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Port Elizabeth Travel Essentials


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Ideal duration: 1-2 days

Best Time: September - November & March - May Read More

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"The Friendly City"

Port Elizabeth Tourism

Port Elizabeth, now renamed Gqeberha, is one of the largest cities in South Africa. It is located halfway between Cape Town and Durban, on the beautiful shores of Nelson Mandela Bay. Port Elizabeth is known for its many blue-flag beaches and fun water sports. It also acts as the gateway to the Eastern Cape of South Africa, known for its big five game safari.

Port Elizabeth is a famed spot for dolphin and whale spotting almost throughout the year. Like most places in South Africa, the city is home to diverse wildlife reserves with a fantastic array of jungle beasts. It also offers several historical attractions and hiking trails.

A major highlight of Port Elizabeth is the warm oceanic climate which makes it one of the top cities in the world for pleasant year-round weather. The centrally situated Port Elizabeth Airport provides easy access to all parts of the city and is also known as the “15-minute city”. Most attractions here are located within a 15-minute distance from the airport.

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Must Know Before You Travel to Port Elizabeth

  • Tourist Information Centers: Tourist information centres are available at the Donkin Reserve, Boardwalk, and Airport Arrivals Hall, managed by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism. Consider getting tourism passes there for free and discounted activities.
  • Local Transport: Commuting within the city can be done by renting a car or using minibus taxis and public buses.
  • Detour: Consider taking the Garden Tour on your way to Cape Town.
  • National Parks & Reserves: Local national parks and reserves like Addo Elephant National Park, Kariega Game Reserve, Shamwari Game Reserve, and Pumba Private Game Reserve, are all within easy reach of Port Elizabeth.
  • Visit Grahamstown: Consider a day trip to the old frontier town of Grahamstown. It offers a rich history, cultural attractions, and festivals, including the annual National Arts Festival.
  • Whale Spotting: Whale spotting is popular between August and September; take a boat trip to see Bryde whales, Southern rights, Humpbacks, and Minkes.
  • Easy Commute: Travellers can reach any part of the city within 20 minutes.
  • Windy City: Be aware that Port Elizabeth is known for its strong winds.
  • Popular Music: The city's small but vibrant indie, metal, and punk scenes thrive in local bars, pubs, and along the beaches.
  • Drinking Water: Port Elizabeth has high-quality potable tap water.
  • Safety: Avoid travelling around the city at night.

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History of Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth's history dates back to the early 19th century when British settlers arrived and established it as a trading post. It grew rapidly, especially in the wool industry. The town became a city in 1913. During apartheid, it witnessed resistance, including the 1985 Langa Massacre. After apartheid, South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994, electing Nelson Mandela as president. Port Elizabeth, now Nelson Mandela Bay, flourished economically and culturally, representing the nation's transformation.

Shopping in Port Elizabeth

  • Greenacres is Port Elizabeth's biggest mall and will satisfy all your purchasing needs while visiting the windy city.
  • When you are in this coastal city, you might need to buy some supplies for the beach and the Ocean Side Surf shop sells swimwear, sunglasses, sun lotion and anything that you may need for the day at the beach.
  • If you are in the mood for antique shopping, then you should visit the Central Port Elizabeth area. Traditional and attractive momentoes and souvenirs are available throughout the Bay.
  • Known as the Cosmopolitan Centre, Walmer Park Shopping Centre, Port Elizabeth Walmer Park Shopping and Entertainment Centre, located in Main Road, Walmer, is one of Port Elizabeth's most up-market retail shopping complexes and is favoured amongst locals in the surrounding residential areas.
  • Pier 14 offers fashionable clothing boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants as well as novelty gift shops.

Nightlife in Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth's nightlife scene offers a diverse array of spots to suit every taste.
  • Aqua and Balizza are excellent choices for dancing, while Barney's and Beer Shack provide a unique beachfront experience.
  • Live music enthusiasts can head to Liquid Lounge, Government on Parliament, Illusion, and Buccaneers.
  • For a more relaxed ambience, Harem, Bridge Street Brewery, and Flamingo's are perfect places to unwind.
  • Raggies International features lively music events, and Harem offers Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails.
  • Beer Shack boasts a laid-back beach setting with craft beers and ocean views.
  • Buccaneers is a popular backpackers' bar with a vibrant party atmosphere.
  • Bridge Street Brewery caters to beer enthusiasts with craft brews, and Flamingo's attracts a diverse crowd with its mix of music genres.

Best Time to Visit Port Elizabeth

How to Reach Port Elizabeth

How to Reach Overview

To reach Port Elizabeth, you can take direct flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town to the well-connected Port Elizabeth International Airport, which is just 15 minutes from the city. By road, it's approximately 1,060 kilometres from Johannesburg (12 to 14 hours) and 750 kilometres from Cape Town (8.5 to 9 hours). Port Elizabeth is also connected by rail through Shosholoza Meyl, MetroRail, and  Apple Express.  Intercity bus services like Greyhound, Intercape, Translux, and Baz Bus are also available. 

How to reach Port Elizabeth by flight

Port Elizabeth has an airport known as Port Elizabeth International Airport, which is well-connected to major South African cities and some international destinations. The airport is hardly 15 minutes away from any part of the city and can be reached by airport taxi.

Direct flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Port Elizabeth typically take around 1 hour and 30 minutes. The round trip can cost around $160 - $350.

Domestic flights can be booked through Airlink, Safair, and South African Airways. Skyscanner can be used to book international flights to the country.

How to reach Port Elizabeth by road

Port Elizabeth can be reached by car or private taxis from various cities in South Africa. Distance from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth via the N1 and N10 highways is approximately 1,060 kilometres and it takes around 12 to 14 hours. However, from Cape Town, it takes around 8.5 to 9 hours to cover a distance of 750 kilometres.

How to reach Port Elizabeth by train

Port Elizabeth has several train options for travellers. Shosholoza Meyl offers overnight trains from Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, with connections to Cape Town, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, East London, Mthatha, and Grahamstown.

MetroRail provides frequent commuter trains to Uitenhage and nearby suburbs on weekdays, with reduced service on weekends.

The Apple Express is a narrow-gauge tourist train departing from Humewood Road station, taking visitors to Thornhill Village via the impressive Van Staden's River bridge, the world's highest narrow-gauge rail bridge.

Port Elizabeth's main railway station is conveniently located in the city centre, close to the harbour.

How to reach Port Elizabeth by bus

All major South African coach companies like Greyhound, Intercape, and Translux offer regular schedules to and from Port Elizabeth. The city is also on the Baz Bus route which is the hop-on/hop-off service. 

Local transport in Port Elizabeth

There are enough transportation options available in Port Elizabeth for tourists. One good option for travellers is the Baz Bus_that operates an extremely useful hop-on/hop-off system aimed at backpackers and budget travellers, with intercity buses stopping off at backpacker accommodation en route. Prebooking your rental car with a travel agent before flying out is the cheapest option and will provide more favourable terms and conditions. Camper vans and 4WD vehicles equipped with rooftop tents can be a good idea for getting to remote places where accommodation is scarce. Expect to pay from R1000 a day for a vehicle that sleeps two. The Nelson Mandela Bay Pass, a smartcard access card, provides you with free admission to a variety of attractions and activities in Nelson Mandela Bay. This includes amongst others museums, game reserves, scuba diving, art galleries, sightseeing tours and many more. It also entitles you to some great discounts in selected stores for shopping, activities, entertainment and more._

Port Elizabeth Photos

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

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FAQs on Port Elizabeth

What are the places near Port elizabeth?

The top places near to Port elizabeth are Knysna which is 231 km from Port elizabeth, Cape town which is located 656 km from Port elizabeth, Durban which is located 673 km from Port elizabeth, Johannesburg which is located 869 km from Port elizabeth, Pretoria which is located 923 km from Port elizabeth

What are the things to do in Port elizabeth?

The top things to do in Port elizabeth are Addo Elephant Park, Algoa Beach, Red Location Museum, St. George's Park, Donkin Reserve, Route 67. You can see all the places to visit in Port elizabeth here

What are the top hotels in Port elizabeth?

There are 498 in Port elizabeth which can be booked through Holidify. The most popular hotels in Port elizabeth are Marren House, Summerseas 42, 22 Mill Park, Orange Place @ 4, Stargazer Camp - Bellevue Forest Reserve, Tides End Cottage. You can see all the hotels in Port elizabeth here

What is the best way to reach Port elizabeth?

What is the local food in Port elizabeth?

While maize is a staple food in most of Africa, it is the Xhosa of the Eastern Cape who have refined its culinary usage to an art.The most famous maize dish in Xhosa cuisine is umngqusho. This dried maize and bean m_lange has been compared with Italian risotto and is delicious when served with a meaty stew. It is also Nelson Mandela's favourite food. Other than that, there is a good balance of meat and vegetables in their food. Due to the vibrant culture that South Africa shares, there is a diverse taste to dishes from different parts of the country which have unique and distinguishable influences._
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What is the best time to visit Port elizabeth?

The temperatures during summer (November to March) range from 16 to 27 degrees Celsius, while winters (May to August) have a temperature of ranging from a minimum of 8 degree to a maximum of 23 degree Celsius. Because of the very little variation in climatic conditions, it is a year round holiday destination. However, the peak season in Port Elizabeth falls around the holiday season in summer._
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