Port Elizabeth Travel Guide

Officially called Gqeberha these days, Port Elizabeth (PE) lies at the end of the glorious Garden Route and offers a wealth of fantastic beaches, thrilling surf spots and superb water sports. The destination is also rich in marine wildlife such as dolphins and whales, and its locals are some of the friendliest people in the country.

Port Elizabeth was founded by shiploads of British settler families who arrived in the Eastern Cape in the early 19th century, hoping to improve their prospects after suffering economic hardship caused by the industrial revolution at home. The settlers came ashore at Algoa Bay, where there was nothing more than the small British Fort Frederick to welcome them. From these humble beginnings, the city has grown into a principal port and manufacturing centre.

It's very much a working town with a large portion of the population living in the outlying township areas, but Port Elizabeth draws plenty of tourists because of its proximity to the east coast's attractions, and the historically interesting interior. The city is wonderfully laidback and Algoa Bay boasts 25 miles (40km) of beautiful sandy beaches lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

There are a few museums and a small oceanarium, as well as the Nelson Mandela Stadium, which was built for the 2010 World Cup and dominates the cityscape. The city centre has many heritage buildings that are worth visiting.

The nearby Donkin Reserve provides a pleasant day trip, as do Seaview Game and Lion Park and the Kragga Kamma Game Park. Slightly further afield, travellers can see the Big Five at Shamwari Game Reserve, Amakhala Game Reserve, and Addo Elephant Park.

Port Elizabeth is generally a transfer point for travellers, as opposed to a destination in itself, but the city is worth a day or two of exploration.