Port Elizabeth is a hybrid city. It’s the largest city on the coast between Cape Town and Durban, a busy, populous industrial and commercial centre, manufacturing everything from cars to leather goods; and, with its miles of sandy beaches, it is also a tourist centre.
These tourists are nearly all South African: international visitors only overnight in PE on their way to or from the Garden Route.
It is unfortunate that a motorway flyover crashes through the centre of PE, severing the town from the seafront. This gives visitors the false impression that the town is a noisy, busy place. The beachfront suburbs are actually quiet, rather genteel, places; and the city actually has quite a number of tourist attractions, ranging from art galleries and museums to water sports of every description.
PE has two nicknames, ‘the friendly city’ and ‘the windy city’. It’s friendly year round; it’s windy from September through December and the beach is best avoided in those months.
As an industrial city, Port Elizabeth and neighbouring Uitenhage had a reputation for militancy during the apartheid years, and it was the home town of several important resistance leaders.
If you can spare any time in PE, we recommend that you take one of the award-winning Calabash tours, either The Real City Tour, which includes both the city and the townships, or the Shebeen Tour, which allows you to enjoy the hospitality of African hosts over dinner and drinks.
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