This Port Elizabeth travel guide will give you the scoop on the coastal city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Port Elizabeth is one of the major cities of South Africa and lies 770 km west of Cape Town. It is a sea port city (hence the name) with a busy harbor and stretches along Algoa bay.
PE is a popular vacation location within South Africa, thanks to mean things like the friendly people and being quite likely the cleanest city in South Africa. In South Africa, PE is also called the friendly city, and is known for its laid back vibes and alternative culture.
Our Port Elizabeth Travel Guide
Getting To Port Elizabeth
To make it to PE, as a tourist you will likely be flying in from one of the major cities like Johannesburg or Cape Town at PE International Airport. Thankfully, the airport is within a mere 6km or 10 minute drive of the popular traveler destinations in the Summerstrand region and the city centre.
PE is also small enough that if you do not want to drive, it is affordable to Uber around. If you want to drive, you can rent car through a rental company like Avis.
Notable Suburbs Of Port Elizabeth
PE has a range of suburbs, but the main one that most tourists will go to is Summerstrand. This the main one and it
is peppered with exclusive apartments and the gem of Port Elizabeth, Brookes Hill Drive with views of the ocean. The Garden Court Hotel is also a prominent feature of the Summerstrand/Humewood area. Summerstrand is the crown jewel of Port Elizabeth. It offers the same seaside luxuries as those found in the best cities but is much more affordable compared to Cape Town.
If you want a more inland location to frequent, Walmer is it. In contrast to the beach island feel of coastal suburbs like Summerstrand, Walmer is more homely. So if you are looking to stay in Port Elizabeth over a longer period and under a more “normal” setting, it is a good option. You can get the same level of accommodation as what can be found along marine drive, but a little bit more affordable as you are avoiding the extra cost that comes with ocean views and sea spray.
St George’s Park
Saint George’s Park is another popular suburbs. The key place is near the gorge where apartments in the area have a magnificent view over the valley. Saint George’s Park is also near to the Cricket Stadium, where you can catch games on a weekend afternoon.
Where To Stay
Port Elizabeth has a great selection of places where you can stay Whether you are looking for 5 start hotel accommodation or a cosy guest house away from the activity, you can find it there. The most popular location is the Sun International boardwalk Casino and Hotel. Check out our list of best hotels in Port Elizabeth to see our top choices of accommodation.
There are a couple of locations where you can get your retail therapy in Port Elizabeth. If you in the Marine Drive area near Summerstrand and Humewood, there is the Board Walk Casino complex. This is an entertainment complex with run by the Sun International group with a shopping mall, casino, and 5 Star accommodation. And best of all, it is all walking distance from Hobie beach. The complex is built around a man-made lake and gardens, providing some of the best views both inside the complex and out toward the beach. They also have a night water show with bright colored lights over the water. It is a spectacular sight to see and makes for excellent photos.
Things To Do
Marine Drive is where all the fun is. There are a great selection of restaurants along this street. My personal favourite is the Cubana in Humewood that is set against the ocean backdrop as well as a swimming pool right outside of the tent area. It really gives you that beach bar feel like no other place in PE does. Here are some other nice locations that you can check out:
Hobie Beach is easily the most popular (and really the best) beach in Port Elizabeth. The beach has achieved blue flag status and offers swimming and water sports like surfing and canoeing. The location hosts a multitude of events throughout the year that range from the annual Splash festival, to boating and Ironman championships.
Best of all, the beach is within walking distance of all the best destinations along marine drive and the boardwalk. So if you are staying at the Boardwalk Casino Complex, you can take a leisurely stroll to the beach and back.
The Roof Bar Garden
The Roof Bar Garden is a roof top bar with the skyline of Port Elizabeth’s bay side as a backdrop. It is the hip and happening place to be in PE. Cocktails and craft beer are served while you enjoy live music and great food. Whether during the day or for an after work drink, it is a nice place to unwind. The bar is located in PE Central at 33 Winston Ntshona Street. The venue is semi-open, with a covered area for events or when it rains. From a jazz event to a poetry evening, it is the perfect hangout spot for an alternative vibe.
Valley Market / Goodnight Market
These markets are hosted once a month at the Tramways building in South End, Port Elizabeth. The Goodnight Market is hosted on select Thursday nights from 5pm to 9pm, and offers goers artisanal food and craft products. Entrance to the event is R20 per person and all proceeds from entrance fee go to charity so you can feel good about helping out while having fun.
Specific info on when the event is held can be found on the Facebook Page. The Valley Market runs on the first Saturday of every month and focuses on fresh produce and family fun. Particulars for the Valley Market can be found on their Twitter page.
Sardinia Bay is a very nice beach to visit that is hidden away from the main beaches that can get busy at times. It is not totally secluded and sees a fair amount of visitors. There are also people selling ice creams at concession stands that you can buy from. It is the perfect little hideaway to give a visit.
Splash Waterworld is one of the most popular visitor’s destinations in PE. It is also an iconic landmark on the PE Waterfront, and no video of PE is complete without it. It is the ideal spot for the whole family to have fun. There is a variety of water activities, super tubes and slides for both adults and children. You can bring your own chairs and braai facilities are available. There is also attentive staff on hand to watch over the kids. A tip is to bring an umbrella or a gazebo as it can get quite hot and shade is limited.
Operating hours are from 10am to 4:30 on school weekdays if the weather permits. The place only operates in the summer so if it is one of your intended locations, you might want to plan your holiday around it and visit during the
warmer months. These months run from late September, to the end of April every year.
Safaris In Port Elizabeth
There are also some nice wild retreats and popular tourist attractions that are in or close to PE. If you want to excape from the city and get in touch with your wild side, you can visit some of these.
Addo Elephant National Park
Addo Elephant National Park is one of South Africa’s national parks, and the third largest after Kruger National Park and Kgalafadi Tranfrontier Park. The park was initially built as an elephant preservation sanctuary, which it achieved with much successs. It is now home to over 600 elephants and a wide range of other mammals that include over 400 Cape Buffaloes, 48 Black Rhinos, and even lions. There is chalet accommodation with swimming pools and other facilities for visitors to stay in.
Kragga Kamma Game Park
Kragga Kamme is a game reserve that is home to a vast herds of African game, including White Rhino, Buffalo, Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra and many more. You can take a drive in your own vehicle and view the game at your leisure. If you really want to get close to the animals, they have a 2-hour guided tour with a professional ranger who will guide visitors and give wonderful tidbits on information about the animals and the environment. For more information, you can visit the official website.
How Is The Weather?
Port Elizabeth is also often called the Windy City of South Africa, because of the winds that blow along the Algoa Bay. Temperatures during the Summer and Spring are warm but frequently windy, especially near the coast. Winters are cold all around with rain being common. You will also find that some of the popular traveler events and destinations might close during the winter period (such as the Water Park).
Is Port Elizabeth Safe?
Port Elizabeth is relatively safe compared to other popular cities in South Africa like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. That being said, you should exercise common sense and caution as you would in any other city in the world. There are also places in PE that are not as safe as other, such as low income areas and the city centre. The basic rules for safety, anywhere in the wold is to not walk around streets at night or in isolated places.
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
The best time to visit PE is Summer, hands down. The cold in winter can get quite unbearable and many events choose to close or ramp down during the cold seasons. People tend to stay indoors during winter so you you might miss the friendly spirit that the city is known for.