By John Edwards

Photography by Michael Jung / Shutterstock

 

With its award-winning beaches and laidback lifestyle, South Africa’s ‘Friendly City’ couldn’t be friendlier. Yet ‘PE’ is also enjoying a sustained period of urban renewal; several historic areas have become exciting new hubs. No leave? No problem! British Airways (operated by Comair) gives you some ideas how to spend this perfect weekend away that awaits

 

Friday

 

18.00 – Make your escape

British Airways’ scheduled flight leaves Johannesburg at 18h00 and arrives in Port Elizabeth at 19h40. It takes a mere five minutes in your hired car [BA to provide relevant link] to get from the airport to the beachfront areas of Humewood and Summerstrand on Marine Drive, and The Boardwalk Hotel (http://www.suninternational.com/boardwalk/) is where you want to be – it’s perfectly located and with a host of restaurants, bars and shops, it’s a hub in its own right. Close by, Radisson Blu (https://www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-portelizabeth) is another excellent base – think ocean vistas from every room! For now, though, it’s time to head out and explore some nightlife.   

 

20.00 – Seafood, sea view

Over weekends the beachfront’s myriad restaurants and bars buzz. The Blue Waters Café (+27 (0)41 583 4110) is perennially popular so book ahead for a table with a view. Order the fresh linefish and finish up with a guilty treat – the Lindt phyllo truffles are legendary. Barney’s Tavern (http://www.barneystavern.co.za/) adjoins the Blue Waters Café; always lively, it serves up tasty pub grub, draught beer and big screen sport. With a live band on hand, the venue rocks until the early hours. Pop in for a nightcap but remember there’s a busy weekend in store for you.

 

Saturday

 

08.00 – Make a run of it

PE’s promenade runs parallel to the beachfront coastline and it’s always packed with locals making the most of the balmy weather. Join in and get the blood pumping with a ‘parkrun’ – a wildly popular five-kilometre (and free) fun run on Saturday mornings, starting at Hobie Beach. You may see dolphins gliding through the waves close to shore. Afterwards, grab a coffee and breakfast (order the ‘Millers’ poached eggs with avocado, smoked salmon and cream cheese) on the deck at Something Good Roadhouse (+27 (0) 41 583 6986), a recently refurbished 1950s Port Elizabeth landmark overlooking Pollock Beach. Pollock (or ‘Pipe’ as it’s known) is a surfing hotspot – and it’s where the young and beautiful like to strut their stuff. 

 

10.00 – Surf’s up

Back at Hobie Beach, the recently upgraded Shark Rock Pier shares centre stage pier with the Boardwalk Hotel complex and is <the> gathering place for people to watch the swimmers and surfski paddlers out at sea. Take the plunge and go snorkelling or splash out on some ocean kayaking – hire gear at Pro Dive Watersport Centre (https://prodiveportelizabeth.activitar.com/); book in advance.

 

13.00 – Laidback lunch

PE’s essential charm is that it’s laidback and unassuming. The Beershack (+27) 41 582 2354) exemplifies this ‘come as you are’ attitude and offers a range of craft beer ‘without the pretention’ paired with substantial burgers unofficially rated by locals as being the best on the block (order the beef burger topped with cheese and bacon, and opt for a side of zucchini fries). Beershack is close to the Kings Beach area, overlooks the promenade and is a prime spot from which to watch the passing parade.

 

15.00 – Peace and quiet

After lunch, head southwards along Marine Drive to the Cape Recife Nature Reserve (http://www.caperecife.co.za/) nearby. This wild deserted stretch of pristine beach and fynbos vegetation is suitably tranquil after the hubbub of the beachfront, and is best explored on foot via a series of well-maintained trails. Observe the varied birdlife and seek out the WWII military observation post; you certainly won’t miss the black and white striped lighthouse, which rises up from the rocky shore with a wide blue sky as its backdrop. As you exit the conservancy, stop in at Ziggy’s Rock and Reggae Bar at the Pine Lodge Resort (http://pinelodge.co.za/) for sundowners. It’s a relaxed restaurant and bar and practically on the beach with a deck that allows for an uninterrupted sea view.

 

20.00 – Sidewalk café culture

The quaint suburb of Richmond Hill is five minutes away from the beachfront and Stanley Street, the main thoroughfare, offers an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. Packed to bursting most nights of the week, its distinctive sidewalk café culture provides a unique snapshot of Port Elizabeth’s diverse society. Restaurants come and go but the stalwart on the strip is Fushin, which serves Asian food with a twist. Try the ‘New York’ uramaki, a California-style roll crammed with fresh tuna and avocado and topped with tempura prawns. If you prefer bistro-style dining then try the hickory chicken medallions with a walnut and stilton sauce at Flava (+27)41 811 3528). Have something sweet with a kick at Salt (+27) 41 582 2402), a vibrant ‘restrobar’ which also serves an extensive range of cocktails – the ‘chocolate jar’ is a popular choice; more of a dessert or an adult milkshake, it combines chocolate milk with liqueur and vodka. Salt is popular with a wide spectrum of late-night revellers, so expect to party!

 

Sunday

 

8.00 – Wildlife cruise

Not for nothing is Port Elizabeth dubbed ‘the Bottlenose Dolphin Capital of the World’ and while you’ll probably spot numerous pods in the bay, the best way to see them up close is on a wildlife sea cruise. Raggy Charters (http://www.raggycharters.co.za/) offers a three-hour expedition (meet at the Algoa Bay Yacht Club and board the catamaran at 8h30) during which you might get to see all or at least some of the following marine species in their natural habitat: dolphins, whales, sharks and penguins. Book in advance.

 

13.00 – Sunday lunch

There are plans in the pipeline for the development of a harbour waterfront precinct but this has yet to materialise. This doesn’t deter the locals from enjoying what is currently on offer at the harbour and Sunday lunch at the Chartroom Restaurant (http://abyc.co.za/chartroom-restaurant/) is something of an institution. Mingle with the yachting community at the bar or sit on the deck and enjoy the harbour views and ambience. Don’t miss trying one of their ‘seafood combos’, it’s for good reason that the hake, calamari and prawn platter is one of their top sellers.

 

16.00 – Homeward bound

Your flight leaves at 18h05 and it’s only a short hop to the airport so there is still time for one last farewell stroll along the promenade. It’ll be hard to tear yourself away from those sea views, but you’ll be home before 8pm, refreshed and ready for the working week ahead. 

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