If you look at the map of South Africa's coastline - you'll easily spot the Cape Point we're so famous for, not to mention the gems of KwaZulu-Natal's Golden Mile Durban and Umhlanga on the East Coast.
Just past the equally beautiful Garden Route, somewhere in the middle, is where you'll find the friendly deliciousness of Port Elizabeth, or The Bay as it is often referred to.
But as the Friendly City's presence and popularity extends beyond just being a port city, it is fast developing into the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolis - rolling like a new kid on the block but still retaining an undiscovered charm - it calls locals and foreigners alike to stop in and chill for a bit.
Port Elizabeth has many attractions, including warm seas, welcoming townsfolk and markets. But wander a little further than the popular beaches and you’ll discover a few more hidden treasures. Spend a day at Sardinia Bay, swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. You can certainly expect the crowds to be a bit thinner than in the other major cities.
It will be criminal if you don't spend at least one day sipping coffee at Hapoor Dam in the Addo Elephant National Park. The park is about 45 minutes from PE central and makes for the perfect day trip for game-viewing - just one of the enticing options from this Eastern Cape hangout.
Also don't forget Route62 links Port Elizabeth to Cape Town and is the perfect choice for those armed with a flask of coffee and no time limit on arriving at your final destination - but decidedly keen on exploring SA's lesser-known spots.
Where to base yourself:
The beachfront area is the best option for accommodation, as it’s close to the airport, the historic city centre where you can do some sightseeing, as well as the city’s best shopping mall, Walmer Park.
Spoil yourself by checking into the The Boardwalk Hotel, opened under the Sun International umbrella. The oversized rooms have private patios overlooking the magnificent Indian Ocean, which are great vantage points from which to watch the sunrise. The 5 star hotel is also connected to the Boardwalk entertainment centre, which houses a casino, multiple restaurants and shops, plus a tenpin bowling alley. In terms of nightlife, this is as good as it gets in PE, and you’ll spot hundreds of locals strolling along the wooden deck encircling a lake, which is the centrepoint of the Boardwalk.
Another 5-star luxury option is Isango Gate. If you want to be close to the beach, check in at the Kelway Hotel
If you want to extend your time in the wild, stay at Kragga Kamma Game Reserve’s cabins or in the middle of Addo Elephant National Park in the Spekboom Tented Camp (in the main camp they also offer safari tents, camp sites, chalets and cottages).
Where to Eat:
If you're taking some time out this peak holiday season to chill out in the Friendly City - and are wondering where to load-up for brekkie, catch some sunshine and cocktails or enjoy a hearty lunch or dinner - there is a varied selection to choose from.
From farm stall type of restaurants to bespoke markets such as the Valley Market which takes place on the first Saturday of every month in the old tramways building with artisanal chocolate, bread, exotic paella just some of the treats to entice your taste buds.
And for sometihing cool and refreshing why not try the Hop on Beer Route. This tour will take you to three microbreweries – Dockside Brewery, Beer Yard and Bridge Street Brewery – where you can enjoy 11 uniquely different crafted beers.
Things to Do:
It is no secret that Port Elizabeth (and the whole Nelson Mandela Bay) is still hugely undiscovered, and besides boasting pristine beaches – 3 of which have the Blue Flag status – the city is also evolving in the name of entertainment, attractions, activities and just good ‘ol fun.
If your wheels are taking the road to Port Elizabeth this holiday season you’re in luck because the Friendly City will be packed with summer-time events. Put on those sunnies, crack open an energy drink and plan your Port Elizabeth break.