Port Elizabeth, situated on Algoa Bay, is the largest city in the Eastern Cape and the seat of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality.  There are many monuments and places of historical interest in the area of Port Elizabeth.

Algoa Bay – Large inlet on the Indian Ocean, between Cape Padrone and Cape Recife, on which Port Elizabeth is situated. Named Angra da Roca by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488, subsequently renamed Bahia da Lagoa, which was corrupted to Algoa Bay. Of Portuguese origin, the name means ‘marsh bay’,

Port Elizabeth. City on the shore of Algoa Bay, 32 km’s southeast of Uitenhage and 137 km’s southwest of Grahamstown. It developed from a military station known as Fort Frederick, established in 1799, after the arrival of the 1820 Settlers, attained municipal status in 1868 and became a city in July 1913. Named in 1820 by Sir Rufane Donkin (1773-1841), Acting Governor of the Cape, after his wife, Elizabeth Frances, who had died of fever in India two years previously.

Port Elizabeth is part of the Amatola Mountain Region in the Eastern Cape. The Amatola Mountains are famous for their scenery and history, and stretch from Adelaide in the east to Stutterheim in the west. With its lush forests and ancient battlefields, it is an area steeped in Xhosa culture and early settler history.

The dense forests of the Amatolas are a haven for the endangered Cape parrot, and were also home to the first dinosaur to be identified in South Africa, the Blinkwater Monster, a large fossilised reptile discovered near Fort Beaufort. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Cathcart where trout-fishing, hiking, riding and bird watching are among the attractions. The Amatole Hiking Trail is a well-known scenic, but strenuous, trail. The coastal city of Port Elizabeth is a superb holiday destination offering a diverse mix of eco-attractions. It also hosts the annual Buoy open-water swim and the Isuzu National Sailing Week held annually in April in Algoa Bay. The Red Location Museum of the People’s Struggle in New Brighton – winner of three international awards – was designed to be a monument to South Africa’s struggle against apartheid and an integral part of community life in a township that acted as a crucible for the struggle.

Bay World has an oceanarium and snake park, and many splendid museums. Within the city there are some beautiful parks with well-landscaped gardens. These include: St George’s Park, which covers 73 ha and houses the famous Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, the oldest bowling green in South Africa; Prince Alfred’s Guard Memorial; the 1882 Victorian Pearson Conservatory; and the 54-ha Settlers’ Park.

Tourists can also explore the Donkin Heritage Trail, take a ride on the famous Apple Express, and hike along the site of ancient shipwrecks on the Sacramento Trail. At King William’s Town, tourists can visit the Amathole Missionary Museum. The grave of the Black Consciousness activist, Steve Biko, is also in the town. Other attractions include the Greater Addo Elephant National Park and game reserves; the traditional healing village, Kaya Lendaba, bird watching; air tours; canoeing; various mountain-bike and horse-riding trails; and organised outdoor excursions.

Die Baai is a popular name for Port Elizabeth; ‘the bay’.
The Friendly City. Popular name for Port Elizabeth.
Windy City. Popular name of Port Elizabeth. Prevailing winds have caused pine-trees on the shore to lean permanently at an angle.
P.E. Or call it P.E

P.E Distance to major cities.

Port Elizabeth – Johannesburg 1046.4 km
Port Elizabeth – Cape Town 769 km
Port Elizabeth – Durban 984 km
Port Elizabeth – Bloemfontein 677 km

P.E Distance to nearby towns and cities.

Port Elizabeth – East London 283.3 km
Port Elizabeth – Port Alfred 152.4 km
Port Elizabeth – Grahamstown 126.6 km
Port Elizabeth – Queenstown 340 km
Port Elizabeth – Mthatha 483.6 km
Port Elizabeth – Port Edward 764.5 km
Port Elizabeth – Port St Johns 578 km
Port Elizabeth – Aliwal North 501.3 km

Along the south coast of South Africa, between George and Port Elizabeth lies one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world, home to the Garden Route National Park.

Since 1992 water from the Sundays River valley has been supplied to Port Elizabeth. It is estimated that up to 200 million m3 of Orange River water could eventually be transferred to the Port Elizabeth metropolitan area annually.

Island close to Port Elizabeth

St Croix Island is situated in Algoa Bay, located 4 km from the land at the nearest point and is 21km north-east of the harbour at Port Elizabeth. There are two nearby islands, Jahleel Island, 6km to the west, and Brenton Rock, 2km to the south.

Bird Island. Island some 64 km east of Port Elizabeth and 8 km from Cape Woody, in the Alexandria district. So called because many seagulls inhabit it and the surrounding islands. The Doddington was wrecked on it in 1755.

Brenton Island. Island 19 km north-east of Port Elizabeth. It was named after Sir Jahleel Brenton (1770-1844), naval commander and artist.

Port Elizabeth and Surrounding Area.

Cape Recife. Promontory south-east of Port Elizabeth, at the southernmost portion of Algoa Bay. Formerly Cap des Recifs, Cabo de Recife or Arrecife, the name is derived from Portuguese and means ‘reef’. It is recorded as early as 1576. Also spelt Receife.

Donkin River. Former name of the Elands River, thus called in honour of Sir Rufane Donkin (1773-1841), Acting Governor of the Cape Colony in 1820 and founder of Port Elizabeth.

Fort Frederick. Early name of Port Elizabeth, taken from a fort erected in 1798 to ward off attacks by the French. Named after Frederick, the Duke of York.

H F Verwoerd Airport. Airport at Port Elizabeth, south of Walmer and Humewood. It was named after Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (1901-1966), Prime Minister of South Africa from 1958 to 1966, when he was assassinated. In 1954, it saw the landing of the first jet-propelled aircraft – five De Havilland Vampire FB9s.

Port Elizabeth International Airport. The airport is owned and operated by the Airports Company South Africa which also operates nine other airports around South Africa. The airport is located approximately two miles south of the city’s central business district. This has earned it the name “Ten minute airport” because it is said to be less than ten minutes’ drive from most major areas of the city.

via Target Kloof Rd 10 min (5.1 km’s) Fastest route, despite the usual traffic
via Settlers Hwy/M4 10 min (7 km’s)
via Park Dr 10 min (4.6 km’s)

In 2017, the airport served overt 1,500,000 passengers.

Jeffreys Bay.  A Fishing village and seaside resort some 72 km west of Port Elizabeth and 16 km east of Humansdorp, on the western shore of St Francis Bay.

Skoenmakerskop. Village on the southern side of the promontory on which Port Elizabeth stands, 8 km west of Chelsea Point. Afrikaans for ‘shoemaker’s hill’; this village, the hill, and the Skoenmakers rivier nearby, are said to have been named after Volcker Schoemaker, a soldier who deserted and settled in the Eastern Province.

Sundays River. Rises south of Middelburg in the Sneeuberg range and flows 373 km southwards past Graaff-Reinet and Jansenville, entering Algoa Bay north of Port Elizabeth. The name is thought to be derived from the Dutch surname Zondagh; Sondag is Afrikaans for ‘Sunday’. The Khoekhoen name was Nukakamma, ‘grassy river’.

Swartkops. Village on the Swartkops River, 11 km north of Port Elizabeth and 1,6 km from the Indian Ocean. Afrikaans for ‘black hills’, the name is said to refer to surrounding hillocks crested with dark shadows.

Uitenhage. Town 34 km north-west of Port Elizabeth. It was founded on the loan-farm belonging to Elizabeth Scheepers on the Swartkops River and became a municipality in 1841.

Addo is a region east of the Sundays River, some 75 km northeast of Port Elizabeth.

Addo Elephant National Park. Situated in a malaria free area just one hour’s drive from the South African coastal city of Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay, is a magnificently diverse national park and offers a wide variety of game viewing, outdoor adventure, accommodation and cultural experiences.

Visit the Addo Elephant National Park page HERE.

Directions from Port Elizabeth (PE) to Addo main camp

There are three alternatives:

  1. Take the N2 highway towards Grahamstown. Take the turnoff to the left signposted ‘Motherwell’
    and ‘Addo Elephant National Park’. Turn left at the top of the offramp. Proceed through Motherwell,
    following this road until you pass through the town of Addo and further on until you see the entrance to
    the park on the right. Distance: about 72 km or one hour travelling time.
  2. Take the N2 highway towards Grahamstown and carry straight on until the N2 splits off to the left
    and becomes the N10. Carry straight on, following the N10 towards Cradock/Cookhouse. Take the
    R342 to the left when you get to the intersection with Paterson on your right. This will be signposted
    ‘Addo Elephant National Park’. Follow this road for 24km, looking out for the entrance to the park on
    your left. Distance: about 120km or one hour and fifteen minutes travelling time.
  3. Take the N2 highway towards Grahamstown, pass Coega harbour on your right. Cross the Sundays
    River bridge. Turn off to your left at the sign that says ‘Camp Matyholweni’. Follow this road for about
    three km until you enter Matyholweni Gate at Camp Matyholweni. Follow the southern access road
    inside the park until you get to Addo main camp. Distance: about 40km from PE to Matyholweni and
    then 36km through the park (which takes about one and a half hours at the 40km/h speed limit). NB:
    this route is not accessible to cars pulling trailers or caravans and buses.


Visit the Eastern Cape Provincial Reserves page or Eastern Cape Private Reserves or maybe you would like to visit the Eastern Cape National Parks page.

Return to the Eastern Cape Towns/Cities page.

More Port Elizabeth information

The Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) is situated within the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality.  The initiative is a multibillion-dollar industrial development complex customized for heavy, medium and light industries.  It is adjacent to a deepwater port, the Port of Ngqura, and covers 110 km² of land.  The city’s unique advantage of possessing two ports, namely Port Elizabeth Harbour and Ngqura, creates an opportunity for the city to establish a strong and vibrant maritime sector.

Key Statistics 2011

Total population 312,392
Young (0-14) 21,3%
Working Age (15-64) 69,6%
Elderly (65+) 9,1%
Dependency ratio 43,6
Sex ratio 92,5
Population density 1244 persons/km2
No schooling aged 20+ 1,5%
Higher education aged 20+ 23%
Matric aged 20+ 35,7%
Number of households 99,794
Average household size 2,9
Female headed households 37,3%
Formal dwellings 92,6%
Housing owned/paying off 57,7%
Flush toilet connected to sewerage 92,7%
Weekly refuse removal 91,6%
Piped water inside dwelling 89%
Electricity for lighting 94,5%