Friday, 18 July 2014

Port Elizabeth for kids

 Disclaimer - I know plenty of Eastern Cape peeps know way more about PE and way better places - this is just our personal experience on cold winter week)

As my in-laws live in Port Elizabeth we have spent plenty of holidays there through the years. PE is known as both the windy and the friendly city, both for obvious reasons. It's not the greatest weather city in South Africa. We have however never spent a holiday there with kids in tow in mid winter and possibly in the coldest week of the year to boot. Cold weather, wind and some rain was the package we had - with bits of sunshine in between. So what do you do with kids in PE if the weather is not actually beach weather? I have 10 great things we did last week:

1. Visit Schoenmakerskop.
Schoenies as it is generally known is a little village on the edge of Port Elizabeth and a favorite haunt of ours. It features plenty of great little rock pools for little explorers with great nature finds one can photograph and put back to find another day. It also features a little protected from the wind beach (obviously depending on wind direction) with a bay for some shallow swimming for kids. Even when the wind howls it may be the most windless bit of beach joy you can find. On Monday, and icy and windy day we saw whales off the common green.

In addition it also features a copy of the biggest cannon found on the shipwreck of the Sacramento and kids can climb on it and play around. (The original is at Bayworld). The little Sacramento restaurant on the main street is great for milkshakes and much more. There are plenty of interesting Schoenies history inside it - go and have a look (also in the bar area).

2. Have the best Brownies ever at Grass Roof Farm stall and coffee shop. 

This is a relatively newish PE addition. To get there follow the Seaview road out of PE and you will see the very obvious grass roof at the Sardinia bay turn off. The farm stall has heaps of great take home eats - we bought ciabatta and meringues - both great. The best however is the coffee shop - I had a great lunch there in December and this time around we had the best brownies we have ever tasted. Also great milo in huge cups, good Americano and the kids loved their milkshakes. There is a large lawn area with some play equipment (sporting a grass roof too and old tractor) but we were there in icy winds and light rain. The fire place was cozy and comfy and we spent a good while there.

3. Visit SAMREC - The SA Marine bird rehabilitation and education centre.
This was possibly the one item that we all enjoyed the most - young and old. Every group that arrives get taken through the small centre by their own guide that adapts according to the group. The kids loved the "Please touch" room where they could touch and feel and learn about the sea and sea life. You also get a chance to see how and where the penguins and other seabirds are washed and cleaned and a look into the hospital. Make sure of the feeding times to make the most of your experience.

4. Do a family photoshoot on the beach
In general photographers are very busy in December and also planning their own summer holidays. The sun is harsh and beaches are busy. Off season is a great time to do a golden hour photo shoot on the beach. The afternoon ours were was cool and breezy and I have not seen any pictures yet but am hoping that they will be great and if they are I will give you her details. We had an almost deserted beach and lots of space to work in and it was easy to find a well know photographer as it's "off season" for them. See below the backdrop for our shoot.

5. If it is pouring outside, go play at Funky Frogs
The Wednesday of our visit it was pouring with rain and cold. By the afternoon we had 3 slightly grumpy kids and made our way to Moffett on Main for an hour of play. It's great for the little ones but A was at 9 too old to play. Thankfully she can keep herself busy with a book and we did some shopping and had something hot at a little cafe just outside Funky Frog. You can also leave the kids there and do your shopping.

6. Have coffee, breakfast or lunch at the Pink Fig
This place is a total paradise for children. I guess mine would have gladly spent a whole day there. Filled with old fashioned children's favorites like rope swings, tires, pedal cars and much much more the food is great too (and well priced). There is no admission fee and the kids can play and play. And you can sit in the sun and have a great chat or read a book. It feels as if you are far out on a farm while you are actually in the city. Buy some biscuits to take home (the variety pack for R30 was plenty and very tasty) and come back again and again. Be warned though that this is mostly an outdoor venue and not open when the weather does not allow it.

7. Have lunch at a PE institution and maybe build a sandcastle.
Something Good roadhouse has been in PE for years and has a while ago been relaunched with a slightly more trendy flavour. It features great great burgers and plenty other very good food as well as a jungle gym and jumping castle for the kids outside (weather permitting). While there if not raining, why not build a sandcastle or do some sand doodles like we did on Pollock beach - one of PE's gems.We were there on a cold and windy day, dressed warmly and still had much fun on the beach. We warmed up at Something Good with their courtesy blankets, gas heaters and babychinos. They also make great coffee and great french fries . And real old fashioned batter onion rings.

8. Our favorite beach in the world, Sardinia bay never disappoints.
Even on cold and windy day we had a great walk with the puppies, some of us even had a swim. If you are lucky you will see some of the horses passing for an outride. And after you scale that huge dune back to the parking lot you have some of the world's best hot chocolate at Gunter's wurstwagen. We are never sure if it is actually so good and if the setting and the swim and walk before hand had a say in it. He has been at Saards for 23 years and now in off season only on weekends.He also has crisp and golden french fries and an assortment of continental hot dog style treats.
9. Nostalgia in loads at Second time around

Second time around is a big shed with antiques and all sorts of other bric and brac from years gone by. The kids loved to see the old toys and if they are old enough to know when to touch or not this is worth a visit. They also loved the shop cats lounging everywhere.

10. Visit Bayworld Museum and snake park.
We spent a delightful afternoon in very cold and windy weather seeing every nook and cranny of the Museum. We also saw the seal show at 3 pm. A lot of locals will warn you that it's not worth a visit because the dolphins are not there anymore and the tropical house is closed. It did not matter one bit to my kids. They were not expecting dolphins and loved the seals and penguins. The musuem has a great variety from lifelike dinosaurs (Mr C's favorite) to cannons and model ships (Mr L's favorite) to birds, sea shells and even clothing and old cameras (The Princess' favorite apart from the Kelpy the seal - her most favorite of the day). It may be smaller than your local museum, but its different and it's regional and was hugely enjoyed by us all.

Have you been to any of these or which do you want to go to?


  1. Nope, I don't. Remember when I lived there I was a child myself and I left when I was 17 for varsity and never lived in PE again.

    I can take you to all the nightclubs though :)


  2. I've been to SAMREC and I remember it being fun.

    With that back drop for the photoshoot I'm sure you have loads of wonderful treasures

    And brownies - yum love love brownies

  3. That seems like a very eventful trip! Lots of coming and going, although I guess with it being winter you have to be on top of your game. Oh how I wish airfare wasn't so outrageous!

  4. I haven't been to any of these, but they all sound fun!

  5. I'll bookmark this when we go to PE next time! Thanks!


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