1. Addo Elephant National Park
The name says it all: Addo Elephant National Park is a place to see the biggest living land mammals in the world. Seeing this magnificent member of the Big Five during a safari through Addo is undoubtedly awe-inspiring, but there is plenty more wildlife to watch.
Situated less than an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, it is also home to buffaloes, lions, spotted hyenas, warthogs, zebras and, as in practically any wildlife park in South Africa, antelope. There is a diverse range of birds, reptiles and amphibians to see as well.
Due to its proximity to the coast you also have the opportunity to spot Cape fur seals, African penguins and Cape gannets at Bird Island and St. Croix Island, which form part of the park.
2. Donkin Heritage Trail
Port Elizabeth was named after the wife of Rufane Donkin, a British army officer who was once acting governor of the Cape Colony. He lost his wife shortly after she gave birth to their son, and after receiving his new position in South Africa, named the settlers’ site he helped oversee in her honour.
Twenty years later, on the anniversary of her death, he took his own life. This tragic tale is commemorated along the Donkin Heritage Trail. There are guided tours which also allow you to marvel at 19th century architecture, as well as a stern statue of Queen Victoria and a far more joyful one of Nelson Mandela.
3. Ezamaxhosa Craft
When we travel, a bout of shopping is almost inevitable. At Ezamaxhosa (meaning “belonging to the Xhosa people”) on The Boardwalk in Summerstrand, you’ll find more than enough reason to plunge hand towards purse.
The many-coloured items on offer include pottery, beadwork, wooden carvings, cutlery, leatherwork, walking sticks and clothing, providing insight into the rich history and heritage of the Xhosa.
4. Food, glorious food!
Come rain or shine, we need to eat, and in Port Elizabeth there are plenty pickings. Starting with breakfast you’ll want to try Bocadillos for its bakery. When it comes to lunchtime there’s Ginger for local flavour and seaside seating, Dessie’s for all kinds of culinary delights, and the eco-friendly Crossways Country Kitchen, just outside PE.
Bearing in mind the region’s colonial history, you might want to take in afternoon tea – in which case, make a stop at Apron Strings for their famous tea and scones. If you’ve still got space for supper, you can book a table at Bain Street Grill for steak, Barnacles for seafood or Bridge Street Brewery for pizza. No matter what your palate prefers, you’re sure to find something to please it in every corner of the city.
5. Happy Valley
At Happy Valley you can fine tune your strategic thinking in a big way. On the verdant lawns of the sunlit valley lies a gigantic chessboard, where you can partake in a game or two. There’s also more of nature to enjoy with strolls next to lily ponds and rockeries, while children will be delighted at the colourful cartoon displays.
6. Kragga Kamma Game Park
For more wildlife wonder, you can visit Kragga Kamma Game Park. You can take your own vehicle through the park and make a day of it, searching for rhino, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, zebra and, of course, antelope. There is also a great range of accommodation – from safari tents to chalets – should you wish to stay a little longer.
7. Mannville Open Air Theatre
Shakespeare said “all the world’s a stage” and in Port Elizabeth it’s Mannville Open Air Theatre that is the stage. Here you can enjoy the annual Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival. The plays produced tend to fall in line with the schools’ current set works, giving schoolchildren, and visitors, the chance to see Shakespeare the way he intended – on stage not page.
8. Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but continues to play host to various sporting events. South Africans love their sport, so if you’re part of the crowd during an EP Kings’ rugby match or a Bafana Bafana football game, you’ll feel the good vibes created through the pride the people feel in their sport, as well as the solidarity – and boisterous rivalry – in cheering for their teams. Tours are also available, and the stadium doubles as a venue for functions, and even offers accommodation.
9. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum
Museums are particularly perfect for rainy days. The three exhibition halls of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum display a breath-taking array of oils, beadwork, ceramics, printmaking, textiles and digital media. Through its collection of South African arts and crafts, the museum is an embodiment of South African diversity. There is also a fine selection of international art on display – including British, Asian and European – while a specialised focus on work from the Eastern Cape creates the perfect introduction to the region.
10. Port Elizabeth Market Square
The Friendly City is dotted with national monuments, and one of these is the Port Elizabeth Market Square. Erected in the mid-19th century, it was declared a national monument more than 100 years later, in 1973. This is where you will find City Hall, and just across the way is the public library, itself a national monument. Others you can explore throughout the city include the Old Harbour Board Building in Fleming Street and the settlers’ houses on Castle Hill.