Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Think of this South African city as the gateway to all that the Eastern Cape offers: gorgeous beaches, whale watching, shark-cage diving, zip-line adventures, and safaris at private game reserves. While Port Elizabeth is home to the seaside Boardwalk Casino and is the launching point for boat tours of the bay and coastline, within a one-hour drive you can easily enjoy the rugged beauty of the South African landscape — and all things natural and wild.
What We Love
Malaria-Free Safaris: Several game reserves are easily accessible from Port Elizabeth — Shamwari Game Reserve and Addo Elephant National Park are two of the best known — and the region is malaria-free. Many cruises offer day tours that include a game drive and lunch, or overnight safari extensions for a night or two, depending on the ship’s itinerary.
Township Culture: Book a tour to see firsthand the dynamic of daily life in South Africa’s black townships and experience Xhosa culture — music, dance, food, and the popular “shebeens,” or pubs. Many also visit the Red Location Museum, the country’s only township-based museum, which explores the liberation struggle against apartheid.
Best Known For
Photogenic Beaches: The beaches of the Eastern Cape are beautiful though not always ideal for swimming due to strong currents. Three in Port Elizabeth have Blue Flag status (meaning they have met criteria for water quality and safety), including King’s Beach and Humewood Beach.
African Penguins: St. Croix Island in Algoa Bay is home to a large breeding colony of endangered African penguins. To see the animals, book a boat cruise or visit the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre in Cape Recife Nature Reserve, which rescues, rehabilitates, and releases sick and injured penguins and other seabirds.
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Who It's Best For
Nature Lovers: Whether you opt to see sharks and whales or rhinos and wildebeests, this port celebrates the raw beauty of South Africa.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Think Safety First: While it might be tempting to explore on your own, South Africa’s high crime rate makes taking a tour or hiring a local driver the safer options.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.