PE like a local: How to have the best time in the Friendly City

2016-10-08 09:30 - Anje Rautenbach
Post a comment 0

Don’t be fooled by the things you’ve heard about Port Elizabeth… just because the city has a laid-back atmosphere and the traffic is not on par with South Africa’s bigger cities, this seaside treasure is anything but sleepy.  

It might be windy. But sleepy?


Port Elizabeth puts the vibe in vibrant and whether you are looking for adventure, heritage, nature, culture or urban escapades, PE is the place to be; a lucky packet filled with things to keep you busy, entertained and gastronomically satisfied.  

Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism offers visitors (and Port Elizabethans) the chance to see and experience the best of the Bay in a way that is easy on the pocket with their popular Pass Card.

The NMB Pass Card will give visitors free entry or a discount to numerous activities and sights in and around the Bay and you can choose between a 5-in-1 NMB Pass Card or a NMB Unlimited Itinerary Pass Card that is valid for 1, 2, 3 or 7 days.

So fuel up, put foot on pedal, get in a car or a bus or a plane and head to the Friendly City. Because yes, we also have Uber…

Where to sleep:

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).

If you want to be close to the beach, check in at the Kelway Hotel or for 5-star luxury go to Isango Gate or the Boardwalk Hotel. 

Where to eat:

Grassroofs: A farm stall type of restaurant – with a grass roof - offering farm produce, an eatery, a deli and a bakery. They also have a play area for children.

Banetton Bakery & Café: You won’t find Tim Noakes at this bakery, but you will find the artisan craft of wood-fired bread, fresh and home-made juices and good coffee . 

Friendly Stranger: This coffee shop in Baakens Valley is in an old cobblestone building (believed to be the oldest in PE) with a small basement-type-of-lounge that is a popular get-together spot for creatives. Their chicken salad with honey, mustard and dukkah is a winner.

Valley Market: Visit the Valley Market, the first Saturday of every month in the old tramways building artisanal chocolate, bread, exotic paella and more. Entry is R10 (which goes to soup kitchens,  and making grocery parcels and meals for needy families). 

Ginger: For fine-dining in the Bay, make your way to Ginger. The restaurant is situated next to the Boardwalk.

Ganache Patisserie & Chocolatier: If you have a sweet tooth indulge in the treats at Ganache Patisserie & Chocolatier, situated in Baywest Mall.


1.Get in the ocean

With winter out of the way get yourself to the blue flag beaches; King’s Beach, Hobie Beach and Humewood Beach. Port Elizabeth is also a favourite for divers and if you want to be in the company of rehabilitated African Penguins, head over to SAMREC. Don’t miss out on the chance to witness a penguin release at a nearby beach in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve.

2.Walk with Madiba

Put on your tekkies and walk parts of the renowned Route 67. This art route showcases 67 public art works that symbolises  the 67 years Madiba has dedicated to South Africa’s Freedom and it winds through murals and sculptures all over the Bay. The Donkin Reserve, which forms part of the route, is home to the second largest flag in Africa and the flag is the same size as a tennis court.

3.Search for urban art

The street art scene is picking up in Nelson Mandela Bay and people like Steven Carter (also known as Joff), GN and the visual arts collective group, 4 Blind Mice, have been colouring the city with urban conversations from centre to valley.  There are a few places where you can view street art in the city such as Strand Street, Richmond Hill, Baakens Valley and Bird Street.

4.Explore old and modern museums

There is no shortage when it comes to museums in Nelson Mandela Bay and these museums should come with a disclaimer: “It won’t be boring, trust us”.

Less than 20 km from the city centre you can find Uitenhage’s historical museums like the Old Railway Museum and Cuyler Manor, where you can experience the 200-year-old history through the funny stories told by Rosy who has been working at the museum for 30 years.  The VW Autopavillion, also in Uitenhage, shows the history of Volkswagen through modern installations and interactive displays like a car that gets cut in half with a laser.

“It won’t be boring, trust us”.

5.Be adventurous

You better get enough sleep before you head to the Bay and make yourself ready for an action-packed adventure.

If you want to test the water, opt for scuba diving or practice your balance on a surfboard or a kayak. Make the sand dunes your playground – from Sundays River Valley to Maitlands – and strap on a dune board or take the driver seat in a 4x4. The Bay is home to mountain biking trails, like the Baakens Valley trail, and also hiking trails through thickets to mountain tops such as Sacramento Trail and Lady Slipper.


6.Take a drive on the wild side

It is often hard to believe that a 20 to 30 minute drive (in two different directions) can lead you to Kragga Kamma Game Reserve, home to vast herds of African Game, and Addo Elephant National Park where not only the big 5 roam, but also the big 7. These two wildlife meccas in the Eastern Cape are perfect for day trips, self-guided game drives as well as an overnight escape.

7.Hop on the Beer Route

If you enjoy craft beer, hop on the Hop on Beer Route in Port Elizabeth. 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.

8.Stock up on coffee

Port Elizabeth is home to the oldest coffee roaster in South Africa: Mastertons. Stock up on coffee or buy it as a souvenir; there is no need to use a map to get to the shop, the smell of coffee lingering in Russell Road will lead the way. 

What to read next on Traveller24:

WATCH: Jennifer Aniston's reaction to finding herself in economy is too funny!

Overberg Insider: 5 Lesser-known dorpies to love

- #KarooSecrets: SA insider guide to the best of the Karoo