At the western end of Algoa (aka Nelson Mandela) Bay, PORT ELIZABETH, commonly known as PE, is normally visited for Addo Park, and not for its own beauty. The smokestacks along the N2 bear testimony to the fact that the Eastern Cape’s largest centre has thrived on heavy industry and cheap African labour, which accounts for its deep-rooted trade unionism and strong tradition of African nationalism. So it may come as a surprise that this has long been a popular holiday destination for white families – but then the town beachfront, stretching for several kilometres along Humewood Road, has some of the safest and cleanest city beaches in the country.
As a city, PE is pretty functional, though it has some terrific accommodation and reasonable restaurants. Although the town has been ravaged by industrialization and thoughtless modernization, one or two buildings do stand out in an otherwise featureless city centre, and a couple of classically pretty rows of Victorian terraces still remain in the suburb of Central, sliding into a revamped street of trendy cafés and restaurants. Holidaymakers head for the beachfront suburbs of Humewood and Summerstrand where there are places to stay plus bars and restaurants. There is little to draw you away from the beachfront, but further afield in New Brighton, you’ll find Port Elizabeth’s most important museum, the Red Location Museum of the People’s Struggle, housed in an award-winning building, and there are also some excellent tours around PE and into the townships.