Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth

Author Anne Plau

As of February 2021, the official name of this South African port city is Gqeberha. In everyday language, Port Elizabeth is still common, or the abbreviation PE. The city is around 770 kilometers east of Cape Town. It stretches 16 kilometers along the Indian Ocean coast at Algoa Bay, also known as Nelson Mandela Bay. Extensive white sandy beaches are located directly in the city area.

312.000 people live in Port Elizabeth and 1.152.000 in the metropolitan area of ​​Nelson Mandela Bay (2011 census).

Article overview Port Elizabeth

History in a nutshell 

Port Elizabeth was founded by the English with the construction of Fort Frederick in 1799. Colonial interests of the French in the Cape area should thus be prevented. Fort Frederick is the oldest British structure in South Africa.

Port Elizabeth - Fort Frederick


Port Elizabeth - Fort Frederick


Port Elizabeth - Guns of Fort Frederick


Port Elizabeth - Guns of Fort Frederick 


A little later the first Britons settled in Algoa Bay, alone in 1820 there were 5000 settlers. Port Elizabeth was named after the late wife of the then governor, Sir Rufane Donkin. In Port Elizabeth, there are still some historical sites that remind of the British colonial history.

Economy and Transport 

The Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan region is an important location for South African vehicle manufacturing. The industrial landscape also includes mechanical engineering, electronics and textile processing companies.

Port Elizabeth has the third largest port in South Africa, which has a significant economic status. The city has a modern airport and is connected to Cape Town and Johannesburg by rail.

Tourism 

Tourism is a significant part of Port Elizabeth's economy. The city offers a variety of sights from colonial times, including the Donkin Reserve, Market Square with the town hall and library, and Fort Frederick.

Port Elizabeth - City Hall

Port Elizabeth - City Hall


To the south of the city center are fantastically beautiful beaches along which a well-kept promenade runs. With its wide range of water sports, Port Elizabeth attracts numerous tourists from home and abroad every year. In addition, the Boardwalk Mall attracts with shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes as well as a casino.

There is also a lot on offer culturally. The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, N°7 Castle Hill Historic Museum or the Athenaeum Gallery are just a few examples.

Port Elizabeth - Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum


Port Elizabeth - Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum


Port Elizabeth - Athenaeum Arts Center


Port Elizabeth - Athenaeum Arts Center 


Port Elizabeth is also the starting point for safaris in the nearby nature and game reserves.

Security information 

Safety is an important factor for any trip. Like many cities around the world, Port Elizabeth can be subject to criminal activity such as pickpocketing, burglary and car break-ins.

There is also an increased risk of violent crime, which includes robberies and muggings, in some areas of South Africa. Tourists should therefore follow safety warnings and recommendations from local authorities.

Overall, Port Elizabeth is a relatively safe city. Visitors should keep valuables safe and take steps to reduce the likelihood of criminal activity. With care and prudence, tourists can also explore the city and the surrounding region on their own.

Port Elizabeth for cruise passengers 

Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth are among the important cruise ports in South Africa. In addition to some larger ships from Cunard, AIDA and MSC, smaller cruise ships from the cruise lines Azamara, Regent Seven Seas, Phoenix, Silversea or Fred.Olson call at the port of Port Elizabeth.

AIDAaura in the port of Port Elizabeth

AIDAaura in the port of Port Elizabeth


There is no cruise terminal. At the exit of the pier, tour operators are waiting for guests. Taxes are rarely present. On the other hand, in South African cities, the private transport service Uber is an alternative. Some fellow travelers also had very good experiences with this service provider in Port Elizabeth. Some cruise lines offer shuttle buses to the city center or to the southern beaches.

The city center at Market Square is about a kilometer away. The way there is not particularly nice. It first leads through the industrial port and then over a bridge, under which there are railway tracks. The bell tower of the Settlers' Memorial Campanile serves as a landmark for this route. The 53 meter high red brick tower cannot be missed. Then you go under the city highway, up a flight of stairs and you are in Market Square.

Port Elizabeth - Port area


Port Elizabeth - Port area


Port Elizabeth - Port access for cruise ship guests


Port Elizabeth - Port access for cruise ship guests 


Port Elizabeth offers a range of things to do and activities for tourists. We report on this in detail in our article Port Elizabeth attractions.

March 2023