Port Elizabeth within Nelson Mandela Bay has been called many things from ‘friendly city’ to the Gateway to the Garden Route or Eastern Cape bushveld; when in fact the Bay as it’s known to most, is an all-round, value for money, fun-in-the-sun, outdoorsy, beachy family holiday destination. With its unspoiled beaches, rolling sand dunes and warm Indian Ocean, Nelson Mandela Bay is heaven on earth for nature lovers. We’ve teamed up with some of the best travel bloggers to create a list of things to see and do in 48 hours. Here’s what the experts had to say:
Photo by Nadine Rose Larter.
1. Picnic on the beach
No matter whether you are from the concrete jungle or are a native to Port Elizabeth, we can guarantee that you won’t be able to help falling in love with its white sandy beaches. Take a stroll along Shark Rock Pier and maybe catch a glimpse of the dolphins showing off, or grab your cardboard box and make a DIY sandboard for the dunes of Maitland’s and Sardina’s beaches. Beaches are what holiday memories are made of and opting for a home brought picnic instead of restaurants and takeouts aren’t only the healthier option, but of course the more affordable one too! What are you waiting for? Grab your cozzie, your sunscreen and hit the waves!
If you love initiatives that are all about giving back to the community, then visit artEC on Bird Street and catch an art exhibition. There are also beautiful colourful murals outside that will make you grab your camera plus a few more picture-worthy street art finds on Bird Street. You can also visit the Athenaeum on Belmont Terrace for art exhibitions and performances in the Little Theatre.
3. Route 67
Route 67 is a collection of 67 public artworks symbolising Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of work dedicated to the freedom of South Africa. It starts below the Donkin Reserve at the campanile, but we recommend just browsing around the artworks in the reserve rather than walking the whole route. In the Donkin Reserve you will get to see one of the largest South African flags in the world, which stands tall above a stunning mosaic leading to a lighthouse and stone pyramid built by Sir Rufain Donkin for his wife Elizabeth, after whom the city is named. The voting line with Nelson Mandela at its helm is both evocative and powerful, and make sure to get a photo holding Madiba’s hand. Stroll around the park – everywhere you look there are amazing sculptures and outdoor art, and head across the road to the Athenaeum and Fort Frederick.
Photo by Ralph Dirsuwei.
4. Help the Penguins
Hands down, this is one of the most “awww, bless” things to do in Port Elizabeth. If you follow SAMREC’s Facebook Page you’ll be able to find out when the next penguin release is. The happen fairly regularly and if watching those little critters run down the beach and jump into the sea doesn’t melt your heart, nothing will.
If Port Elizabeth’s hiking trails had to choose a head boy then the Sacramento Trail would probably have been it. The popular kid, a good all rounder, sporty, slightly academic and not bad looking to boot. The Sacramento Trail is an 8 km return hike from Schoenmakerskop to Sardinia Bay and back. Probably PE’s favorite trail, the Sacramento offers some of the best coastal views around and is also a photographer and any nature lover’s dream. Rugged coastline, sandy beaches, hidden coves, fynbos, wetlands, flowers and as an added extra, Khoi middens hidden among the dunes.
Photo by Jonker Fourie.
6. Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth is the only city in South Africa with a “Big 5” national park only 30 minutes away. In fact, Addo Elephant National Park is the only national park to boast the “Big 7” (Big 5 plus Great White Sharks and Southern Right Whales). And don’t get carried away with focusing on all the big things – Addo Elephant Park is also brimming with thousands of little creatures which guarantee an unforgettable day out.
We recommend you spend the night at Addo Elephant National Park – just make sure to book ahead of time. You can camp by staying over in the Safari Tent at the Spekboom Tented Camp or sleep in a chalet or cottage. Go on a self-guided game drive and and enjoy all the animal sightings. Please remember that you are not allowed to get out of vehicle in the park. Entrance to Addo Elephant National Park is free with the NMB Pass Card.
If you want a more private wildlife experience, clear out your schedule and visit Kuzuko Lodge which is situated in a private section of Addo Elephant National Park. Kuzuko Lodge is the home of the famous lion, Sylvester. You can get a free game drive and lunch with the NMB Pass Card.
7. Homeleigh Farm
It wouldn’t be a trip to Port Elizabeth, if you don’t stop by Homeleigh Farm. The kids will adore feeding the goats, horses, ostriches, pigs and donkeys. Not to mention the tractor rides, jumping castles and different jungle gyms to suit all ages, while parents can enjoy a cuppa with some homemade koeksisters. Entrance is about R20 /adult and R10 / kid plus there is the option to buy feed for the animals.
Photo by Luchae Williams.
8. Science Technology Centre
Another Uitenhage favourite is the Science and Technology Centre. It is really such a hidden treasure. R10 will get you in to a giant warehouse with amazing interactive science experiments where ever you look. Kids can learn about construction by building a house, learn about electricity by powering appliances with a bicycle, learn about air pressure by floating above ground and so much more. The Exhibition area is separated into seven zones: Automotive, electricity, lights and optics, flight, momentum, life sciences, construction, sound and games. A Rock climbing wall and survivor/amazing race type games make this a must for group outings.
9. Horse Beach Riding
How about a 3 hour horse ride on the beach for your next outing? Try Heavenly Stables in Sardinia Bay. Remember to call ahead to make a booking a few days ahead of time. Your body will ache the next day, but the ride is worth every sore muscle.
Want to explore more? Then book your flights and have a look at this list with even more things to do in Port Elizabeth.
We’d love to hear your suggestions on things to do in the area, so feel free to leave a comment.