Content and photos courtesy of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism
- Area: 251 km² (97 sq mi)
- Calling Code: 041
- Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)
- Population (EST): 312,392
- Official language: Afrikaans, English, Xhosa
- Time Zone: UTC/GMT +2
Port Elizabeth – Places to Visit
Beaches are big in the Bay. With over 80 kilometres of golden strand – Nelson Mandela Bay is blessed with a coastal variety bar none. Radiating from the centre of the city are many of the Bay’s best swimming beaches: Kings Beach, Hobie Beach, Humewood Beach, Pollock Beach, Denville Beach. Pulsing out further afield are a number of more secluded or wild beaches including Wildside, Sardinia Bay, Maitlands, Blue Horizon Bay, St Georges Strand, Kini Bay, Bluewater Bay, Beachview, and Schoenmakerskop. Beaches are lifestyle hubs – and culminate in a collection of shore and sea activities that put the ‘sss’ in selection: surfing, snorkelling, strolling, skiing et al. Nelson Mandela Bay’s beaches are the ultimate city icon for leisure and pleasure.
Shark Rock Pier
Throwing its long legs into the warm Indian ocean, the Shark Rock Pier, is at once beach architect and icon. The concrete monolith is the reason that today Hobie Beach is amongst the city’s most popular swimming beaches – after its construction saw more sand trapped on the rocky shore, which then gave birth to the sandy expanse known as Hobie Beach, in prime position for urban sun worshippers and water babies. The only pier in Nelson Mandela Bay, it has become the “sun” the beachfront revolves around – big events are hosted on its shoulder, flags adorn it, people adore it and throngs walk its length – clutching ice-creams and a desire to be suspended above the water depths that define the Bay.
Perched on what is fast-becoming known as the “balcony of the Bay”, the Donkin Reserve has been reinvented, revived and rejuvenated – the outcome of which is an old icon cast in a new light. The Donkin Reserve is a monument to love – both Sir Rufane Donkin’s love of his late wife Elizabeth and Madiba’s love for his country. It is the home of the city’s public art offering and the site of new artistic and cultural heritage that magically incorporates the old and new in an unbroken line of love. Centrally located just above the central business district, the Donkin is the sentinel of the Bay.
Red Location Museum
Red – the powerful and symbolic colour of life – is pervasive at one of the few township-based museums in South Africa – Red Location Museum. The bright, proud colour speaks volumes of both the history and the contemporary capturing of moments and struggles past. The museum rises out of the ashes of Red Location in New Brighton where the first Umkhonto we Sizwe branch in South Africa was started as well as the first Defiance Campaign arrests. Red Location is a permanent reminder of the past and a vision for townships of the future – exhibitions, book launches, conferences, events, art, history and heritage. Unconventionally stark but spacious, the Red Location Museum incorporates the corrugated iron theme of informal settlement living to include a series of memory boxes consisting of twelve lofty free-standing galleries which house a diversity of photographic and art exhibitions. Next door is an incredible art gallery and across the way an innovative library which will house a special copy of the ANC’s 1955 Freedom Charter in its special airtight document vault. It holds pride of place as one of the city’s best loved icons.
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Sunflower of the cityscape, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, rises out of the industrial urban sprawl flanked by two bodies of water. It is a testament to the forward vision and dedication of the likes of local hero Dr Danny Jordaan who brought the World Cup to South Africa. But it has far surpassed and exceeded its World Cup expectations, evolving into an innovative, iconic venue and conference facility, a new home for events in the city and an inspiring, permanent Bay asset. The stadium has entrenched itself into local hearts and catapulted Nelson Mandela Bay onto the world stage through its spectacular sporting and other events.
The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World
Perfectly located between Bay and beach, The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World is the centrally located playground of all beachfront frequenters. A place where flirting with lady luck is par for the course, The Boardwalk has rooted itself in Nelson Mandela Bay as a destination for elegance and entertainment. Balanced between sea and suburb, it is the site of seamless integration of amusement with the perks and pleasures of a city. The Boardwalk has it all – excellence in shopping, a palette of possibilities in eateries, the ambiance of an incredible amphitheatre and of course the big lights and bling of the casino. The Boardwalk is currently undergoing a R1-billion expansion to raise the bar – including a conference centre, a 5-star hotel and spa and a multi-media lake spectacular. All this set against a backdrop of sun, sea and surf equates to an ideal compact of business and pleasure in one wow package.
Addo's Big Seven Offering
Nelson Mandela Bay is the only city in the world that is home to the colossal Big Seven of the animal kingdom which roam free just 55 km away from the city in the Addo Elephant National Park. The Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros) rule the five-biome land and the Southern Right whale and Great White shark are denizens of the deep in the Bay waters. Addo Elephant National Park stretches from the semi-arid karoo area in the north around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River valley and south to the coast between Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s river mouth, Addo covers about 180 000 hectares (444 700 acres) and includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups. Game viewing is always on the agenda with the finely tuned ecosystem playing sanctuary to over 550 elephants, lions, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species, as well as the unique Addo flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively in Addo. Plans are also afoot to proclaim a marine protected area that includes islands that are home to the world's largest breeding populations of Cape gannets and largest breeding population of endangered African penguins. The Addo Elephant National Park’s Big Seven offering uniquely situated in Nelson Mandela Bay sets it apart from all other safari reserves in the world.
St George's Park
Nelson Mandela Bay’s central park, the lush and welcoming grounds of St George's Park in the middle of the city – and home of the second oldest cricket club in South Africa – provide a tranquil oasis for walkers, nature-lovers, picnickers, sports-lovers and even performers. Established in the colonial era in line with the British love of parks, St George's remains a bastion of botanical beauty. It has also long staked its claim as the scene for firsts. It was the venue for the first South African cricket Test, the first women's international Test, the last Test before South Africa's expulsion from world cricket, the first ever Test series win against Australia, the first Rebel Test, the first Test victory for South Africa with the resumption of 'normal' cricket. Add to it South Africa's first rugby test and the "The Mother Club of Bowls in South Africa" as it was the first bowling club in the country, it’s no surprise that St Georges still comes in the top ten city icons. It is home to the verdant vines of the Pearson Conservatory, the St George's Cricket Stadium, the St George's Pool – the location of Athol Fugard’s critically acclaimed play, Master Harold and the Boys, sporting clubs and grounds and the Manville open-air theatre.
The Campanile has presided over the Port Elizabeth Harbour since 1923 as a monument to the 1820 settlers. Built on the mooring beach where the British Settlers landed in 1820 in commemoration of the centenary of their arrival, it towers above the city – mainly offering panoramic views for those with the hutzpah to ascend the stairway to the heavens. The tower is 51.8 meters high and has 204 steps to the top. Perhaps the arduous journey to the top will engender some sympathy for the settlers’ journey of 1820, but in either regard, the view is worth it – and it is incredible to hover above the cacophony of the city below from the confines of the Campanile. And when it’s song time, the tower tops ring out with a carillon of 23 bells, conjuring nostalgic cries of history and reminiscing for whom the bells toll. The Campanile is also the start of the recently launched Route 67 liberation struggle heritage initiative – a trail meandering through the city of Nelson Mandela Bay’s heritage and history and honours the 67 years of Nelson Mandela’s political life, and the political freedom for which he and his comrades fought.
No 7 Castle Hill
On a little hill in the city centre lies the perfect encapsulation of settler life – No 7 Castle Hill, built in 1830, is one of the oldest surviving settler cottages in Port Elizabeth and a wistful trip down memory lane. Repainting the domestic life of the middle class 19th century British settlers complete with yellowwood floors and beams, a vintage dollhouse, lace displays and downstairs kitchen and hearth, this exercise in time travel is particularly extraordinary in the heart of the historical and heritage district of Nelson Mandela Bay. Impressive details like the fact that the original well is still working in the cobbled courtyard bear testament to the engineering prowess of the settlers.