Sparking jewel on the Indian Ocean

Road trippin'

Sparking jewel on the Indian Ocean

Port Alfred, such a beauty!
by Peter Martin

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Situated midway between Buffalo City and Port Elizabeth, Port Alfred is a town at the mouth of the Kowie River. Its usual population is about 26 000 for 10 months of the year but during the “season”, December and January, the population virtually doubles with an influx of visitors from all over South  Africa and overseas.

Hotels, bed and breakfasts and boarding houses are then filled to their capacities, and a great time is had by all as the town boasts plenty of exciting and adventurous things to undertake, mostly to do with the river and the ocean. These include swimming, surfing, boating, yachting, rowing and the like, with surfing being probably the most popular of all, with some beautiful Indian Ocean waves lapping along Port Alfred’s pristine beaches. With the shoreline and magnificent scenery, there are also plenty of horse-riding options in the area.

The history of the town is interesting. It was established in the early 1820s by the 1820 British settlers who were moved into the region by Lord Charles Somerset. Originally there were two towns, those on the west bank named their settlement Port Kowie, while the residents of the east bank named theirs Port Frances.

As early as 1841 the residents of the town had built South Africa’s first man-made harbour which allowed high-masted sailing ships with heavy cargo to dock.

Eventually, the two settlements became one and in 1860, when Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Alfred visited. The town’s name was changed and named after him. 

As far as education goes, Port Alfred is well-served. There is a campus of the Stenden University of the Netherlands in the town, and a dual-medium (English and Afrikaans) high school, Port Alfred High School.

The town boasts its own community newspaper, part of the Times Media Group, and so residents are kept up to date with happenings in and around Port Alfred.

Perhaps the town’s greatest asset over the years has been the training centre for pilots, 43 Air School, where well over 5 000 pilots have graduated for various airlines as well as the military over the past 30 years.

There are nearby game lodges where the Big Five – elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard - can be seen, while the Ocean Big Three – sharks, dolphins and whales - can also be observed.

The picture-perfect Marina with its colourful mansions and slipways is rapidly becoming a true tourist attraction.

This is a town which offers so much to visitors with plenty to see and do for the whole family. Contact the Port Alfred Tourism Centre on 046-624-1235 or email them on tourism@sunshinecoasttourism.co.za for more information.

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