PORT ELIZABETH is a city on Algoa Bay in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province. A major port, it's also known for its numerous beaches. The Donkin Heritage Trail takes in the Old Hill neighbourhood's Victorian landmarks. Coastal boat tours spot whales and rare seabirds, while wildlife reserves outside the metropolitan area are home to elephants, rhinos and other big game.
Port Elizabeth offers many good bathing beaches, great surf spots and excellent water sports. Marine life in the bay is also sensational, with plenty of dolphins and whales that can be spotted throughout the year. The city centre, once a place to avoid, has started to smarten up thanks to a few urban regeneration projects, and it boasts numerous heritage buildings that are well worth a gander.
This pleasant hilltop park is a good place to get your bearings, particularly if you climb to the top of the lighthouse. The pyramid is a memorial to Elizabeth Donkin, wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, governor of the Cape Colony in the 1820s – who named PE after his beloved spouse. A heritage trail leads between the park's monuments and artworks, which narrate important periods of the city's history, and form part of the wider Route 67 trail through the centre.
South End Museum
Multimedia exhibits relate the history of South End, a vibrant multicultural district destroyed by apartheid bulldozers during forced removals between 1965 and 1975 (under the infamous Group Areas Act). The inhabitants were relocated to other parts of the city, designated by race. Book ahead for a one-hour guided walking tour of the area (R100).
Sandy central beach, popular for sunbathing and swimming in the shallows. Take extreme care when swimming; the current is very strong.
Most of the world's remaining 25,000 breeding pairs of endangered African penguins are found around Algoa Bay; they are threatened by currents pushing their food far out to sea, causing them to digest much of it before they get back to their chicks. At this centre, learn more from volunteers and watch the penguins chilling by the pool, or having a feed at 2.45pm. There are also coastal walking trails in the area.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum
The museum housed in two handsome buildings at the entrance to St George’s Park has a small gallery of paintings and sculpture by contemporary South African artists, some older British and Eastern Cape works, plus temporary exhibitions.
This bell tower, visible from the city centre, was erected to commemorate the landing of the 1820 British settlers. Unfortunately, it’s near the entrance to the harbour and railway station, a bit of a dodgy area. If you’re keen to climb the 53.5m structure via 204 steps to view the largest carillon of bells in the country, do so in a group if possible or during a city tour.
No. 7 Castle Hill Museum
This museum-house, occupying a picturesque cottage dating to 1827, evokes a settler family's life during the mid-Victorian period.
The beach of choice for windsurfers, sailors and kite-surfers, and sunbathers will also love it.