Have Child, Will Travel: Visiting Port Elizabeth With Kids

For many of us, deciding on the next holiday destination is much more complicated than finding a nice view, pleasant surroundings and good food. Because if you’ve got kids, the priorities are much different. It’s all about finding activities that are age-appropriate for each child, places to stay where they can make a noise at the dinner table, and coming up with all kinds of ways to keep them entertained so that you might enjoy a little time to yourself, too.

Port Elizabeth is one of these places. Sprawled along the coast of South Africa’s Eastern Province, it may have started out as a port town, but it has grown into a friendly city where the beaches are safe and plentiful. Yet, although the beach will be your first stop, it doesn’t have to be your only option for a fun day out.

Here are our five favorite things to do on a family holiday in Port Elizabeth.

The beach

The beaches in Port Elizabeth are particularly long, and the sand is soft and white – ideal for building sand castles with the younger ones. Being on the Indian Ocean’s side of the country, the water is warm enough to get in without a squeal, while keeping you refreshed during the heat of summer. The beaches that have been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag status are Humewood Beach, Hobie Beach, Wells Estate Beach and King’s Beach. Humewood Beach also boasts a waterslide and super tube.

One of the best things to do at the beach in P.E. is, off course, surfing. The waves here are wonderful for beginners, so why not take you high school kids on a learn-to-surf holiday?

Learn2Surf offers lessons near the oceanarium, right in the center of town, so you don’t even have to drive out of the way to get there. Other great spots are King’s Beach, the Pier and Miller’s Point. All of these are dotted along Beach Road and you’ll easily find a spot to set up your picnic and watch them splash around and have the time of their lives.

Take a field day and drive out to Jeffrey’s Bay, just south of P.E, for some of the best waves in the country.

Bayworld Oceanarium

Keeping close to the ocean, but moving away from the beach, the Bayworld Oceanarium and Snake Park will help you kill the afternoon lull, between lunch and dinnertime. An educational and research institution at heart, Bayworld aims to teach the children something about animals and their conservation while letting them have a bit of fun in the process.

Let them marvel at the sharks in the shark tank or admire the African penguins in their stylish black suits. If they’ve had enough of the ocean and its animals, then the dinosaur display might tickle their fancy or, if they’re not squeamish, they can wonder around the snake park and meet all the weird and wonderful reptiles that live in South Africa.

Some believe that Bayworld has lost a bit of its flair, but if this is your first visit to P.E, then it’s definitely a nice way to spend a few hours in the city.

Holmeleigh Farmyard

Holmleigh Farmyard

Courtesy of Holmleigh Farmyard

If you have kids under the age of 12, then you can’t be in P.E without paying a visit to Holmeleigh Farmyard. It’s the number one spot to visit with the kids when you’re in town, and if they love animals, then there is no doubt that they’ll have a brilliant time here.

You’ll find this large farmyard only 20 minutes outside the city centre and the entrance fee includes a bag of feed for each child. Now they can have a chance to feed the goats, sheep, little baby lambs and ducks. They’ll get to meet Peter Rabbit and his fluffy rabbit family and even have the chance to stare an ostrich in the eye while the proud peacock strolls by with his tail feathers spread out wide.

After feeding time, it’s playtime, and the choice is endless. The playground with its massive wooden boat is ideal for playing pretend, while the swings an jungle gym will help them spend that extra energy. A few minutes on the jumping castle and they’ll be ready to cool off on a tractor ride or even a ride on a pony.

While all this is happening, you can relax in the shady tea garden and enjoy one of the freshly baked goods on display. Hang out a little longer and tuck into a light lunch, keeping the toasted cheese for when the kids realize they’re hungry too. Buy a bottle of homemade jam or the widely recommended chilly sauce at the gift shop and enjoy the views across the countryside until it’s time to go home.

Seaview Predator Park

seaview predator

Courtesy of Seaview Predator Park

Staying with animals, but moving on to the wild side, the Seaview Predator Park will have the entire family marveling in aw at the majestic lions, white lions and tigers that live in the park. The enclosures on this 120 hectare park are very big, so visiting close to feeding time is the best, as these kings of the jungle prowl the fence in anticipation of their food. But before you even arrive at the lion enclosures, you get to drive through a nature reserve where you can spot antelope grazing or relaxing in the shade. At the end of this little game drive, you park the car and take to the lions on foot. Don’t worry; they’re safe behind a double fence.

After walking up and down the pathway leading to the individual enclosures and reading about each lion, you can either walk up to the hill to the restaurant or get back in the car and drive up for may visitors’ favorite section of the park – the cub enclosures.

The age of the cubs all depend on the time of year, but they are beautiful no matter how big they’ve already grown. You can be surprised with anything from a Bengal tiger to a baby hyena or even a caracal. After all the excitement, you’ll have to take a seat for a light meal or head back down the hill to the braai and picnic where you can tuck into you packed lunch while the kids play on the grass.

sundays river ferry

Courtesy of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

Sunday’s River Ferry

Last, but not least, is a very relaxing activity that even the grandparents will enjoy – a cruise on the Sunday’s River aboard a ferry courtesy of Addo Cruises. It starts close to the Southern gate of the Addo Elephant National Park and makes its way along the vegetation, with the guide pointing out interesting birds along the way. Stop off at the soft sand dunes where the kids can have their fun slipping and sliding back down to the river while you sit back and enjoy a drink – or join them.

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