Called both “The Friendly City” and “The Windy City”, Port Elizabeth is a South African coastal town steeped in history. It was first settled by the San, over 100,000 years ago, then taken over by the Xhosa 2,000 years ago, and then the British in 1820 – which doesn’t seem like very friendly behaviour!
Much has changed since then and these days there’s a lot to see, do and experience in PE. Here’s a small taste of local tourist attractions and activities…
Things to do in Port Elizabeth
1. The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum: This gallery has been collecting artworks by prominent South African artists for over 50 years, including beadwork, township and other African art. Some of the gallery’s recent contemporary acquisitions include works by some of South Africa’s top contemporary artists, like Berni Searle, Conrad Botes, Diane Victor and Nicholas Hlobo. From an international perspective, you can also see works by renowned artists such as Henry Moore, David Hockney, Marc Chagall, Honore Daumier and Rembrandt van Rijn.
2. The Bell Tower: Located on Strand Road, this gorgeous PE landmark is also called the Campanile Tower, which means “bell tower” in Italian. The Tower was built in 1923 to commemorate the first British settlers. It is 52m high and contains a chiming clock and the largest carillon of bells in the country. The observation room can be reached by climbing a 204 step staircase, offering a magnificent 360° view of the harbour and its surroundings.
3. JayBay Sandboarding: We’ve got no real snow in South Africa, so snowboarding isn’t always an option. Try the next best thing – sandboarding. Be warned: you’ll get sand in every orifice, but you’ll have a blast doing it!
Places to see in PE
4. The Horse Memorial: Dedicated to all the horses that perished in the South African War, from 1899-1902. The inscription on the memorial reads “The greatness of a nation consists not so much in the number of its people or the extent of its territory as in the extent and justice of its compassion.”
5. Fort Frederick: A stone fort built in 1799 by the British to defend against a landing of French soldiers during the Napoleonic wars. This fort never saw any action, however, and no shot has ever been fired from within its walls.
6. African Penguin Rehabilitation Centre: What’s cuter than a tuxedoed bird? Not much. Penguins might be cute, but they are also smelly –be warned! At this facility, endangered African penguins are rescued and rehabilitated and you can see (and smell!) them up close. More than just penguins, you can also see a variety of marine birds and animals, like sea turtles and gannets.
Where to eat in Port Elizabeth
7. Old Austria: Situated in an old rectory, this restaurant has been delighting patrons since 1972. Being in a coastal town, the seafood on the menu is excellent. The rest of the menu centres around popular Austrian dishes like schnitzels, German pot roasts with red cabbage and spatzle. Try the delicious Zuricher Geschnetzeltes – sliced veal and onion with a creamy white sauce served with rosti. The dessert menu will tempt everyone. Try the apple strudel with beyond-heavenly homemade ice-cream from with nuts, honey and peanut butter.
8. Bridge Street Brewery: The only microbrewery in Port Elizabeth, you can try any (or all) of four beers brewed on site. Once you’ve sampled those, you can move on to other local artisan beers. Oh, and they also serve great food here!
9. Posh Pancakes: This gorgeous little French-style bistro is the place to pay homage to the pancake. Stuff them with everything from smoked salmon to fillet of beef to Lindt chocolate ganache. You can also enjoy breakfast all day. Have your pancake with a glass (or bottle!) of wine – they’re fully licenced!
Conferencing in PE
10. Known as the ‘10 minute airport’, the Port Elizabeth Airport is situated within five minutes drive from the central business district, the beachfront and you wont have to drive more than 10 minutes to reach anywhere else of interest in the city, either. This makes PE the perfect place to do business! While you’re in the Windy City, it’s an 8 minute drive from the airport to the Port Elizabeth City Lodge. Or you could find a room in the Town Lodge or make use of conferencing facilities at the Courtyard Hotel.