This coastal town in the Eastern Cape is undergoing a revival as new developments take shape.
Situated in the heart of the Sunshine Coast, Port Alfred (the halfway point between Port Elizabeth and East London on the R72) has always been laid-back. However, it appears to be undergoing a revival with the establishment of a university and the development of a new four-star hotel.
Established in the early 1820s, Port Alfred developed around the Kowie River where, in 1841, South Africa’s first man-made harbour was opened. Years later, the Royal Alfred Marina, a man-made residential marina estate, was established. Its beginnings stem from a group of developers who approached the town clerk with a proposal in 1984. They would donate a small craft harbour to Port Alfred with the local authority agreeing to facilitate the sale of 44ha of municipal land on the Kowie River east bank for the construction of a residential marina estate.
While all types of housing exists in this seaside town, probably the most prized property in Port Alfred is the marina, completed in 1989, which consists of four islands linked by arched bridges. There are 360 plots, each with its own 15m private waterfront and floating jetty.
There have also been other developments over the years including two shopping malls, the MyPond Hotel and the Royal St Andrews Hotel next to the Highlander Pub.
And while it seems to be rather quiet every other day, the town comes to life during the holiday season and for the annual inter-varsity rowing regattas hosted on the Kowie River.
Root 72: this coffee shop at the entrance of Port Alfred is attached to the legendary Beavers, home of the original Port Alfred Beavers pie. Apart from the pies, there is plenty more on offer including Banting breakfasts for those following the diet.
The Wharf Street Brew Pub: situated in the oldest building in Port Alfred, built in 1853, overlooking the Kowie River, this is the kind of place where you can enjoy fresh draught beer brewed right next door at The Little Brewery on the River.
Lily (at MyPond Hotel): another restaurant situated on the banks of the Kowie River, almost directly opposite The Wharf Street Brew Pub, Lily has a delightful and tranquil ambience.
Stenden South Africa: a campus of the Stenden University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands, this private higher education facility offers full degree programmes in disaster management and hospitality management.
43 Air School: this world-renowned school has trained more than 5,000 graduates for the general, airline and military aviation sectors over the past 28 years, and owns the largest and best-maintained fleet of aircraft on the continent.
Visit the Kowie History Museum, dedicated to the social history of the Albany District and the early settlers of the 1820 and 1889 era.
Bathurst, a nearby settler village bout 10 minutes north of Port Alfred, is a must. Two of the top attractions in this charming settler village are South Africa’s oldest licensed premises, the The Historical Pig and Whistle Inn, and The Big Pineapple – a 16,7m pineapple at Summerhill Farm, said to be the biggest man-made one in the world.
Play a few rounds at either the Royal Port Alfred Golf Club on the rolling hills of Port Alfred, or the 18-hole parkland Gary Player-designed course at the nearby Fish River Sun Hotel and Country Club Resort, one of the top 35 in South Africa
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.