The ports of Port Elizabeth are always standing with its Friendly City arms wide open, with a permanently rolled open Welcome Mat of opportunities to discover the best of the Bay.
The streets are beckoning to be explored; the ocean is anxiously waiting for you to take a dip from head-to-toe and nature chants fresh open-air promises while urban adventures pops up around markets, get-togethers and food festivals.
Port Elizabeth has it all – a small city, with a big heart, minus the traffic – it’s a match made in heaven. And while the city speaks of history through its colonial architecture, museums and the art route showcasing Madiba’s freedom struggle, my lungs always levitate towards the greener side of Nelson Mandela Bay where nature reigns high up in the tree tops as well as down below where the Big 5 freely roams.
The beauty of Port Elizabeth’s greener side is its close proximity to the city and it makes the Bay the perfect base and ideal place to stay; whether you want a quick fix of fresh air or spend a whole day in nature.
Where to go in Port Elizabeth When Nature Calls
1. Gamtoos River Mouth
Even though Gamtoos is not part of Nelson Mandela Bay, it’s a short 45 minute drive from Port Elizabeth’s centre and if you take the old R102-road you’ll drive past Van Stadens Flower Reserve (still part of the Bay) with its endemic and rare plants. Gamtoos is an all-in-one stop with the old Gamtoos Ferry Hotel’s restaurant (they also offer boat trips), the dunes which are perfect for climbing, rolling or sledding, a beautiful beach with almost no one in sight, the river and of course, the sunset that turns the lagoon into an orange-mirror-display.
Not too far from Van Stadens Flower Reserve you can also enjoy the sight of Lady Slipper mountain peak, and hike up to the top. Every Saturday, the Lady Slipper Farmer’s Market takes place in Old Cape Road (on the premises of the Van Stadens church) where you can shop for local, fresh produce.
2. Thunzi Bush Lodge
When last did you have a picnic – old school style, with a basket and everything? Experience the tranquility of the coastal indigenous forest just 30 km from the center of Port Elizabeth; you can indulge in a gourmet picnic packed with freshly-baked organic bread and other delights such as cold meats, cheeses, salads and desserts. You can also enjoy bird watching, the presence of bushbucks and try your hand at bass fishing.
3. Groendal Wilderness Area
Put on your hiking boots, tie those laces with double knots and enjoy the outdoors in the Groendal Wilderness Area. The Blindekoof hiking trails – on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth’s neighbour and also one of Nelson Mandela Bay’s trios, Uitenhage, is truly an untouched Eden of circular routes featuring incredible views, the forest and rock pools.
4. Cape Recife Nature Reserve
Whether you want to go hiking, biking or birdwatching, an unspoiled piece of the coast with rock formations, a lighthouse and an endless stretch to stroll and frolic around, is waiting. Cape Recife Nature Reserve, with its rich and bio-diverse natural heritage, is the best place to see marine and freshwater birds, so remember to pack your binoculars and bird guide.
5. Sundays River Valley
If you want more dunes and more water but feel like something different, make your way to Sundays River Valley where you can also enjoy boat rides and sandboarding.
6. A Coastal Drive
There is something magical about driving on a road that takes the coastline in its curving hands. Make a day of it, pack your own picnic basket and take the road from Shark Rock Pier and drive with Marine Drive towards Schoenmakerskop beach, Sardinia Bay (and the Sacromento hiking trail), and don’t forget to stop by at Seaview, Beachview as well as Blue Horizon Bay.
7. And one more, obviously…
If you’ve been following my blog for a year, a month or even a week, you will know that I will always feature Addo Elephant National Park wherever and whenever I can, because big, gigantic elephants… need I say more? It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to get to Addo Elephant National Park (it can’t get any better than that) – just do it!
Port Elizabeth is the perfect base to explore the above-mentioned attractions because it is only a short drive – less than an hour – from the city.
Read the Pulse of Port Elizabeth for more ideas on things to do in Port Elizabeth.
This blog post was sponsored by SA-Venues.com, but as always, Port Elizabeth is awesome and all opinions and views expressed are my own.