Known as "The Friendly City" or "The Windy City", Port Elizabeth occupies a 10-mile stretch along Algoa Bay. It was founded in 1820 to house British settlers (the Campanile Memorial was built in 1923 to commemorate this landing; there's a climb of 204 steps to the Observation Room, which offers magnificent views of the harbour and surrounding area below) and is now part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, along with Uitenhage and Despatch.
Lying on the south-east coast of the East Cape province and fringed by beautiful beaches, Port Elizabeth offers a wealth of options for travelers who like to raise their adrenaline levels. Cycling, quad biking and 4x4 trails are all great things to do on land. Off shore, there's surfing and kite surfing, kayaking, wreck diving, shark diving and deep-sea fishing.
To the west of Port Elizabeth is the Garden Route and the Sunshine Coast, Frontier Country and a million hectares of game reserves are to the east.
Port Elizabeth is the gateway to the Eastern Cape with all its fantastic parks and reserves. Go on a guided game drive of Addo-Schotia; this area is home to the densest populations of antelope, lion and elephant in South Africa. There's whale and dolphin watching near St Croix Island and, 18 miles outside of Port Elizabeth, the Lion Park. If you're up for it, there's skydiving and bungy jumping off Bloukrans Bridge too!
If all that physical activity gets too much, visit the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum at St George's Park, the South African Air Force Museum (situated on the southern side of Port Elizabeth Airport) and the Red Location Museum. Red Location is one of the oldest settled Black Townships of the city, getting its name from the rusted, corrugated iron barrack buildings. The museum tells the story of historical struggle in South Africa.
Port Elizabeth climate
Pretty much perfect, summer temperatures in Port Elizabeth range from 140 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures hover between 104 and 158 degrees. One of Port Elizabeth's nicknames is the "Windy City" and this refers to the frequency, rather than the strength, of the wind. The wind makes Port Elizabeth a fantastic destination for surfing.
Best Time to Fly to Port Elizabeth
There's no bad time to visit Port Elizabeth.
High season is December and January. Another peak time is April, when the Splash Festival takes place. It's a four-day festival popular with families and watersports enthusiasts.
May to August is, in general, low season in Port Elizabeth, however, this is when travelers, escaping very high summer temperatures back home, will visit the city.
Getting around Port Elizabeth
PE is easy to navigate, whether in a car or on foot. There's a public bus system but the main form of transport is the minibus taxi.
Port Elizabeth Travel Information
- St Croix Island, 12 miles from Port Elizabeth's harbour, is a popular scuba-diving site. Penguins and cormorants thrive there, as fishing is prohibited. To get the best possible visibility, go diving in the winter months. Visibility is between 26 and 49 feet.
- Port Elizabeth has heaps of surfing beaches but a short distance outside the city is Jeffrey's Bay, which is the host town for major surfing competitions.
- Hobie Beach is a popular place for sunbathing and swimming. Anglers cast their lines from Shark Rock Pier.
- Don't forget to have a look at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. It was built for the 2010 World Cup and is one of the few stadia in the world to have a lakeside location.
- The Apple Express steam train is very popular with visitors. Take a trip from Port Elizabeth to Thornhill. There are stunning views from the bridge, the world's highest narrow-gauge bridge.