[UPDATED – 25 September 2018]
South Africa’s friendliest city is also its most underrated. Port Elizabeth is a city on the sea with little to no traffic, great undercover restaurants, fresh sea air and easy access to incredible wildlife. In no particular order, here are our 34 fun things to do in Port Elizabeth and plenty of reasons to get up, out and exploring this special city.
Good to know:
It is well worth buying a Nelson Mandela Bay Pass, which offers many free activities and discounts.
1-day unlimited activities pass – R400 adults, R300 kids
2-day unlimited activities pass – R475 adults, R350 kids
3-day unlimited pass – R575 adults, R400 kids
7-day unlimited pass – R800 adults, R500 kids
Or get a pass that’s valid for 3 months, but limited to 5 activities only at R600 for adults and R450 for kids. Children’s passes are valid for kids aged 3 to 12 years. You can order a pass online.
1. The Valley Market
On the first Saturday of every month, head to the Valley Market for spicy paella, gourmet boerie rolls, crisp pizza bases, freshly-baked artisan bread and smoothies. The market brings together the best of Port Elizabeth’s unique food venues, so you’ll be sure to find something for the entire family.
|Phone:||079 444 5666|
|Times:||09:00 – 14:00|
|Children under 12 years:||FREE|
2. Hip Stanley Street
The undisputed king of street cool, Stanley Street is Port Elizabeth’s answer to Jozi’s Maboneng, Durban’s Rivertown Precinct and Cape Town’s Bree Street. Choose from over 15 excellent restaurants. Set in Richmond, one of Port Elizabeth’s oldest suburbs, there is a friendly atmosphere with restaurant tables spilling out onto the sidewalk and fairy lights in the trees.
3. Patido’s Pub and Grub
The best place for a friendly beer and great vibe, you’ll find Patido’s in New Brighton, less than a 10-minute drive from the city centre. Patido’s is a laid-back, no-frills spot where you can ask for your deposit back when you return your empty bottles.
|Address:||Jabavu Road, New Brighton 1, Ibhayi|
|Phone:||041 454 0663 / 082 968 0540|
4. The Wreck of the Sacramento
Visit the cannon of the wreck of the Sacramento and relive a piece of P.E.’s swashbuckling history. The Portuguese warship, the Sacramento, ran aground here at Schoenmakerskop outside Port Elizabeth on 30 June 1647. The 72 survivors attempted a perilous journey to a Mozambican port. Hire a guide for the day or go it alone with a copy of the “Guns of Sacramento” by David and Geoffrey Allen. Entrance is free and there are wonderful coastal trails to do between Schoenmakerskop and Sardinia Bay (we recommend the 8km trail).
5. Fresh Pastries at Grass Roof Farm
This farm stall/patisserie/restaurant with literal grass growing on the roof and an array of delectable breakfast, lunch and tea options will win over your heart and your stomach. Don’t miss their pizza evenings on the last Friday of every month.
|Address:||Corner of New Seaview and Heron Road, Sardinia Bay|
|Phone:||041 366 2379|
|Hours:||08:00 – 17:00|
6. Cheer at Nelson Mandela Stadium
Watch South African soccer clubs battle it out in this 46,000-seater, five-tier stadium. The stadium is home ground to the EP Kings, Southern Kings and Chippa United and also hosts Bafana Bafana and the Springboks. Your NMB pass entitles you to a free stadium tour, prior booking required. Contact the stadium to book and request the NMB Pass special.
|Address:||70 Prince Alfred Road, North End|
|Phone:||041 408 8900|
7. Free Tour of the Volkswagen Auto Pavilion
Car lovers will be in heaven on a pre-booked tour at the Volkswagen Factory in Uitenhage. You’ll encounter the oldest kombi in South Africa, meet Herbie and see a car sliced in half by a laser! Enjoy a free tour of the Autopavillion, which is the only automobile discovery centre on the continent and only the fifth worldwide. The NMB pass makes this one of the free things to do in Port Elizabeth!
|Address:||103 Algoa Road, Alexander Park Industrial, Uitenhage|
|Phone:||041 994 5941|
|Hours:||Weekdays, 08:30 – 16:00
Every first Saturday of the month, 10:00 – 13:00
Access to the factory is available at the following prices:
|Children under 16/Senior citizens:||R5|
8. Take a Horse Ride in the Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve
Kick up some of P.E.’s golden sand and surf and go for a saunter along the beach. Heavenly Stables offers a one-hour free horse ride through the Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve with your NMB pass. Bookings essential at least two days prior (make sure to request the NMB Pass special). The rides are weather dependent.
|Address:||Plot 431, Sardinia Bay Road, Lovemore Park|
|Phone:||081 890 7080|
|Hours:||08:00 – 16:30|
9. Rhinos at Kragga Kamma
Just a short drive from the city is Kragga Kamma, a haven for free-roaming white rhino, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, nyala, bontebok and lechwe. It’s possible to take a reasonably-priced game drive or do a self-drive. Even better, this is one of the free things to do in Port Elizabeth with your NMB pass!
|Address:||Kragga Kamma Road|
|Phone:||041 379 4195|
|Hours:||08:00 – 17:00|
If you don’t intend to get an NMB pass, the cost of entry is as follows.
|Scholars (3-18 years):||R40|
|Pre-School (0-3 years):||FREE|
10. Visit the Algoasaurus at Bayworld
The bones of the Algoasaurus, a unique dinosaur to the Nelson Mandela Bay Area related to the Brontosaurus, were discovered near Despatch in 1903. The Port Elizabeth Brick and Tile Company was quarrying for brick-making materials when the brickmakers stumbled across the bones. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise what they’d found and ground up some of the bones for bricks. Luckily, quite a few remained which enabled the archaeologist Robert Broom to construct a likeness of the dinosaur. The museum is the third oldest of its kind in South Africa. Other interesting exhibits include a skeleton of the last southern right whale harpooned in the bay, and a replica of the Dias Cross. With your NMB pass, you get free entrance to Bayworld.
|Address:||23 Beach Road, Humewood|
|Phone:||041 584 0650|
|Hours:||Weekdays, 09:00 – 16:30*|
Should you not have an NMB pass, the costs for entering Bayworld are:
|Children (3-17 years):||R35|
|Children under 3 years):||FREE|
|Students / Senior citizens:||R40|
*Take note when purchasing tickets, you will only be able to do so until 15:45.
11. Visit the original Vovo Telo
South Africans all over the country have fallen in love with the fresh bread and pastries at Vovo Telo. It all started in Raleigh Street, Richmond Hill with wafts of freshly-baked artisanal bread drawing hungry customers. Inspired by an experience in Vovo Telo, a hotel in Madagascar, this bakery has become a series of popular slow-food restaurants. Choose from fresh ciabatta, sour dough, coconut loaf, brioche, rustic and rye to take away or enjoy breakfast, lunch, tea or dinner sitting down. The coffee comes highly recommended.
|Address:||Corner of Raleigh and Irvine Street, Richmond Hill Street, Port Elizabeth Central|
|Phone:||041 585 5606|
|Hours:||Weekdays, 07:15 – 15:15
Sat, 07:15 – 14:15
12. Explore Van Staden’s Flower Reserve For FREE
40km out of PE, Van Staden’s Flower Reserve protects rare and endemic plants. There is no entry fee. While there, be sure to visit the traditional Xhosa umzi (homestead) and learn about traditional Xhosa culture.
|Phone:||041 956 0155|
|Hours:||07:30 – 18:00
1 May-31 Aug, 07:30 – 17:00
13. Big 7 at Addo
Where else in the world can you see the big five plus the southern right whale and great white shark! This wide-spanning reserve also boasts the best elephant viewing in the country. If you are a frequent visitor to San Parks and have a wildcard, you’ll have free entry. Your NMB pass makes this one of the free things to do in Port Elizabeth for one day.
|Address:||R335 Paterson Road, Addo|
|Phone:||042 233 8600|
|Hours:||07:00 – 18:00|
If you aren’t able to get an NMB pass, the costs for entering the reserve are:
|South African citizens and residents (with ID):||R69||R35|
|SADC Nationals (with passport):||R138||R69|
|Standard Conservation Fee (foreign visitors):||R165||R90|
Please note that the above prices will change from 31 October 2018.
14. Mundy’s Second Hand BookSecond-Hand Book Shop
There’s nothing better than a well-stocked second-hand book shop. Bookworms are guaranteed to find some gems here.
|Address:||73A Cape Road, Port Elizabeth Central|
|Phone:||041 373 8520|
15. Donkin Lighthouse for city views
There are awesome views of the city from the top of this lighthouse in the Donkin Reserve, which now serves as a tourist office. Built in 1961, it’s over 150 years old. The reserve also includes a pyramid-shaped monument. Not only will you get great views of the city, but also excellent photo opportunities!
|Address:||Belmont Terrace – Donkin Street, Port Elizabeth Central|
|Phone:||041 585 8884|
|Hours:||Weekdays, 08:00 – 16:30
Sat, 09:30 – 15:30
16. Grillers Diner
A great place to get together with friends over milkshakes and club grillers. Full on nostalgia. From Monday to Thursday, you can enjoy awesome specials on their burgers, all under R40!
|Address:||330 Cape Road, Newton Park|
|Phone:||041 365 1688|
|Hours:||Mon – Thurs, 08:30 – 21:00
Fri, 08:30 – 22:00
Sat, 08:30 – 21:30
Sunday, 09:00 – 20:30
17. Njoli Market, New Brighton
Visit the traditional Njoli market in New Brighton for fresh veggies and a vibrant atmosphere. The NMB pass makes this one of the free things to do in Port Elizabeth, with a free township tour. Prior booking is required and the tour is subject to availability. Minimum of two people per tour.
|Phone:||041 583 2030|
18. South End Museum
The museum, run by volunteers, commemorates the tragic destruction of the once diverse South End community as a result of Apartheid. The floor of the museum traces the streets as they used to be and pays homage to broken lives and a ruptured community. This is one of the free things to do in Port Elizabeth with no entrance fee but donations are encouraged for the maintenance of the museum.
|Address:||Corner of Walmer Blvd & Humewood Road, South End|
|Phone:||041 582 3325|
|Hours:||Weekdays, 09:00 – 16:00
Weekends, 10:00 – 15:00
19. Hobie Beach
Blue flag status belongs to the Kings and Humewood beaches, however, Hobie Beach is a great spot to launch a boat, play an invigorating game of volleyball, wind surf, swim or bask in some sun. The small rock pools are also interesting to explore, especially for kids.
|Address:||Marine Drive, Summerstrand|
20. Summer Shakespeare in the Park
Celebrated playwright Athol Fugard’s hometown has a full schedule of cultural activities on offer. In the summer months, you can attend open-air Shakespearean productions at the Manville Theatre in St George’s Park. Find out about forthcoming events by calling the head office for Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism on 041 582 2575.
|Theatre Address:||St Georges Park, Park Drive, Port Elizabeth Central|
21. Summerstrand Boardwalk
How many cities in the world have this many blue flag beaches a stone’s throw from the hum of urban life? Enjoy one of the relaxing things to do in Port Elizabeth: a scenic stroll along the boardwalk. Summerstrand is sure to impress.
|Address:||Marine Drive, Summerstrand|
Unstuffy fine dining with a sweeping view of the Indian Ocean. Great service and a visual and gastronomic feast, this is one of the best restaurants in the city with outside and inside seating options. This is Michelin chef Jonathan Hodder’s pièce de résistance. Their cocktail menu is a mixologist’s dream. Don’t miss their gourmet food and wine pairing evenings. Their meal selection includes items under R150 while you can get glasses of wine for as low as R28.
|Address:||The Beach Hotel, Marine Drive, Summerstrand|
|Phone:||041 583 1229|
|Hours:||11:00 – 15:30
18:00 – 22:00
23. Mellas Dim-Sum and Noodle Bar
The rest of South Africa is only now figuring out what locals knew all along – Port Elizabeth has one of the most enticing and diverse foodie scenes in the country. For fresh, authentic dim sum, head to Mellas.
|Address:||15 Bain Street, Port Elizabeth Central|
|Phone:||041 582 2736|
|Hours:||Mon, 18:00 – 22:00
Tuesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 15:00 & 18:00 – 22:00
24. Pearson St George’s Park Conservatory
Known as the oldest park in Port Elizabeth, St George’s Park has the second-oldest cricket club in South Africa, which has hosted countless test matches to this day. The conservatory was opened on September 12, 1882 and is an exquisite example of Victorian architecture. It has been preserved to this day despite threats of demolition, and still hosts interesting hot-house flowers and orchids when they are in season. Pupils from St George’s Prep school still dress up for their annual Victorian tea and walk in the park.
|Address:||11 Consulate Place, Port Elizabeth Central|
|Phone:||041 392 4187|
25. Do the FREE 5km Hobie Beach Park Run every Saturday
Get the blood pumping, air in your lungs and take part in P.E.’s favourite Saturday morning activity. Every Saturday morning at 08:00, hundreds of runners from the community come together to enjoy the city, sun and sea views. It’s one of the free things to do in Port Elizabeth! Just register online before your first run.
|Address:||Marine Drive, Summerstrand|
|Website to register on:||www.parkrun.co.za/pehobiebeach|
26. Old Library
This beautiful Victorian Gothic building is the only historic building in South Africa built as a Public Library which still operates as a public library today. Easy on the eyes on the outside, spend a thoughtful afternoon browsing the collection inside.
|Address:||Baakens Street, Port Elizabeth Central|
|Phone:||041 506 3466|
|Hours:||Mon, 10:00 – 17:00
Tues – Thurs, 09:00 – 17:00
Fri, 09:00 – 13:00
27. Bridge Street Brewery For A a Cold One
Not keen on the beer tour? Visit this brewery any time for the excellent thin-based pizzas, burgers and live music
|Address:||1 Bridge Street, South End|
|Phone:||041 581 0361|
|Hours:||10:00 – 22:00|
28. Penguins at SANCCOB
This is definitely one of the most memorable things to do in Port Elizabeth! Visit these wonderful birds in tuxedos at the SANCCOB marine bird rehabilitation centre situated in the Cape Recife Reserve. Visitors can visit the hospital to learn more about caring for the injured birds. Visitors to SANCCOB are exempt from the entrance fee to Cape Recife Nature Reserve.
|Phone:||041 583 1830|
|Hours:||09:00 – 16:00|
29. Cape Recife Reserve and Lighthouse
You can do the 9km walk around the reserve taking in unspoiled beaches, wildflowers and you might even spot some whales. The lighthouse is also a fascinating location in the reserve. If you wish to explore the interior, you will need to contact Alan Tours (041 378 1486), although the cost of the tour (which includes a visit to the Grysbok Nature Reserve) exceeds our budget (currently at R680, or R780, for the sunset special).To enter the reserve by car, you need to buy a permit at the entrance to Pine Lodge Holiday Resort. A weekly permit costs R72.50 per vehicle. Alternatively, you could park outside, and enter the reserve on foot. That way, you won’t need to buy a permit. Contact the Pine Lodge Holiday Resort for more information.
|Phone (Pine Lodge Holiday Resort):||041 583 4004|
|Hours:||07:00 – 21:00|
30. Ice Skating at Bay West Mall
Visit the impressive new ice rink at Baywest Mall. This is the only rink in the Eastern Cape and one of the best things to do in Port Elizabeth, promising hours of rambunctious fun for kids learning how to skate. The rink will also foster the growth of ice-hockey in the region. The price of entering is R80 and an extra R35 to hire skates. For group rates contact the Bay West Ice Rink for more information.
|Address:||Baywest Mall, Baywest Boulevard, Hunters Retreat|
|Phone:||041 492 0318|
|Hours:||10:00 – 17:00
19:30 – 22:30
31. Cool off in McArthur’s Pool & Leisure Centre
Take the kids to McArthur’s Swimming Pool for one of the family-friendly things to do in Port Elizabeth: a water chute, splash pool, two open-air freshwater pools, change rooms and a couple of restaurants. Life guards are always on duty at the complex giving parents that extra peace of mind. In season, the pools are open seven days a week, from September to the following April.
|Address:||33 Beach Road, Humewood|
|Phone:||041 582 2285|
32. Beer Yard
Burgers, pizza and beer, need we say more? On Tuesdays get any pasta dish for just R49. Enjoy excellent live music and beer tastings.
|Address:||1 Cooper Street, Richmond Hill|
|Phone:||041 582 2444|
|Hours:||Mon – Sat, 12:00 – 00:00|
33. Africa’s Longest Double Zipline
This is the longest dual zipline experience in Africa and one of the most fun things to do in Port Elizabeth! For safety purposes, they have an automated stopping system so that you can chill out and take it all in without worrying about slowing down. NMB pass holders will receive a free zipline experience. If you’d like to try out their swing, it’s R150 per person while canoeing is only R100. Booking ahead is essential. When you call to make a booking, remember to ask for the NMB pass special.
|Address:||Happy Lands Farm, 1 Prospect Avenue, Summerville|
|Phone:||078 911 1619|
|Hours:||Tues – Sun, 09:00 – 16:00 (incl. school holidays)|
34. Shark Rock Pier
The only pier in the city, iconic shark rock pier stretches out languorously into the bay. It’s the best place to watch the sun dip below the horizon, capture that perfect photo, and the views of the city and the bay are remarkable. Beautiful P.E. is one of the best-kept secrets in SA.
There are so many interesting things to do in Port Elizabeth. we’re sure we’ve left out a few favourites – let us know your P.E. must-do’s in the comments below.
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