In 2010, between 200,000—300,000 tourists are expected to visit South Africa during the country’s biggest ever tourist invasion. They will leave family and friends for the sport they love. As each of the nine host cities gears up to meet with the challenges and excitement of the FIFA World Cup, overseas and even some local football fans must choose the city they will visit.
Where each city has its draw card, only one can boast the amenities and entertainment of a metropolis, while maintaining the friendliness and vibe of smaller cities. As the 5th biggest city in South Africa, The Friendly City, or Port Elizabeth to use its official name, has all the advantages of city life, yet retains its cosy atmosphere.
The World CupAbout 1 km from the beachfront, the new 48,000-seater Nelson Mandela stadium rises on the banks of the sparkling North End Lake like a giant sea urchin. This magnificent 40-metre high structure is on target to be the first new stadium completed, at a cost of 1.7 billion rand.
Eight of the 64 World Cup matches will be held here, ranging from 1st round matches to the 3rd place play off. The matches take place between 12th June – 10th July. That leaves the tourists plenty time to explore the varied attractions of the beautiful Sunshine Coast.
From 1492, this bay was the first port of call for ships en route for Goa, India.
In 1795 the British captured the Cape, and in 1820 the British Settlers established the settlement which became known as Port Elizabeth. The result is a city steeped in history, of particular interest to British visitors.
The municipality has worked hard to upgrade the city’s infrastructure. The Donkin Reserve, proclaimed a “public open space in perpetuity” by Sir Rufane Donkin, includes a stone pyramid monument. This was erected in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth, after whom the city was named. The Lighthouse, built in 1861, also houses the city’s Tourist Information Centre.
Market square is dominated by the beautiful 150-year-old colonial City Hall. A terrace of Victorian houses, built during 1860-1870, has been restored and they are now national monuments.
Extensive renovations retain the olde worlde atmosphere of the Edward Hotel and many other historic buildings. The beautiful library, built in 1835, is an excellent example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Its terra cotta façade was manufactured in England.
The lovely old Opera House has also been renovated—at a cost of R5 million. It is the oldest theatre on the continent of Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, as well as the only Victorian Theatre still standing in Africa. Visitors can look forward to a treat of live entertainment for 2010.
The Port Elizabeth Airport is within easy reach from all parts of the city and is serviced by local and national airlines. A fast train will run football enthusiasts from the city or New Brighton to the Nelson Mandela Stadium. A rapid track is planned for busses on the principle road system, to allow unhindered transport of enthusiasts to and from the stadium.
Accommodation and Eating
Port Elizabeth has everything to offer, ranging from well designed camping facilities to the newly-built five-star Radison Hotel on the beach front of Summerstrand. As far as food is concerned, all tastes are catered for, from a simple burger to exotic ethnic meals.
Parliament Street, one of the oldest streets in Port Elizabeth, has become a riot of colour and activity following its R16 million upgrade. Sidewalk cafes and businesses thrive during the day and well into the night. Curved lamp poles and decorative balls add to the picturesque appearance of this new entertainment hub.
Etienne Barkhuysenm, chairman of the Parliament Street Business Forum and owner of Café Zanzibar, has this to say, “Parliament Street could just be the most cosmopolitan and trendy street in the city, it’s the new place to be seen. From the oldest coffee shop in PE, Café Blend, to the latest in music and lighting equipment in the various clubs, we have it all.”
On the City Outskirts
Port Elizabeth boasts some of the best beaches in the world, with four of them holding the coveted international “Blue Flag” status. Despite the World Cup taking place during South Africa’s winter months, the temperate waters make the city ideal for water sports, sailing and surfing. Day cruises can be arranged on various types of seagoing vessels, and the busy harbour is worth a visit.
On the beachfront in the suburb of Summerstrand, visitors will enjoy a visit to The Boardwalk. This picturesque waterfront has four hotels, several restaurants, a casino that is open 24 hours a day, a cinema, an amphitheatre with live entertainment, and a children’s entertainment area. It also has an amazing multi-media water fountain that is one of the greatest in the world.
The Sunshine Coast also boasts world-class golf courses and numerous other forms of entertainment both day and night.
Visitors can enjoy a day trip on the famous Apple Express narrow-gauge stream train that operates between Port Elizabeth and Thornhill Village. At the Van Stadens River Bridge passengers are encouraged to disembark, and walk ahead of the train. They have the opportunity to photograph the quaint train as it steams towards them over the highest narrow-gauge bridge in the world.
Half-an-hour from the Friendly City, Jeffrey’s Bay is one of the leading surfing resorts in the world. A mere 30 minute drive takes the tourist to a number of five-star game lodges, and the famous Addo Elephant Park is only an hour away.
If you have to travel from family and friends during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, don’t hesitate. The Friendly City is here for you.