If “explore Port Elizabeth” is not on your South African wish list or floating around on white clouds in your travel dreams please grab a pen and start scribbling because when you explore Port Elizabeth the whole Nelson Mandela Bay is just waiting to wow the wind out of your sails.
Nelson Mandela Bay consists of mainly three areas all in close proximity to one another: Despatch, a small town home to two South African rugby legends, the historic town of Uitenhage with its mega-Volkswagen-factory and of course Port Elizabeth, the vibrant city dancing to its own modern pulse of seaside pleasures, historic treasures and reserves.
Reasons to explore Port Elizabeth
Nelson Mandela Bay Pass Card: Explore the best of the Bay and purchase a NMB Pass Card which will give you free access (or discount) to a variety of attractions and experiences.
Big 7 – Not only do we have the Big 5, but also the Big 7 and our game reserves and national parks are also malaria free.
No traffic – Traffic in Port Elizabeth can only be described as non-existent compared to traffic in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Blueflag beaches – The coastline of Port Elizabeth is home to three blue flag beaches; King’s Beach, Hobie Beach and Humewood Beach.
Port Elizabeth – and the whole of Nelson Mandela Bay as well as the Eastern Cape – is one of the most underrated and undiscovered areas in South Africa. The city is the ideal breakaway and there is more than enough to do, see and experience in and around Port Elizabeth.
Sounds good? Of course! So what are you waiting for?
Fly in, get a car and explore Port Elizabeth for a weekend or make the getaway even a bit longer…
Explore Port Elizabeth – Things to do in PE and a few of my favourite spots to visit in Nelson Mandela Bay
Whenever an out-of-towner is visiting I have a few go-to places that I’ll take them to; places that inspire me, places fueling my love for the Bay and places I’ll visit and explore in Port Elizabeth over and over again.
It is impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry, sad or upset. SAMREC – a marine bird rehabilitation and education centre – is situated in Cape Recife Nature Reserve. Best time to visit is feeding time, around 14:00 and when they release rehabilitated birds (visit their Facebook page for more details).
Cape Recife Nature Reserve
Just down the road from SAMREC is Cape Recife Lighthouse situated on an unspoilt sandy beach surrounded by dunes and rock formations; a tranquil haven of bird calls and fresh air perfect for a beach stroll. There is also a 9 km circular trail at Cape Recife Nature Reserve, old barracks and a bird hide.
The Opera House
Stage left, enter history, applause and exit right. Port Elizabeth is home to the oldest theatre – built in 1892 – on the continent of Africa and the Southern Hemisphere and many well-known names such as Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona and Elizabeth Connell performed here. The theatre still operates to this day and besides catching an opera, musical or ballet you can also catch a ghost… if you dare, because the Opera House is believed to be haunted.
You can explore Port Elizabeth’s art scene further and attend an art exhibition, event or play at the “Grand Lady” of the creative industry, the Athenaeum, situated in Belmont Terrace.
Baakens Valley is home to two of my favourite things; a quirky coffee shop and street art. The Friendly Stranger coffee shop is in an old cobblestone building (believed to be the oldest in PE) with a small basement-type-of-lounge that is a popular get-together spot for creatives.
At the entrance of Friendly Stranger, as well as in numerous spots in Baakens Valley and around Port Elizabeth, one can find murals painted by graffiti artist, Joff (Steven Carter).
Addo Elephant National Park
One elephant sighting is enough to make me realise that this is the place I call home and home is where the elephant is. The beauty of Addo Elephant National Park is that Matholweni Gate is less than 40 km from Port Elizabeth’s city center which means you can fly in, rent a car and self-drive from dawn till dusk in park.
Shark Rock Pier
Shark Rock Pier is one of the most photographed icons in the Bay and while many think it’s a been-there-done-that place the bottlenose dolphins that frolic in the water from left to right to left again, beg to differ. Grab an ice cream, dip it in caramel and enjoy a real dolphin show.
Route 67 Heritage Trail
Route 67 – a route that combines art, culture and heritage – starts at the Campanile Monument and goes through the city centre, churches and stairs leading the way to the giant flag at the top of a hill often called: the balcony of the Bay. At Donkin Reserve, the top of the hill, a colourful mosaic floor greets your feet and from the Donkin the walk continues through more historic parts of the city, to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum. If your time is limited to do the whole Route 67, be sure to stop at Donkin Reserve.
A Drive Through Central
Exploring the yesteryear buildings and houses in Port Elizabeth Central takes you back to a place and time of top hats, ball gowns and horse carriages. The area contains a wealth of old buildings holding significant cultural value dating back to the arrival of the British Settlers. All you need is a car, a copy of the self-guided architectural tour of Historical Port Elizabeth and enough time to discover the Victorian masterpieces. If you want more, head to Uitenhage and explore the old Railway Station or even the Cape Dutch-style Manor on the outskirts of Uitenage, Cuyler Manor.
Mastertons Coffee and Tea Specialists
The oldest and most established coffee roaster in South Africa is situated in Port Elizabeth and they opened their doors for the first time in 1924. Their coffee is liquid heaven and can be found at numerous coffee shops in the Bay.
Visit Mastertons Coffee and Tea Specialists at the end of your journey; their beautifully packaged coffee and tea make for the perfect souvenir and gift for friends and family back home.
What are you waiting for? Explore Port Elizabeth!
Pack your bags and head to the Eastern Cape because in Nelson Mandela Bay you will always get more than what you bargained for!
To explore Port Elizabeth as well as the rest of Nelson Mandela Bay, rent a car with Around About Cars and discover exactly what makes the Friendly City, so friendly.
Disclaimer: This blog post was sponsored by Around About Cars. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.