Port Elizabeth : guide pour un week-end

By John Edwards

Photography by Michael Jung/Shutterstock

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Novembre 2016

With its award-winning beaches and laidback lifestyle, South Africa’s ‘Friendly City’ couldn’t be friendlier. Yet Port Elizabeth – or PE as it’s known to locals – is enjoying a sustained period of urban renewal and several historic areas have become exciting new hubs. Visit the city as part of a multi-centre South Africa trip.


Evening – Make your escape

British Airways’ scheduled flight leaves Johannesburg at 18:00 and arrives in Port Elizabeth at 19:40. Hire a car and you’ll be in the beachfront areas of Humewood and Summerstrand just five minutes after leaving the airport. The Boardwalk Hotel is where you want to check in – it’s centrally located and with a host of restaurants, bars and shops, it’s a destination in its own right. Close by, Radisson Blu is another excellent base – think ocean vistas from every room.

Pollock (or ‘Pipe’ as it’s known) is a surfing hotspot – and it’s where the young and beautiful like to strut their stuff

20:00 – Seafood, sea views

The beachfront’s restaurants and bars buzz at the weekend, so be sure to book ahead to bag a table view. The Blue Waters Café is perennially popular – the menu has fresh linefish – and it can be followed up with a guilty treat (the Lindt phyllo truffles are legendary). The adjoining Barney’s Tavern has a live band on hand and rocks until the early hours. If you’re in the market for a nightcap, don’t make it a late one – there’s a busy weekend in store for you.

Discover our cheapest flights from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth >

  • Shark Rock Pier off Port Elizabeth’s boardwalk on Hobie Beach is a favourite meeting – and people-watching spot – for locals. © Hongqi Zhang/123rf

    Nagez sans vous en faire

    The multitude of small reefs just a short swim from the pier make the area a popular place for scuba divers. Grab your gear and keep your eyes peeled for yellow-bellied rock cod, rays, sandsharks and catfish.

    Explore Port Elizabeth
  • Fresh and zingy Asian-inspired tapas at Port Elizabeth’s go-to restaurant, Fushin

    Goûtez par vous-même...

    Fushin serve up traditional Japanese style Kobe cooking with a blend of Fushin Style Tempura and Asian Tapas. Open every day, from 12:00 to 22:00, reservations are recommended.

  • Port Elizabeth known as the ‘bottlenose dolphin capital of the world’ – so regular sightings of pods in the bay are guaranteed © George Clerk/Getty Images

    Sea life

    Thanks to a unique permit, Raggy Charters can get closer to whales and dolphins than any other company (50m compared with 300m), and boasts a whale sighting success rate of 90 per cent.

    Go Whale watching


08:00 – Make a run for it

Join the locals on PE’s promenade and get the blood pumping with a ‘parkrun’ – a wildly popular five kilometre (and free) fun run on Saturday mornings, starting at Hobie Beach. You may see dolphins gliding through the waves close to shore. Something Good Roadhouse, a recently refurbished 1950s Port Elizabeth landmark overlooking Pollock Beach, is a good place to refuel. It’s ‘Millers’ is poached eggs with avocado, smoked salmon and cream cheese. and enjoy some people-watching. Pollock (or ‘Pipe’ as it’s known) is a surfing hotspot – and it’s where the young and beautiful like to strut their stuff.

10:00 – Surf’s up

Back at Hobie Beach, the recently upgraded Shark Rock Pier shares centre stage with the Boardwalk Hotel complex and is the gathering place for people to watch the swimmers and surfski paddlers out at sea. Take the plunge and go snorkelling or splash out on some ocean kayaking – hire gear at Pro Dive Watersport Centre. Advance booking is essential.

13:00 – Laidback lunch

PE’s essential charm is that it’s laidback and unassuming. The BeerShack exemplifies this ‘come as you are’ attitude and offers a range of craft beer without the pretention, paired with substantial burgers unofficially rated by locals as being the best on the block – especially for the beef burger topped with cheese and bacon, with a side of zucchini fries.

  • Lunch at The Chartroom in the harbour is, naturally, all about the fresh seafood

    Goûtez par vous-même...

    The Chatroom offers lunch and dinner with stunning views of the yachts in the marina. Open Tuesdays to Sundays.

    Réservation de vols

15:00 – Peace out

After lunch, head southwards along Marine Drive to the nearby Cape Recife Nature Reserve. This wild deserted stretch of pristine beach and fynbos shrubbery is suitably tranquil after the hubbub of the beachfront, and is best explored on foot via a series of well-maintained trails. Observe the varied birdlife and seek out the World War II military observation post; you certainly won’t miss the black-and-white striped lighthouse, which rises up from the rocky shore with a wide blue sky as its backdrop.

20:00 – Sidewalk café culture

The quaint suburb of Richmond Hill is five minutes away from the beachfront. Packed with locals most nights of the week, Stanley Street’s distinctive sidewalk café culture provides a unique snapshot of PE’s diverse society. Restaurants come and go but the stalwart on the strip is Fushin, which serves Asian food with a twist. There’s New York uramaki, a California-style roll crammed with fresh tuna and avocado and topped with tempura prawns. Sweet things can be found at Salt – the ‘chocolate jar’ is a popular choice. More of an adult milkshake, it combines chocolate milk liqueur and vodka.


08:00 – Wild thing

Port Elizabeth is dubbed ‘the bottlenose dolphin capital of the world’, and while you’ll probably spot numerous pods in the bay, the best way to see them up close is on a wildlife sea cruise. Raggy Charters offers a three-hour expedition, which sets off from Algoa Bay Yacht Club at 08:30, during which you might get to see all or at least some of the following marine species in their natural habitat: dolphins, whales, sharks and penguins. Book in advance to guarantee a place.

13:00 – Sunday lunch

There are plans in the pipeline for the development of a harbour waterfront precinct but this has yet to materialise. This doesn’t deter the locals from enjoying what is currently on offer at the harbour and Sunday lunch at the Chartroom Restaurant is something of an institution. Mingle with the yachting community at the bar or sit on the deck and enjoy the harbour views and ambience. Their seafood combo’ – a hake, calamari and prawn platter is one of their top sellers for good reason.

16:00 – On your way

From Port Elizabeth you can hire a car to embark on the Garden Route to Cape Town, visiting the nearby game reserves on your way. Alternatively, you could fly back to Johannesburg. British Airways flies to Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth at 18:05 on Sundays, arriving in the city before 20:00.