Port Elizabeth (PE), situated on the Eastern Cape coast, more or less half way between Cape Town and Durban, is known as the `Friendly City`. Straddling Algoa Bay, Greater Port Elizabeth is now known as Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, set on the shores of the North End Lake is the first football dedicated stadium in the city or surrounding areas. The stadium, one of the newly-built venues for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, was completed a year prior to the commencement of the world`s greatest show on earth - a major milestone for the city.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will host the match for third place , and a quarter-final amid a total of eight matches during the FIFA World Cup. The stadium has an eye-catching, unique roof-structure and a spectacular view, overlooking the North End Lake.
Places of interest
Port Elizabeth is small harbour city of 1.5 million people. The ocean with fine sandy beaches extends from the northern to the southern limits. Watersports play a large part in the lives of PE`s inhabitants, with yachting, windsurfing, kite boarding and surfing being major pastimes.
Reminders of Port Elizabeth`s colonial past are the stone Fort Frederick built in 1799 by British troops to defend the area against a possible attack by the French, and the Donkin Reserve.
For surfers, the legendary Jeffrey`s Bay (J-Bay) and Cape St. Francis are one hour`s drive south, attractive coastal villages with a laid back feel in their own right, they are doubly worthwhile visiting if the surf is up.
Another coastal village worth seeing is Sundays River, half an hour along the national road to the north of the city, where the river flows between giant sand dunes to the ocean.
In the same direction but inland is the fabulous Addo National Park (Tel: 042 223 0556), presently being extended, and home to the `Big 5` wild animals. Elephant particularly are prolific in the park.
If you are going to watch a game in Port Elizabeth, Addo is a must. Game drives with expert rangers are available mostly at dawn and dusk - the best time for animal spotting. In fact, with its safari camps, Addo would be a great place to stay for a night or two, and driving time to the stadium is less than an hour.
Should you wish to bask in luxury there is a second, private, game reserve - Shamwari - 20 minutes north of Addo.
Still further along the coast to the north are the prestige seaside towns of Port Alfred and Kenton on Sea, which are about 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Port Elizabeth. Port Alfred, in particular, is a pleasant town, with the wide Kowie River flowing past riverside homes and through a pristine residential marina to the sea.
Port Alfred was a port during the days of sailing ships, and the small wharf side warehouses can still be seen.
Port Elizabeth is a compact city and accommodation, from five star hotels to guest houses and hostels, is available close to the beaches, to the south east, in Humewood, which is 5 kilometres from the stadium, and Summerstrand, a little further beyond.
Slightly inland from Humewood is the lively suburb of Walmer, which also has good guest houses. The night life also tends to centre around these areas, with good pubs, restaurants and night clubs.
In Humewood there is the new lakeside Victorian style entertainment complex named the Boardwalk, which encompasses three and four star hotels, a Wellness centre, cinemas, restaurants, amphitheatre, children’s entertainments and a casino.
Within five minutes walk of the Boardwalk, in an area called Happy Valley, is the Oceanarium, where there is an excellent daily dolphin show. The Port Elizabeth Museum complex, which has displays relating to the 1820 settlers, is next door.
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism (Tel: 041 585 8884; 08:00-16:30 Mon-Fri; 09:30-15:30 Sat & Sun) is housed in a historic lighthouse at Donkin Reserve overlooking the city.
Port Elizabeth has a domestic airport with daily flight connections to Cape Town International Airport, Johannesburg International Airport, Durban, Bloemfontein, East London and George (on the Garden Route ).
The airport is very centrally situated, close to the city centre (5 km), and the suburbs of Walmer and Humewood. The airport hopes to accommodate international flights by 2010.
The railway station is in the centre of the city and has good services to Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and the north. The Shosholoza Meyl overnight train runs to Jo`burg (18 hours) via Bloemfontein. The services to Cape Town and Durban are long and time consuming.
Luxury coaches connect PE to all the other World Cup venue cities, including Cape Town (12 hours), Johannesburg (15 hours) via East London (5 hours), Durban (15 hours) via Grahamstown (2 hours 30 minutes).
The recommendation would be to drive to Port Elizabeth, for whichever direction you are coming from there is beautiful and typically South African scenery along the way.
From Cape Town - travelling along the major N2 route, visitors pass through the renowned Garden Route which, situated between Mossel Bay and Humansdorp, takes in long sandy beaches, small coves, wild surf and gentle bays, the stunning lake districts around the Wilderness, Sedgefield and Knysna, the mountain passes of Grootriver and Blokraans (drivable but both now just off the main road), and the thick forests of Tsitsikama National Park, Natures Valley and Knysna.
En route it would be worth considering staying over at either the country’s beautiful premier seaside resort of Plettenberg Bay or the picturesque lagoon side town of Knysna, with its many craft shops and markets. There are first rate golf courses, some favoured by Ernie Els, who has his family home in this area. Slow drive time Cape Town to PE is about 10 hours.
From Durban - again on the N2 route you travel through the Transkei and Ciskei homelands of the Xhosa people. DAYTIME ONLY due to the number of cattle roaming freely along the road. Between Kokstad in the north and almost as far down as East London the countryside consists of green rolling hills with the Xhosa hut villages dotted far into the distance. This is the area were Nelson Mandela was born and raised. From East London you can take the coastal road through Port Alfred, or the main N2 route through the old university town of Grahamstown. Slow drive time Durban to PE is about 12 hours.
From Bloemfontein (and Johannesburg and Pretoria) - not the shortest route, but the most attractive. Take the N8 out of Bloemfontein towards Ladybrand and the Lesotho border. At Ladybrand turn south on the R26, the mountains of Lesotho to your left accompany you southwards while the road travels through rich farmland.
After crossing the Orange River at the old town of Aliwal North you enter the dryer typical Karoo landscape of bare rocky soil, which continues until the awesome Olifantskop Pass, after which you enter into the fertile fruit growing area leading down to the N2 route close to Sundays River. Slow drive time Bloemfontein to PE is 7 hours.
There are reports that South Africa`s first soccer match took place in Port Elizabeth in the 1860s but the city has no teams as yet in the South African Premier League. Bay United play in the second-tier Mvela Golden League. The South African professional football season runs from September to May.
Port Elizabeth has a mild winter climate, with daytime temperatures in June and July averaging 21 degrees Centigrade, going down to 10 degrees Centigrade at night. There is normally some rain over the winter period.