Port Elizabeth might be regarded as Cape Town’s poorer cousin, and far less glamourous than Jozi, but it does have rather mild winters, which makes it a far more attractive option once winter’s cold sets in. In fact there are those who say that Port Elizabeth has more sunshine hours than any other city in South Africa (we’ll just cast a blind eye to the wind factor).
It’s also just down the road from St Francis Bay and Jeffreys Bay (but cheaper), and has access to plenty of swimming beaches and a beachfront lifestyle that is easy to access. And Port Elizabeth has loads of action-packed activities (in the bungi-jumping, sandboarding, adrenaline junkie vein).
So if you haven’t yet reached for your mouse to find the next low-cost flight out of your seat in to the slow city (slow as in ‘chilled’) then cast your eye over the list below for further impetus…
30 things you MUST do in Port Elizabeth in winter
1. Stroll a blue-flag beach – whilst beaches are without doubt one of the major reasons one heads to PE, it is an added bonus to know that two of them – Humewood and Kings beach – have blue-flag status (who says winter denies you a tan?)
2. Walk the promenade – several kilometres in length, the promenade takes you along the shores of the most popular beaches of the city – Humewood, Hobie and King’s beaches.
3. See elephants – and plenty of them – at Addo Elephant National Park, just an hour outside of Port Elizabeth.
4. Walk the Boardwalk at Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World – shopping, cinema, and restaurants around a man-made lake.
5. Take in a show at the Opera House – the oldest theatre in Africa
6. Stroll Sardinia Bay – a conservation area that allows dogs and horses, and attracts the African black oyster catcher
7. Sail the bay at sundown with the Algoa Bay Yacht Club on Wednesday evenings (but phone in advance).
8. See penguins and other sea birds at SAMREC, near the Cape Recife Lighthouse – the nonprofit gives refuge to sick or injured sea birds and provides guided tours. Go at feeding time – 14h30.
9. Visit Shamwari Private Game Reserve – for Big 5 viewing, close to PE.
10. Visit Kragga Kamma Game Reserve – it might be small, but it’s close by and you will spot buffalo, giraffe, zebra, bontebok and a group of hand-reared cheetah.
11. Walk Cape Recife Nature Reserve – a wilderness in the city.
12. Visit the Main Public Library – this beautiful, hisitorical building is worth exploring; find an info pamphlet at the main desk
13. Walk Route 67 – explore public art whilst wandering the historic heart of the city that includes the terraced cottages on Donkin Street, and the large pyramid at Donkin Square.
14. Walk the Donkin Heritage Trail – a 5 km trail, easy to do in half a day and a great vehicle to explore the historical part of the city.
15. When in Uitenhage, visit the VW AutoPavillion – the most fun you’ll have surrounded by volksies and micro buses. And it’s free.
16. St Mary’s Cemetery – St Mary’s, despite being rather neglected, has graves that date back to the 1820 Settlers – lots of history here.
17. Explore the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum (NMM Art Museum) – an impressive display of exhibits that include contemporary art, close to St George’s Park. It is also home to PE’s art school.
18. Richmond Hill Music Festival – in June every year, the suburb of Richmond hosts a feast of music across a number of street stages, the one day festival features big screens and beer tents and certain streets of the suburb are closed for the day.
19. Grahamstown’s annual National Arts Festival is only an hour and a half from PE, and the highlight of the arts calendar.
20. Stroll the Art in the Park weekly market – a craft market in St Georges Park on Sundays.
21. Explore the feather market Hall – used in the past to sell ostrich feathers; today an impressive, old building. The acquisition of a recent pipe organ heralds concerts.
22. Climb the Donkin lighthouse – the views from the top over the city are excellent, and the park perfect for picnics.
23. Get up close and personal with mohair – visit Uitenhage’s Hinterveld Mill and take a tour to discover how mohair and wool is made into blankets, scarves and throws.
24. Canoe 14 km up the Sunday’s River on the PPC Nukakamma Canoe Trail; see incredible bird life – there is also a one-day version of this trip.
25. Hike the Sacramento Trail – this child-friendly 8 km walk close to the seaside village of Schoenmakerskop (Schoenies) takes you past a cannon and through Sardinia Bay Marine and Nature Reserve.
26. Visit a museum – the Port Elizabeth Museum on the beachfront, the South End Museum, No 7 Castle Hill Museum, or the Donkin Reserve memorial.
27. Sandboard the Alexandria dune fields on the banks of the Sundays River near Port Elizabeth.
28. SUP (Stand Up Paddle) surf the waves of Noordhoek and Pollock beach.
29. Take a boat-based whale watching trip from PE’s harbour – you’re most likely to see southern right whales here in winter; but also look out for bottlenose dolphins.
30. Do the Guinea Fowl Trail – a suburban walk that follows the Baakens River, giving you access to a range of wild flowers, trees, water lillies, lizards, tortoises and water birds. Find the walk’s start in 3rd Avenue, Newton Park. You will need a car at the other end.