While there’s more than enough to do, see and experience in the area of Nelson Mandela Bay, day trips from Port Elizabeth is an alternative for those looking for a quick, one day only, escape. And the options are endless, whether you want to visit the beaches of the Sunshine Coast, get in touch with nature in a reserve or National Park, experience the silence of the Karoo, the magic of Tsitsikamma or traverse along rugged, off-road terrain.
Mountains, forests, mountain passes, back roads, sand dunes, beaches, semi-arid Karoo desert, small towns, big (enough) cities, farm stalls, friendly waves, wildlife and faunal diversity… all this within 2 hours and multiple directions from Port Elizabeth.
And then people still ask me why I choose to stay in Port Elizabeth…
While weekend (or longer) getaways are the goal for most, it is not always possible due to time, finances, pets or other responsibilities. Don’t fear, there is definitely light, possibility and adventure at the end of the tunnel. If you want a full day of exploring, consider one, or all, of these day trips from Port Elizabeth.
5 Day Trips from Port Elizabeth
1. Gamtoos Valley
The Gamtoos Valley is not only the origin of Sarah Baartman but also considered the “pantry of the Eastern Cape” where everything and almost anything grows in its fertile soil. There’s a multitude of roads to take (read here) when visiting the Valley; you can look forward to a few farm stalls between Loerie and Patensie where you can fuel up (Koekepan, Tolbos and Padlangs are some of the favourites), sandstone and shale rock formations in Baviaanskloof, sweeping mountain views, the Gamtoos River and also the mighty dunes in the area of Gamtoos Mouth.
2. Addo Elephant National Park & Surroundings
You simply can’t visit or be in Port Elizabeth and not visit Addo Elephant National Park! I’m pretty certain that it is against the law. Although the Park holds a certain magic at night when you hear jackals bark, it is also perfect for a day trip and you can expect loads of animal sightings, from the small and endangered flightless dung beetle to the giant elephant and everything in between (including the big five). The main park is also surrounded by adventure activities like Addo Adrenalin for ziplining, Sundays River Adventures for sandboarding and boat cruises and if you prefer to go for a hike, head to the Zuurberg section of the Park to explore on foot, or on horseback.
Round-trip distance (from Port Elizabeth): + 80 km (without travelling around in the Park).
Don’t miss: An hour or two at Hapoor Dam just to watch the elephants.
Also read: Another WOW in Addo: Nyathi Rest Camp,
Watch: Adventures in Addo Elephant National Park.
If I had to choose one word to describe the Tsitsikamma region then it would be, “magic”. Even though it is quite a distance to travel to the green lush forests and rough seas of Tsitsikamma for just a day, it is oh-so-worth-it. If you are craving adventure or seeking nature then this is one of the day trips from Port Elizabeth just for you. There are numerous hiking trails and also bungee jumping at Bloukrans, canopy tours, lilo and kayaking in the Storms River Gorge, Segway tours, an Elvis-themed restaurant as well as an opportunity to scuba or snorkel.
Round-trip distance (from Port Elizabeth): + 360 km
Don’t miss: Skietklip.
For a quiet trip choose the road to tranquility and visit the Karoo. Thanks to the region’s legendary hospitality you will always get more than what you bargained for from indulging in lamb chops to watching a cabaret show or visiting a classic car museum in a collector’s back yard. The town is filled with history; be sure travel along the Valley of Flags road, where all the old South African flags (dating from wayback and yesteryear) are painted on the rocks, with our new flag proudly displayed just before you enter the town.
Round-trip distance (from Port Elizabeth): + 300 km
Don’t miss: Lizzy’s Khaya Restaurant.
Also read: Steytlerville: A 24-hour Karoo discovery.
Home to the oldest licensed pub in South Africa, art galleries, studios, quirky shops and eateries, Bathurst’s claim to fame is that it was the administrative centre for the 1820 British Settlers. Many of the original buildings, from houses to churches, have been preserved and today the small village of Bathurst is bustling with activity and passion; the town hosts an annual Agri Show as well as the annual Bathurst Book Fair, there are weekend markets and of course, since it is home to the largest man-made pineapple in the world, you will also find the sweetest (and probably the best priced) pineapples.
Round-trip distance (from Port Elizabeth): + 320 km
Don’t miss: A drink at Pig and Whistle.
A few more destinations to add to the list of day trips from Port Elizabeth
What’s a few kilometers between friends?
The N2 out of Port Elizabeth is well-maintained; with wide double lanes for the majority of the stretch it is ideal for the traveller who doesn’t want to spend too much time driving and prefer to spend more time exploring a destination.
Jeffreys Bay, St. Francis Bay & Cape St. Francis
What to expect: Beach fun, surfing, a variety of restaurants, harbour, sandboarding, shopping, fishing and horse trails.
Cannon Rocks, Kenton-on-Sea & Port Alfred
What to expect: Hiking trails, beaches, horse trails, river cruises, fishing, a beer brewery, bird watching, golf courses and a fine dining restaurant (read more about it here: A Royal Affair in Port Alfred).
What to expect: History, game reserves in the area, National Arts Festival in July, museums, beautiful architecture, a coffee roaster and a lot of students.
Do you have any suggestions? What day trips from Port Elizabeth do you enjoy taking?