Port Elizabeth is a GREAT city – the weather all year-round is excellent, the historical architecture is beautiful, there is a burgeoning restaurant scene, the centre of the city is slowly re-emerging, the beaches rival some of the best on the country’s coastline, and Port Elizabeth’s hotels and guest houses are really top-notch.
Best of all the city’s small enough to easily get around and navigate…
We give you the low-down on what to eat, sleep and do in South Africa’s Friendly City.
Climb the lighthouse at the Donkin Reserve
The Donkin Reserve functions as the heart of Port Elizabeth. It’s perched up on a rise above the harbour, its lawns host to numerous public art installations, and the famous duo – the pyramid and lighthouse.Pay a tiny entrance fee and you can climb to the top of the lighthouse, built in 1861 and still attached to the lightkeeper’s cottage that now serves as a Nelson Mandela Bay tourism office (where you can pick up a pass to a number of the city’s attractions and book guided tours etc.).
The views from up top are worth the steep wooden stepladders. Look out for the Cenotaph, at least seven churches, the famous Donkin Street Houses, the Grand Hotel, the newly refurbished King Edward Hotel, and an inspiring skyline.
Walk the Donkin Heritage Trail & Richmond Hill Trail
With the booklet produced by the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth in your hands, for a small fee, you have access to historical accounts of the over 50 buildings on both these self-guided walking tours through central Port Elizabeth (get your copy from the tourism office at the Donkin Reserve).
You can cycle, drive or walk the tour, and shorten it to fit your schedule as, done slowly, it can take as long as two days.
Do Route 67
You’ll stumble across many of these 67 public art installations on the Donkin Heritage Trail itself, so they do overlap a little. But Route 67, in honour of the 67 years of service during Nelson Mandela’s life, is exciting in its own right, ducking under fly-overs and up staircases, to end at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum.
Visit Sardinia Bay and Schoenmakerskop on the Ibhayi Sunshine Saunter
Sardinia Bay and Schoenmakerskop are two little beachside villages around the peninsula from Nelson Mandela Bay. They’re wild and dune-laden in a way that the swimming beaches of Hobie, Kings and Humewood are not. Visit them as part of the Ibhayi Sunshine Saunter (pick up a brochure from the tourism office).
Swim at three blue-flag beaches
King’s Beach is among three of the city’s central beaches awarded blue flag status over several years. The other two are Humewood and Hobie (Hobie may have fallen off the list for 2017 but this is sure to change).
What you don’t know is that each of them stretches for miles (they’re big beaches) and they provide effortless swimming and beachside surf watching. They’re also interconnected – King’s becomes Humewood, which becomes Hobie, separated by Shark Rock Pier.
Other top spots you shouldn’t miss
Cape Recife lighthouse and reserve, on the tip of the peninsula (drive along Marine Drive until you reach the reserve); the Sacramento Trail, a beautiful, easy 8 km coastal trail connecting Schoenmakerskop and Sardinia Bay; the Kragga Kamma Game Park, and Uitenhage.
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Take in a restaurant on Richmond Hill
Richmond Hill, and its Victorian cottages, is PE’s version of Melville in Johannesburg, and Stanley Street is its heart. The vibey road over several blocks, up on the hill alongside PE’s centre, is a hive of restaurants offering diverse and interesting menus, and surprisingly good food. If Yiayias is closed try Salt or Flava.
Take tea at Brioche in Walmer
You’ll struggle to find a parking space at Brioche, even during the week. Brioche is a firm favourite. Their coffee is excellent, there is always a good vibe, and their muffins rival only the banting items on their menu. Saturdays are really busy, so get there early.
Sip juice at the Grass Roof Café in Lovemore Park
This café, set on a smallholding close to Sardinia Bay, literally has grass growing on its roof and offers the ‘green’ crowd vegan, gluten-free and banting options from produce grown on the grounds. There’s a great play area for children, whilst parents chill. The salads, coffee, beers and milkshakes are all worth writing home about. It’s busy and popular.
Try the chips at St George’s Park coffee shop
Attached to St George’s Park Swimming Bath is a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop that makes some of the best ‘slap’ chips (French fries) we’ve had in a while!
Feast on Bratwurst at the food truck at Sardinia Bay
The dune-laden parking area at Sardinia Bay is home to a food truck selling German-style sausages. Called the Wurst Wagen this mobile van is parked here over weekends and on public holidays serving up a variety of sausage and hot dogs. Num.
The Valley Artisan Food Market & Food Truck Friday
The first Saturday of every month the Valley Market, in the newly renovated Old Tramways building, dishes up the whole bang shoot – coffee, music, vibes, chocolate, desserts, fresh produce, clothing, hand crafted jewellery, honey, sweets and meat. Food Truck Friday is a celebration of food, friends, entertainment and fun, with the emphasis on food trucks. Look out for the next event. Both revolve around good food.
S L E E P
Admiralty Beach House
Sumptuous accommodation only metres from the beach in Summerstrand. See more or Book it at Admiralty Beach House
Island Way Villa
Beautiful décor right up on the ridge above the sea, with incredible views. See more at Island Way Villa
One of our favourite venues with stitched silks, handcrafted ceramic tiles, rugs and artwork that make for timeless spacious suites. Book it now at Singa Lodge
We love the privacy and affordable luxury of this venue. See more at The Plantation
Lauricedale Country House
Shabby chic country living in Theescombe at Lauricedale Country House
The Grand Hotel
Set alongside the Donkin Reserve, just across from the King Edward Hotel, The Grand Hotel is another historical gem.
Guest House on Irvine
Victorian historical cottage-style hospitality in Richmond Hill at Guest House on Irvine
Centrally placed, prettily decorated, and affordable, book now to stay at A&A Guesthouse.