Port Elizabeth, South Africa Tourist Attractions
Port Elizabeth - usually abbreviated by South Africans to P.E. - is South Africa's fifth largest city and its third largest port. Along with Uitenhage and Kirkwood it forms the industrial and commercial center of the Eastern Cape.
In this "Detroit of South Africa" the most important branch of industry is automobile manufacture, second place being taken by weaving mills. In cultural matters Port Elizabeth can stand comparison with other large South African cities: it has a University, with 5,000 students, and a range of other educational institutions including a college of technology.But Port Elizabeth is also a popular holiday resort, with an attractive townscape, endlessly long beaches, particularly to the south of the city, and an interesting hinterland.Originally this was an area of grassland used by a Hottentot tribe as grazing for their livestock. The first Europeans to discover Algoa Bay, in which the city lies, were Portuguese navigators, beginning with Bartolomeu Diaz, who landed at the east end of the bay in 1488. Port Elizabeth, however, was not founded until 1820, when British settlers arrived in Algoa Bay. Sir Rufane Donkin, acting Governor of the Cape, came here to welcome the pioneers and named the new settlement after his wife Elizabeth, who had died young. The place developed only very slowly, receiving its charter as a town in 1861.Although a number of freeways run through the city center, Port Elizabeth has preserved an attractive aspect, with handsome Victorian buildings as well as modern high-rise blocks. The central area extends over a level coastal strip of land and the steep hill at its west end on which is the Donkin Reserve.
Port Elizabeth's historic city center reflects the atmosphere of the 19th C with streets of restored houses, museums and formal parks.
At the entrance to the harbor, near the railroad station, is the Campanile, a 52m/170ft high tower with a carillon of 23 bells erected in 1923 in honor of the first settlers. From the viewing platform at the top, reached by climbing 200 steps, there is a good general view of the city.
City Hall & Market Square
From the Campanile a street under the freeway leads to Market Square, the city's historic center. Opposite the City Hall (1858) is the Diaz Cross, a replica of the cross erected by Bartolomeu Diaz at Kwaahoek in 1488. Every Saturday morning a flea market is held in Market Square.
A variety of cruises are available, departing from the harbor. A particularly interesting trip is to the island of Santa Cruz, on which there is a large colony of penguins. Also popular with many visitors are diving expeditions to wrecks in the surrounding area, organized by Mike's Diving Shop; participants must have a certificate of competence.
Donkin Heritage Trail
Northwest of Market Square is the Donkin Reserve, a small park which Sir Rufane Donkin caused to be laid out in 1820. The lighthouse (1861) is now occupied by a Military Museum with a display of uniforms, medals and weapons. Beside the Museum is a pyramid commemorating Sir Rufane Donkin's wife, after whom the city is named.
Upper Hill Street
Upper Hill Street preserves something of the atmosphere of the 19th C.
Cultural History Museum
Fort Frederick was built in 1799 to defend the mouth of the Baakens River. It is now a national monument.
Cora Terrace is a row of seven beautifully restored Regency-style houses built from 1856 onwards. The street is named after the daughter of one of the original settlers. The houses are privately owned and not open to the public.
St George's Park
Near the west end of Bird Street is St George's Park (73ha/180ac), In the park are the oldest cricket ground and bowling green in the country, together with sports fields, tennis courts and swimming pools.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum (formerly King George VI Art Gallery)
Within St George's Park is the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum with a collection of 19th and early 20th C British art.Other exhibits include South African art focusing on the Eastern Cape, international printmaking as well as Oriental art featuring Indian miniatures and Chinese textiles.
Address: 1 Park Drive, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape 6001, South Africa
Opening hours: 9am-6pm; Sun: 1pm-5pm; Sat: 1pm-5pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Constitution Day - South Africa (Apr 27), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Youth Day - South Africa (Jun 16), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: First Sunday of the month: 09h00 - 14h00.
Facilities: Gift shop
Settlers Park Nature Reserve
This 54ha/133ac park lies to the south of St George's Park in the valley of the Baakens River; the main entrance is in How Street, Its beauty is enhanced by indigenous flora, rock pools and grassed areas, and it is home to some 100 species of birds.
Port Elizabeth Museum
Visitors who have more time at their disposal should pay a visit to this museum complex, situated on the coast to the south of the city center. The main building contains the departments of archaeology and anthropology.
Address: Box 13147, Humewood, Eastern Cape 6013, South Africa
Opening hours: 9am-5pm
The Snake Park, one of the finest of its kind, displays a fascinating variety of snakes, crocodiles, lizards and tortoises.
The Tropical House, with its lush vegetation, is inhabited by brightly colored birds.
In the Children's Museum all the exhibits can be touched and handled.
With its lush lawns, lily ponds, winding paths and play areas for children, this park, to the southeast of the museum complex, is an ideal place for picnicking or merely relaxing.
Map of Port Elizabeth Attractions