attractions. The huge Cape Cod-style complex is built around a small lagoon and features a fun park, 24-hour casino and a large choice of shopping and restaurants.


Watersports

Port Elizabeth is known for having some of the cleanest city beaches in the country and with over 40 kilometers of protected coastline stretching the length of Algoa Bay, you are guaranteed a good spot in the sand. The Indian Ocean's relatively warm waters (18-21°C/64-70°F in the summer and 14-19°C/57-66°F during winter) make it an ideal place to swim, catch the surf or enjoy other water-based sports.


NuMetro Cinemas

NuMetro Cinemas is located in the Boardwalk complex.


Watersports

Kings Beach

The wide sands of Kings Beach, just south of the harbor, draw decent crowds and are patrolled by professional lifeguards.


Hobie Beach

The wide sands of Hobie Beach in Humewood draw decent crowds and are patrolled by professional lifeguards.


Pollack Beach

Travel farther south towards Pollack Beach in Summerstrand for a less crowded beach outing.


Surf Centre

Surf Centre can gear you up to take on the city's many prime surf spots. Lessons can easily be arranged and students get discounts on rental. The Pipe, just south of Shark Rock Pier at Pollack Beach, is the most popular surf in town. You can also head to Cape Recife to ride the Wildside, one of the area's better curls.


Pro Dive

Pro Dive offers diving charters, shore entry dives, and equipment rental for you to explore the bay's colorful coral reefs and many shipwrecks. The cliffs and caves that surround the St Croix Island marine reserve and its two small neighbor islands make for great diving and come with the bonus of catching a glimpse of the jackass penguins that call the island home. PADI certification courses are also offered from their dive center in Walmer.


Tours

Imvelaphi Safaris

Imvelaphi Safaris is an award-winning tour company registered with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and specializes in guided safaris and nature sites. They offer day safaris and tours to Addo Elephant National Park, Tsitsikamma National Park, Mountain Zebra National Park and the Thomas Baines Nature Reserve.


Calabash Tours

Calabash Tours is accredited by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa and is well established in the Port Elizabeth tourism industry. They are all about getting away from the tourist circuit and showing you how average people in this area live. They offer day trips to Addo Elephant National Park, a Real City Tour that includes a visit to the community-run school that is partially funded by your payment for the tour, and a good shebeen tour in the nearby township of New Brighton.


Wezandla Gallery & Craft Centre

Wezandla Gallery & Craft Centre is fully stocked with pieces from over 150 local craftsmen who create all sorts of curios, artwork, jewelry and artifacts. They are certified as a Fair Trade organization and work with artisans supported by the Vital Voices African Artisans Export Development Program selling hand-beaded AIDS pins, the proceeds of which go directly to women affected by HIV/AIDS.


Art in the Park

Art in the Park takes over St George's Park every first and last Sunday of each month when artists and crafters display their wares in an open-air gallery and market.


The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk will keep you busy for the better part of a day with its range of clothing and curio shops, but the best of these may be the Craft Workshop, an indoor market of fine souvenirs made by local craftspeople. Among the selection are handmade leather purses, jewelry and African drums.


Budget

Lungile Lodge

Lungile Lodge is a large log cabin-styled lodge and backpacker favorite. It's got a spacious hangout area with a pool table, swimming pool in back and is just three blocks from the beach. Surfboards and boogie boards are available for guest use and the staff can organize a variety of tours and activities.


Kings Beach Backpackers

Kings Beach Backpackers is one of the longest established backpackers in town, which means it's had a while to perfect a relaxed and homey atmosphere four blocks from the beach. Its full kitchen and braai area are available for self-catering and the small travel centre can organize overland safaris, as well as local tours and activities.


Hippo Backpackers

Hippo Backpackers is a modern and cool backpackers and one of your best options in Port Elizabeth. Rooms here are standard and small, but the multiple common areas, spacious backyard with swimming pool, braai, and two kitchens more than make up for it.


1 Cora Terrace

1 Cora Terrace is a spacious and clean backpackers with ample hangout areas, including a swimming pool and braai in the back courtyard, two large kitchens and a bar with a pool table. The owner, Johan, is a friendly and laidback guy who will make you feel right at home.


Jikeleza Lodge

Jikeleza Lodge is a perfectly adequate backpackers. Rooms are clean and cheap. There is a backyard for camping, a TV room and a shared kitchen.


Port Elizabeth Backpackers

Port Elizabeth Backpackers is run out of the home of a motherly character who loves her cats and her barky little dog. It's not a place to go if you're looking for a good hangout scene and the neighborhood is not recommended for late-night strolls, but it's sufficient if you need a place to crash.


Mid-range

Eltham Lodge

Eltham Lodge is a neat, clean and simple guesthouse in a quiet residential area of Humewood. Rooms have mini-fridges, coffee and tea, and the house is a short drive to the beach, and popular restaurants and bars.


Conifer Beach House

Conifer Beach House is a hidden gem when it comes to guesthouses in town. Don't be fooled by the exterior - inside there are seven luxurious and private en suite rooms equipped with their own kitchenettes and small patios that open up into the surrounding gardens. There is one family unit that can comfortably accommodate four people and extra beds are available on request. The included breakfasts are better than what you would get at most restaurants.


Langerry Holiday Flats

Langerry Holiday Flats manages four separate buildings near the beach in the Humewood neighborhood. They cater to organized groups and the budget crowd with dated but clean, single and double bedroom, self-catering apartments.


Top-end

The Beach Hotel

The Beach Hotel is a medium-sized hotel of pretty, updated rooms, some of which have partial or full sea views. The hotel is one of only a few up-market accommodations just across the street from the beach, and Ginger, one of its three restaurants, is one of the better eateries in town.


Singa Lodge

Singa Lodge is a luxuriously exotic hideaway in Summerstrand. Its 12 suites are huge and fantastically decorated with African, Asian and Moroccan influences; bathroom fixtures are sculptural and showers are open-air. The hotel grounds are intimate and include a restaurant, bar and gym. The beach is just two blocks away.


King Edward Hotel

King Edward Hotel is an elegant and sophisticated hotel perched above the Donkin Reserve. At the time of research it was undergoing renovations to be restored to its formerly regal self.


Blue Waters Café

Blue Waters Café is a beachside restaurant with a good selection of seafood and steaks on their veranda overlooking Hobie Beach. You can't beat the location and attentive service.


Ginger

Ginger has a delectably varied and creative menu that is heavy on fresh veggies. The dining room is bright, white and beachy, but a spot on the terrace with wide views of the beach makes for a superior meal. Bookings are essential for dinner, when the restaurant gets packed with a dressier crowd.


Coco de Mer Restrobar

Coco de Mer Restrobar is a sleek, voguish restaurant and bar with a long list of offerings that range from exotic meats to Swiss fondue and build-your-own raclette. Later in the night, the restaurant gets more loungy as people file into the adjoining club and the lacquered tables become the site of intimate chats.


The Mediterranean Seafood House

The Mediterranean Seafood House is a popular seafood restaurant that serves well-priced sushi and fish specialties in a dining room and balcony, both of which offer prime views of the ocean. Patrons can often watch dolphins and whales play in the surf as they dine.


Café Ruwach Art & Craft Gallery

Café Ruwach Art & Craft Gallery is a surprisingly colorful alternative restaurant and gallery space. Dishes are as creative as the surroundings and some of the most flavorful to be found in Port Elizabeth. Local painters and glass blowers are promoted in the gallery. Dinner by reservation only.


Fushin Sushi & Eastern Cuisine

Fushin Sushi & Eastern Cuisine is notably lacking in Eastern cuisine but still is a lively sushi restaurant with fresh fish and polished presentation. Port Elizabeth is not known for its sushi, but here the basics are done well and the staff is very friendly. Try the large bowls of miso soup.


34 South

34 South is one of the more popular restaurants in the Boardwalk for its extensive seafood menu, excellent selection of wines and tasty deli morsels. It's a decent place to grab a bite and they have outdoor seating on a deck overlooking the pond.


Barney's Tavern

Barney's Tavern is one of the city's more popular beachside pubs with live music every night. There are a number of kegs on tap, which you can enjoy on their large veranda overlooking the beach. Their restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Gondwana Café

Gondwana Café is a second-story cocktail bar and club located across the street from the beach with House and R&B DJs that play until late. Sundays are Jazz nights, which draw a large and well-dressed crowd. Food is available but nothing to come hungry for.


Captain's Bar and Grill

Captain's Bar and Grill is a raucous and messy student hangout where there's always something on. Karaoke on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights draw a remarkable weekday crowd bent on proving their mettle with a microphone, but pop in any time of the day or night and you'll find a few folks pouring one out at the tiki bar.


Café Zanzibar

Café Zanzibar is half café, half bar and consistently one of the most bumping places on Parliament Street. DJs spin most nights and there is usually an open mic night at least once a week. Happy hour here lasts for four hours (3pm-7pm) so you can come as early and stay as late as you want.


Ekaya African Jazz

Ekaya African Jazz is a beer-only friendly establishment filled with picnic tables and TVs.


Shebeens

The PE townships are home to hundreds of thousands who support neighboring industrial cities in the Nelson Mandela Bay area. They're also packed with shebeens, where many of the township residents find a little liquid relief after a hard day's work. All of the shebeens below are located in New Brighton within a kilometer from each other.


Jeya's Jazz Corner

Jeya's Jazz Corner is a long-standing New Brighton shebeen that has some good Jazz on the weekends. This a good place to start the shebeen crawl - it is the easiest to find and most developed of the three.

To get there, take the M4/Settlers Way 6 km north toward N2/Gramhamstown/Cape Town. Do not take the N2 exit ramps, but continue straight onto Burman Rd toward the traffic lights. Turn left on Baxter Rd for two blocks and then left on Grahamstown Rd for two blocks and then right onto to Ferguson Rd. Continue on Ferguson Rd about 900 m.


Patido's Pub & Grub

Patido's Pub & Grub is a smaller cozy shebeen with cheap beer and food. There are no frills here - when you buy your beer you pay a deposit on the bottle that you can get back when you return it and if you want a glass to pour your beer into you'll have to rent it, and in doing so will lose any street cred you thought you had.


Penny's Place

Penny's Place is off the beaten path and not a place that any traveler would happen upon, you have to really look to find it. For that reason, the locals may be surprised to see you there, but will welcome you and if you're willing they will talk your ear off over liters of beer. This is a real shebeen - you buy the beer from the guy in the living room next door.


Boardwalk Casino

Boardwalk Casino has nearly 800 slot machines and 23 tables to keep gamblers entertained 24/7 and 365 days a year. There are two bars that separately cater to both high rollers and laid-back tourists. The sports bar gets packed with raucous, beer-drinking fans.


Theatre

Port Elizabeth Opera House

Port Elizabeth Opera House was built in 1892 and today is one of the only remaining examples of a true Victorian theater in Africa. It hosts a wide array of operas, musicals, ballet and cabarets by local and international troupes.

Check their website for current showings. Most tickets are available through Computicket (www.computicket.com).


Cinemas

Uptown Theatres

Uptown Theatres has a discerning selection of films located just across from St Georges Park. Go on Tuesday for discounted tickets (R15).


Nu Metro Theatres

Nu Metro Theatres, located in the Boardwalk, is a large multiplex with a wide selection of new releases and box office hits.


Sports

Nelson Mandela Stadium

Nelson Mandela Stadium is the newly constructed R1.7 billion multi-purpose structure that was built to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


St George's Park Cricket Ground

St George's Park Cricket Ground is the second oldest cricket club in the country and home of Eastern Province Cricket. Tickets for games can be bought on their website or through Computicket (www.computicket.com).