Retiring in Port Elizabeth (now known as Gqeberha), South Africa means that you will be living in a city offering the full spectrum of services for retirees and everyone else.
Known as the "Friendly City" or the "Windy City", Port Elizabeth, or just plain PE as it is fondly referred to, is a large coastal city on South Africa’s southeastern coastline.
The city is part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality. South Africa’s southern city of Port Elizabeth is perfectly situated near the Garden Route which is the 300 km of famous coastline stretching from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay. The Garden Route is known for its glorious mountains, beaches and bays, bright-colored wildflowers, lakes, forests, trails, and awesome fishing villages.
If You Want to Retire by the Beach, Port Elizabeth Is for You
Everyone living or visiting the city knows what beautiful, sunny days spell – lots of lovely hours spent on the beach. Port Elizabeth has magnificent beaches, including:
- Humewood – a beautiful family beach and South Africa’s oldest blue flag beach.
- Bluewater Bay Beach – a magnificent stretch of beach patrolled by lifguards that also has a wonderful children’s playground.
- Pollock Beach – another beautiful Sunshine Coast beach with a natural tidal pool. This beach attracts many surfers but is also great for families since it has wonderful lawn area for picnics. There is also a wooden walkway, the 2km Humpback Dolphin Trail, that connects the beach to King’s Beach.
- King’s Beach – beautiful sandy beach great for walks, There are popular surf breaks (aka supertubes) at the beach, a snack bar and lifeguards on duty.
- Hobie Beach – a very popular beach with its 137m long Shark Rock Pier. It also has lots of sheltered rock pools.
Port Elizabeth is known for its beaches and water sports and plenty of opportunities for scuba diving. The annual Splash Festival is a perfect example - it’s a family fun event that features local and international sporting events, more than 150 stalls, a fairground, and music performances.
Many retirees love doing simple, pleasurable things. They like nothing more than to pack a flask, a few snacks, and a couple of simple beach chairs and then to head to one of Port Elizabeth’s most spectacular beaches for a dose of vitamins D and C.
They relish the relaxed, clean beaches that make a wonderful getaway for them for a couple of hours each day. The beach is the perfect place to put on sunglasses and watch all the antics going on.
PE is home to a game park situated in its lush forests called Kragga Kamma Game Park. You can see freely roaming animals such as giraffes, buffalo, cheetahs and zebras. Wow.
If You Want an Active, Outdoorsy Retirement, Nature is Right on Your Doorstep
Other extraordinary outdoor activities include wonderful walks and trails through the pristine Groendal Wilderness area. Nature lovers will be enthralled with the ravines, streams, and superb hiking trails.
These days, with COVID-19 ever-present, retirees take note of things like this when looking for a place to retire to. They relish that the city offers so many opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy nature at its best.
Healthcare in Port Elizabeth
There are many excellent private hospitals and clinics in the city as well as state hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices if you require medical attention in the city.
If you want the best care at the best facilities, I'd recommend going to one of the many excellent private facilities.
Some important information:
Emergency services such as ambulances, police, and hospitals are at your service 24 hours per day. Most highways have SOS phones at certain distances next to the road and can be used free of charge.
What Currency is Used in Port Elizabeth?
In Port Elizabeth and South Africa, the local currency is the South African Rand. You get several different notes - R200, R100, R50, R20, and R10. There are also several coins, from 5c to R5. Foreign currency can be exchanged at travel agencies and some commercial banks.
Port Elizabeth has many ATMs dotted around the city at shopping malls, banks, hospitals, etc. Shops and hospitals accept all the major credit cards as well as traveler's checks.
Pros and Cons of Living in Port Elizabeth
Every city has a good and a bad side. You’ve got to look seriously hard to find bad things about Port Elizabeth. Ok, one bad thing is that recently the city has just had its name changed to Gqeberha, a Xhosa name for the Baakens River that flows through the city. Not many people can even pronounce the name. Port Elizabeth was after all founded in 1820 by British settlers and not by the Xhosa.
Avoid some ‘no-go’ areas
Similar to many cities around the world, Port Elizabeth also has some no-go areas. There are three areas of Port Elizabeth that you want to avoid – New Brighton, Bethelsdorp, and Motherwell. Also, make sure that you aren’t found in any isolated areas on your own.
But don’t let the few bad areas and criminal activities put you off because there are lots of safe, upmarket neighborhoods in Port Elizabeth.
Retirement Communities are a Big Advantage
There are also awesome retirement villages offering different types of accommodation, facilities, and services. They offer a mix of comfy units to premium resort-style homes and lovely landscaped gardens. There are many of these retirement villages across Port Elizabeth for retirees from all walks of life who enjoy the safety and community atmosphere of being among their peers.
Other advantages to living in PE:
- Many internationally acclaimed blue flag beaches.
- Amazing bio-diversity, great natural beauty to enjoy hikes and camping.
- Superb hospitality industry – the city is able to cater to every kind of visitor.
- The city offers many tourist attractions – great beaches and private game reserves.
- A city that allows you to work and play.
What appeals to retirees looking at Port Elizabeth as a potential place to retire is that the city offers a multi-generational appeal. So, the city appeals to young people looking for their first home to buy, but it also suits residents retiring in Port Elizabeth.
There are some awesome residential estates where adult children live alongside their aging parents, all loving the relaxed, coastal lifestyle.
What is the Culture Like in Port Elizabeth?
The popular seaport city has a rich, varied culture. If you’re keen on history, there are some excellent cultural sites and monuments to visit, and as a retiree, you may just have some time on your hands to do just this.
There are many cultural sites to visit and a famous icon is the Donkin Reserve, a heritage monument steeped in the colonial history of Port Elizabeth.
There is also The Donkin Heritage Trail, a 5km walk that takes you to over 47 historical sites in the middle of the city. The city is famous for its Route 67, an art journey celebrating Nelson Mandela. You’ll be spellbound by the works of art and for art lovers, there are exhibitions, poetry evenings, book launches, and fascinating art walkabouts.
Port Elizabeth may seem like a sleepy beach town but it's actually South Africa's second largest city. There's always plenty to do to keep you busy!
English is PE's Main Language
The languages spoken are English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. Because it’s such a multicultural city, being able to speak English will stand you in good stead.
What is the Climate Like in Port Elizabeth?
Port Elizabeth is known for its excellent year-round weather. You can expect many sunny days and on average the warmest months are from November to April. During these months you can expect temperatures to rise to 28°C (82°F). This is Port Elizabeth’s popular beach and swimming time.
The winter months from May to August have temperatures ranging from a minimum of 8° to about 20°Celsius (46°F - 68°F). Retirees can expect many hours of sunshine to spend on its beautiful beaches. The summers are fairly short and warm, while the winter is longer and it can get quite cool.
How to Get Around the City? Do You Need a Car?
Port Elizabeth has excellent highways and an extensive network of roads that link it to South- and Southern Africa. The airport too, Port Elizabeth International Airport is also accessible from all parts of the city.
From the airport, there are plenty of registered airport cabs and shuttle services that can provide you with an affordable and reliable way to get to your destination. There are also cars to hire and shuttle services. Port Elizabeth also offers reliable and trusted Uber services.
Of course, it will be ideal if you have your own car to get around the city with, but if you don’t, there is public transport. There are municipal buses that travel to all parts of the city and residential areas and which depart from the Market Square Bus Station.
Taxis, hotel transport, and plenty of car hire options are available from the airport while shuttle services offer a convenient mode of transport in and around the city, as well as in the surrounding areas.
Popular Activities in the City?
The city offers lots of super entertainment away from its popular beaches. There are lots of bright lights and awesome city vibes. From the Oceanarium, the Boardwalk Casino, and Entertainment World in Summerstrand, the many restaurants, shopping malls, cinema complexes, there is never a dull moment in Port Elizabeth, and for anyone, it’s a boredom-free playground.
Some of the coolest restaurants and bars are found in Richmond Hill and when the sun sets and the night owls come out, the city offers a vibrant nightlife. At night, the Boardwalk complex comes alive with a beautiful musical fountain show. Adults and kids are guaranteed to find something fun to see and do.
You can also take splendid scenic helicopter trips and tours. These 5-minute helicopter trips will give you a bird's eye view of the bay, the magnificent coastline, and all the city’s surrounding areas. You may be lucky to catch a glimpse of some of the famous malaria-free game reserves too such as the Shamwari Private Game Reserve and the mighty Addo Elephant National Park.
Port Elizabeth also hosts its annual Dolphin Festival to celebrate dolphins, and you can even join a boat trip that takes you out for close encounters with these amazing flippered creatures.
What are Popular Local Food Dishes?
One thing is sure, once you’ve visited South Africa, you’ll discover what an incredible destination it is. No matter how many times you visit, you’ll always be blown away by the fantastically tasty food dishes.
In South Africa, you don’t always have to eat at restaurants because you can enjoy local dishes with a craft beer or a milkshake under huge oak trees picnic style. There are many open-air markets too where you can enjoy a piece of traditional South African boerewors (sausage).
Boerewors - a firm favorite with tourists
The sausage is made from beef, pork, and lamb and packed with spices. It’s prepared over a wood fire and fitted into a hot dog roll with various sauces. It's served with grilled onions and perhaps coleslaw and potato salad as sides. Sometimes it’s served with pap and tomato and onion gravy. You simply cannot leave South Africa until you’ve tried a traditional al fresco braai – just for the sheer cultural experience.
Wherever you enjoy your braai, it can well be followed by a traditional melktert or koeksisters. These koeksisters are a kind of doughnut that has been plaited and then fried in oil after which it is placed in syrup. It is golden, sticky, crispy, and decadently sweet. Other amazing local food dishes to try could be the delicious Cape Malay curry, Chakalaka, and pap or a delicious Bobotie, a spicy mince dish with a baked egg topping.
Retiring in Port Elizabeth Cost of Living Chart
1 Bdr Apartment in City
$600 per month
1 Bdr Apartment Outside City
$235 per month
Average Utilities: 1 Bdr Apt
$68 per month
Inexpensive Meal for One
3-Course Meal for Two, Mid-Range
Port Elizabeth - the Sky’s the Limit
Port Elizabeth is a truly marvelous place to live in, to enjoy or holiday or to retire to. There is just so much variety and it guarantees a spectacular experience. It’s a mover and shaker city, and the sky’s the limit in terms of happiness.
It’s a city that is always in season with lots of local amenities such as libraries, shops, churches, and entertainment areas. Port Elizabeth is a friendly city and a place that you'll enjoy living in during your retirement.
If South Africa is on your list of retirement destinations, be sure to check out Cape Town.
Warm short summers and long winters that are cool. Windy most of the year. Average temps are from 40°F and 86°F (4.4°C to 30°C).
Flight time to U.S.
12-15 hours by plane to New York
South African Rand
Available but not needed