Port Elizabeth and Addo Destination Guide
Whether you want a wild adventure, gentle treks through lush greens, or a souvenir-hunting trip, Port Elizabeth never disappoints. For generations, Port Elizabeth has been a melting pot of sorts. Its history has not been without bloodshed, and it has seen tumultuous times until the end of the apartheid era. Each monument, nature trail, museum, and road in this city represents the new and the old, and the good and the bad. Meanwhile Addo offers a chance to get up close and personal with elephants, lions, buffalo, rhino and antelope in South Africa's third largest wildlife park.
A visit to South Africa isn't complete without visiting Port Elizabeth and Addo Elephant National Park.
This Port Elizabeth and Addo Destination Guide lists some of the main sights and attractions which you will probably want to spend some time at during your visit. For additional information about other things to see and do, and about South Africa generally, be sure to take a quick look at our South Africa Destination Guide and South Africa Country Guide.
Things to See and Do in Port Elizabeth and Addo
Port Elizabeth and Addo have much to offer to the discerning traveller, with colonial era charm effusing into the joie de vivre of native African culture. It is a great holiday spot for adventure lovers, families and honeymooners. Whether you are on a solo trip or travelling with a tour group, Port Elizabeth and Addo are the place to be, with its myriad old monuments, miles of sun-kissed beaches, wildlife and vast stretches of nature trails that run right through the city.
Follow the links to the right or scroll further down the page for details on some of the many interesting tourist attractions in Port Elizabeth and Addo:
The Jeffreys Bay Shell Museum
Stroll along the beautiful beaches and gather shells or head to the Shell Museum to see the pick of the lot. This unique museum even has specimens from around the world.
The Jeffreys Bay Surf Museum
Vibrant hued state-of-the-art surf boards sit side by side with carved wooden relics which were the grand-daddies of today's boards. Also, learn about the best surfers and how surfing evolved in this interesting ode to the sport. The museum is a must-see for every surfer who is in J-Bay and an interesting insight for the non-surfer who chooses to drop by.
The beaches are a major attraction of Port Elizabeth. Large shopping centres and restaurants are also located close to the beaches. King's, Hobie, Humewood, Bluewater and Pollok are some of the more popular beaches in Port Elizabeth. These beaches are also among the safest because there are lifeguards on duty every day. Sardinia Bay has a lovely beach, but swimming can be risky here owing to the high waves. The Boardwalk is where Port Elizabeth's nightlife happens - it has casinos and entertainment areas.
You should also visit Settlers Park, which covers an area of almost 80 hectares. Remember not to take any dogs into the area or pluck flowers here. Nature lovers should not miss a tour of St Georges Park either, an expansive green area sprawling over 70 hectares.
Don't miss trekking down the Donkin Heritage Trail. If you are not travelling with a tour group, watch out for the road signs pointing visitors in the right direction. If digging into Port Elizabeth's heritage is your goal, try the Main Public Library. Go to the Market Square first, from where anyone can direct you to the old building. The Castle Hill Museum is another old building you should explore. This whitewashed cottage looks the same as it did in 1827, when it was first built.
The two-hundred-year-old Fort Frederick is one of the most notable old monuments of Port Elizabeth. It stands tall and majestic on the shores of the river Baakens. You can enjoy a little bit of whimsy at the Prester John Memorial, built "in memoriam" to Prester John, the fabled white king who ruled parts of Africa before the Portuguese even started their exploration of the continent.
Kabeljous Estuary and Nature Reserve
You can walk through this nature reserve which comes with a beach attached. Enjoy a relaxed day of fishing out in the warm sunshine or arrive early for some bird watching. Whatever brings you here, you will find yourself returning refreshed and revived.
Noorsekloof Nature Reserve
Noorsekloof Nature Reserve stretches all the way till Wavecrest and is a good place to spot birds and small buck. The best route to take follows the 3 km long trail that runs by the stream in this 28.7 hectare reserve.
Seekoei River Nature Reserve
Situated on the estuary of the Seekoei River, this is arguably one of the best places for bird watching. Water fowl flock to the river for food and shelter, making it prime for spotting.
Apart from beach time, shopping is one of the most preferred activities for tourists in Port Elizabeth. Start with Art in the Park, a flea market in St. George's Park that sells everything from food to fabrics, crafts, and paintings on the first Sunday of every month. You can visit any time between 9 am to 3 pm. If you are in Port Elizabeth during Christmas, you can catch the action every Sunday for the whole month of December. The King's Beach Flea Market is another major attraction for tourists. It is set up at the beach every Sunday.
Hiking is popular here, for Port Elizabeth is full of nature and heritage trails. The Aloe Trail overlooking Bluewater Bay is a 7-kilometre route that hikers love to tackle. Don't try this trail if you suffer from heart disease, diabetes, low blood pressure, or any other illness. If hiking in warm weather, take precautions against heat stroke.
Nightlife in Port Elizabeth is not as eclectic or dynamic as it is in Durban, but it has its virtues. One, you don't have to jostle for space on a crowded dance floor. Many restaurants with a beach view offer more than sumptuous South African and international cuisine. You can even dance to the beat of mellow conga drums as the live band plays some jazz favourites. Two, the bars in Port Elizabeth are homey, comfortable places with plenty of bonhomie and laughter to go around. The discotheques in the city have deejays, the latest in dance music, and theme parties.
A quick getaway from the bays may be in order if you'd like to add a game drive to your holiday plans. Just a short drive from the bay are some game reserves with lodges and accommodation attached. Most game farms have game drives included in their list of activities, so just check in and hop into one of the open jeeps or 4 wheel drive vehicles and let the guide take you out to spot giraffe, zebra, buffalo, rhino and birds like the fish eagle.
For lion spotting, you will need to plan a longer trip and stay at a lion game park. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to interact with lion cubs and see the mighty beast in its element, so try and set aside time for this. It is sure to delight the kids in your group but be warned, it might also make children of the grown-ups!
A Safari at Addo Elephant National Park is your chance to get close to elephants and the big cats. Apart from watching elephant herds as they enjoy a day beside a favourite mud hole, groom their young, or feast on oranges supplied by the rangers, you can also see buffalo, rhino and lions in their natural habitat. At the fringes of the reserve are Addo guesthouses run by the government and private parties.
The Park was established in 1931 and is located 72km by road from Port Elizabeth. It is a must for wildlife enthusiasts, being home to elephant, lion, buffalo, black rhino, antelope and the rare flightless dung beetle. There is a wide range of game viewing and outdoor activities, which include jeep safaris, horse-riding, guided walks, hiking, 4x4 trails and a picnic area for day visitors.
Around the beginning of June every year, whales move away from the Antarctic and head to warmer shores off the Western Cape. Prime time for whale watching is between June and November but you may get lucky at other times of year too.
The Seal Point Lighthouse at St Francis Bay is located right by the penguin rehabilitation centre. After spending some time learning about the amazing black and white birds, take a tour of the lighthouse itself. The magnificent views of the sea and the lands surrounding it are breathtaking.
An adventure sports fan's dream destinations, J-Bay and St Francis Bay are all about the outdoors. Whether you're a water baby or a land lubber, you will be spoilt for choice. Here are just some of the things to fill your days with:
The world's top ranked surfers converge on the surf and sands of J-Bay for the annual Billabong Pro leg of the ASP World Tour around July every year. Check latest listings for exact dates.
Even if you don't make it in time for the surfing festival, rest assured that you will have plenty of surfing action anyway. Besides surfing, you can also try your hand at kite surfing or wind surfing. Surf schools abound and there are plenty of experienced surfers who can show you the ropes.
Besides surfing, you can head out for a spot of canoeing, boardsailing, sailing or even scuba diving in St Francis Bay and its surroundings. The Kromme River is ideal for fishing and sailing.
The St Francis Golf Course with its magical setting near the thatched roof village of St Francis Bay is a hop, skip and jump away from the surf and the sands and is a good diversion from the waters for a day. This 18 hole links course is moderately challenging and is comparable to some of the best in the Cape.
Paragliding, fishing, horse riding and hiking are some of the other things you can do while in the area. Riding lessons are on offer at some horse riding schools in the vicinity. While some hiking trails run through private property, there are plenty you can follow on nature reserves and the coastline.