15 Best Things to do in Port Elizabeth

Today, although officially known as Guquebera, many still know this Indian Ocean city as Port Elizabeth or PE. Facing the wide Algoa Bay, it offers a beach holiday alternative to Durban. But, as we’ll see, there’s also plenty of culture and history for those who take the time to get to know this noble lady from the Eastern Cape. 

1. South African Air Force Museum

One of Port Elizabeth’s smaller museum spaces, the South African Air Force Museum is located around Port Elizabeth’s airport. The collection now includes nine aircraft, including South Africa’s oldest jet, a supersonic fighter, and two helicopters.

With access to a restored WWII-era hangar, visitors can watch the restoration work live. The walls of the main museum are also filled with cabinets and photographs related to the theater company founded in 1920. But the highlight is the onsite presence of his simulator in flight. 

2. Whale watching

Port Elizabeth’s coastal waters are not only of interest to beach vacationers. Algoa Bay also attracts whales to such an extent that it has been designated as its 5th Natural Whale Site by the World Cetacean Alliance.

Opt for the antics of southern right and humpback whales on a licensed whale-watching tour from Port Elizabeth. Both are known to break through water. Other whale species you can encounter include minke and Bryde’s whales. A trip to the waters of Algoa Bay, known as the “Bottlenose Dolphin Capital of the World,” promises plenty of action by these clever creatures as an added perk. 

3. The Campanile

This free-standing clock and bell tower resembles the more famous one on Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy. It is mostly made of red brick and reaches a height of 50 meters.

The structure was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first settlers in what is now Port Elizabeth. From 1920 he remained on the site until 1922. Her efforts included completing her 204 steps leading to an observation room at the top of the Campanile. But now there is an elevator, giving easy access to her 23 bells that make up South Africa’s largest carillon (bells played like a piano). 

4. South End Museum

The museum is one of Port Elizabeth’s few attractions that deals directly with the Apartheid era. The South End was a multi-ethnic neighborhood known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, excellent schools, and thriving range of local businesses.

But it all ended with the forced relocation of non-white tenants between 1965 and 1975. It is this story that the Southend Museum wants to share. This is done through a combination of exhibits, historical photographs, and walkthrough maps of the area.  

5. Amakhala Game Reserve

Amagara is a private game reserve about 1.5 hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth and covers 18,000 hectares. By joining a morning or evening hunting drive to explore, visitors to Amacara have a better chance of seeing all five big species: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo.

Amagara extends from scrubland to savannah and covers five of his seven biomes in South Africa. This means that day trips from Port Elizabeth should also keep an eye out for other wildlife such as giraffes, cheetahs, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, and monkeys.  

6. Horse Memorial

Head back to the center of Port Elizabeth to find the Horse Memorial. Almost life-size, it depicts an English soldier kneeling in front of a horse and offering a bucket of water. The horse was designed by British sculptor Joseph Whitehead and he was unveiled in 1905 to honor the estimated 300,000 horses brought to South Africa during the Boer War of 1899-1902. Most washed ashore in Port Elizabeth.

It cost £800, about £120,000 (about $150,000 in today’s currency), paid by the public, and transported all the way from London, where the bronze was minted. 

7. Cape Recife Lighthouse

Cape Recife is the name of the southeasternmost point of Port Elizabeth. Used as a navigational aid, the lighthouse was built in 1849 to guide ships to Thunderbolt Her Reef and takes its name from the ill-fated British frigate.

The Cape Recife Lighthouse is 24 meters high and lined with black and white stripes. Located within a nature reserve, it offers hiking opportunities for all fitness levels. Trails wind through subtropical vegetation and over rocky outcrops to rock pools that are home to impressive marine life. 

8. Bayworld

Opened for the new millennium, Bayworld is part natural history museum, part oceanarium, and part vivarium. The museum exhibits are thoroughly modern and interesting for all ages.

Meanwhile, the outdoor area includes a dinosaur exhibit and an oceanarium with rescued turtles, seals, penguins, and other live animals. Last but not least, Bayworld is home to South Africa’s oldest snake park. Here, visitors can learn about alligators and turtles, as well as a variety of native snake species. 

9. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum

Located on the grounds of St George’s Park, this gallery specializes in art from the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The works are divided into his three main rooms and are hung regularly to allow for as many exhibitions as possible of his extensive collection.

These works are complemented by special exhibits ranging from sculptures to quilts. In addition to works by colonial artists such as Thomas Baines and Frederick Timpson His Aeons, there is also a fascinating collection of southern Guni beadwork and some contemporary works. 

10. Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is about 100 kilometers (1.5 hours) north of Port Elizabeth and makes a great day trip from the city. He is one of South Africa’s largest national parks, so we know what to expect.

The park is home to approximately 600 elephants, as well as hundreds of buffalo, reintroduced lions, hyenas, Burchell’s zebras, kudus, elands, and bushbucks. Game drives, with 120 km of track to choose from, are therefore the most popular pastime. Lions and hyenas are best sighted in the early morning or evening. My suggestion is to visit on a hot day when most of the activity takes place at the water holes. 

11. Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick was built in 1799 to prevent a French invasion of this part of the British Cape Colony. It may sound like a confusing idea now, but during the Napoleonic Wars, nothing seemed to go wrong between the two countries.

This two-story complex, which has never been shot by a cannon, is square in shape and stands on the banks of the River Birkens overlooking a modern harbor. It is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Shakespeare’s plays. Behind its walls are a blockhouse, a powder magazine, and a small museum.  

12. Splash Waterworld

The sliders and rides behind Kings Beach are part of Splash Waterworld. This little water park is primarily aimed at children, but it puts a smile on the faces of its visitors. Get ready for a wet and wild time with attractions like the Super Tube, Lazy River, Speed ​​Slide, and a kiddie slide for younger guests.

As you can imagine, there are numerous kiosks serving drinks and snacks. Even more unusual, floodlights allow you to explore the Splash Waterworld slides after dark. 

13. Route 67 walking trail

The city’s Route 67 trail comprises public works of art for each of the 67 years Nelson Mandela sacrificed his life to end racism in apartheid South Africa.

The route starts at Campanile, the easily recognizable clock and bell tower in the city, and passes through the mini-he market square in Buisir. Head to St. Mary’s Terrace and Donkin Reserve, home to what is said to be the largest flag on the continent. Each piece of art is accompanied by an information board that provides greater context.  

14. King’s Beach

Kings Beach carries the Blue Flag for cleanliness and is one of Port Elizabeth’s most popular sandy beaches. This route stretches for a wonderful mile from the harbor to Humewood, a seaside district with a rich history.

It’s an excellent beach anywhere, with sand fine enough that sandcastles are a priority. Also, the warm waters of the Indian Ocean invite visitors to swim, bodyboard, and surf. There is also a children’s pool for toddlers, mini golf, changing rooms, and refreshments under lifeguard supervision. In fact, Kings Beach has everything he needs to spend the day enjoying Port Elizabeth’s sunny weather. The average daily temperature does not drop below 19°C at any time of the year.  

15. Donkin Reserve

Located in the heart of Port Elizabeth’s Central Business District (CBD), Donkin Reserve is a public open space that combines native flora, historic architecture, and scenic views of the city.

Built-in 1861, the lighthouse can usually be visited for additional views from Donkin Reserve. Next to it is a 10-meter-high cairn dedicated to Elizabeth Her Markham. She was the wife of then-Governor Lephaen Shaw Donkin, who gave the city its name.

A colorful mosaic depicting the first Portuguese ship to circle this part of the South African coast, and a metal sculpture of Nelson Mandela raising a fist in celebration bring the Donkin Reserve to life. 

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