At the western end of Algoa (aka Nelson Mandela) Bay, PORT ELIZABETH, commonly known as PE, is not a place to visit if you're looking for cosmopolitan urban culture or beautiful buildings. The smokestacks along the N2 bear testimony to the fact that the Eastern Cape's largest centre has thrived on heavy industry and cheap African labour, which accounts for its deep-rooted trade unionism and strong tradition of African nationalism. So it may come as a surprise that this has long been a popular holiday destination for white Gauteng families – but then the town beachfront, stretching for several kilometres along Humewood Road, has some of the nicest, safest and cleanest citybeaches in the country, thoroughly geared up with waterslides, performing dolphins and snakes to keep the kids occupied.
As a city, PE is pretty functional. There's enough reason to linger for a couple of days, however, and the city has some terrific accommodation and good restaurants in a relatively crime-free environment. Although the town has been ravaged by industrialization and thoughtless modernization, one or two buildings do stand out in an otherwise featureless city centre, and a couple of classically pretty rows of Victorian terraces still remain in the suburb of Central. Holidaymakers head for the beachfront suburbs of Humewood and Summerstrand where there are places to stay, bars, restaurants and clubs in abundance. There are also some excellent tours around PE and into the townships.