Port Alfred, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
Port Alfred markets Old Four Legs Beer, named after the fossil fish called the coelacanth.
Back in the 1820s, when Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape was known as Port Frances, a settler’s daughter had this to say about the little seaside settlement: ‘It is the loneliest, barrenest village imaginable, not above a dozen houses and these, small cottages of rough stone with thatched roofs.’
Nearly 200 years later, modern-day Port Alfred is nothing less than the big diamond in the Eastern Cape’s tourism crown. Even though it still has the charm and feel of a small village by the sea, Port Alfred and its offerings will keep you enthralled.
There are sections of Port Alfred that are true to the most seductive postcard settings: long swathes of beaches, a picture-perfect marina with its colourful mansions and slipways and the lazy old Kowie River that meanders inland to the nearby boundaries of Bathurst, the neighbouring village with the slightly hippy medieval vibe.
As it sits plumb in the middle of the Sunshine Coast, Port Alfred enjoys the mild weather of a typically sub-tropical zone. The waters of the Indian Ocean are forgivingly warm and the reefs off Port Alfred provide great diving spots. In fact, if you’re even slightly water-crazy, Port Alfred will have you canoeing up the Kowie, kite-sailing on the beach, signing up with the local dive school for courses, water-skiing on the river, whale-watching from a licensed boat or heading out into deep waters for some ocean fishing.
In fact, with the presence of a number of top game reserves in the area, Port Alfred is now being marketed as a ‘Big Eight' destination, where you might be lucky enough to see lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalos, elephants, dolphins, sharks and whales.
Then there’s the Gary Player golf course over at the Fish River Sun about 20 minutes’ drive from Port Alfred and, for those with a love of the open skies, there’s South Africa’s premier flight training venue: 43 Air School. This legendary centre has 60 training aircraft, and the same number of flying instructors. This is where future airline-, air force- and commercial pilots come to train in idyllic coastal surrounds.
The latest exciting development in Port Alfred is in Wharf Street, which has become the exclusive shopping centre of the village. Here you encounter a fishery, fruit market, pub, brewery, theatre, restaurant and antique store. Even more outlets and arcades are being built.
Port Alfred has certainly gone from being the ‘loneliest, barrenest village imaginable’ to a rocking little seaport with world-class features.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Port Alfred Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 46 624 1235
How to get here
Port Alfred lies on the R72 between East London and Port Elizabeth (which both have airports), about 140km (or under two hours' drive) from both.
Best time to visit
Because of its sub-tropical climate, Port Alfred is a year-round destination. Try to avoid the Christmas and Easter crowds – the rest of the year is much quieter.
Around the area
The annual National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (June-July) is the prime event in this district. See the listed website for details.
Port Alfred is pedestrian-friendly, but it’s advisable to have your own transport so you can visit other spots along the R72.
Length of stay
Port Alfred is good for a three-day visit – at least.
What to pack
No formal clothes are required – it’s strictly beachwear and hiking gear.
Where to stay
Check the listed websites for the many accommodation options in and around Port Alfred.
What to eat
Visit Wharf Street for good dining.
The Port Alfred area keeps itself busy with annual oxbraais (barbecues), cycle races and carnivals. Check the listed Sunshine Coast Tourism website for event details.
Go on an antique-hunt in Port Alfred’s historic Wharf Street.