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This article was first published on 18 May 2017 and was updated by Leigh Hermon on 15 November 2018
The jet engine literally opened up a world of possibility. You can basically get anywhere in the world within 24 hours, but we often forget that we can also get to prime South African holiday destination like Port Elizabeth within two short hours.
This makes flying, renting a car and booking a hotel the perfect fit for someone who doesn’t have any leave, but needs a short holiday. It’s just a matter of fitting it all in within a 48-hour time frame.
British Airways went through the trouble of planning a weekend escape in Port Elizabeth. It’s not a weekend for relaxing, however, but if you’re in the mood for exploring the best the Friendly City has to offer, this is the schedule to follow.
6pm – Make your escape
British Airways’ scheduled flight leaves Johannesburg at 6:15pm and arrives in Port Elizabeth at 7:55pm. It takes a mere five minutes in your hired car to get from the airport to the beachfront areas of Humewood and Summerstrand on Marine Drive.
8pm – Seafood, sea view
Over weekends the beachfront’s myriad restaurants and bars buzz. The Blue Waters Café 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 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.
8am – 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.
10am – 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.
1pm – Laid back lunch
PE’s essential charm is that it’s laid back and unassuming. The BeerShack exemplifies this ‘come as you are’ attitude and offers a range of craft beer ‘without the pretension’ paired with substantial burgers unofficially rated by locals as being the best on the block.
3pm – Peace and quiet
After lunch, head southwards along Marine Drive to the Cape Recife Nature Reserve 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.
8pm – 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.
8am – 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.
1pm – 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.
4pm – Homeward bound
Your flight leaves at 6:35pm and it’s only a short hop to the airport so there is still time for one last farewell stroll along the promenade.
If you enjoyed our 48-hour guide to Port Elizabeth, then take a look at our guide for Swakopmund.