Port Alfred
Destination Activities,  DESTINATIONS,  Eastern Cape,  Eastern Cape Small Towns

Best Things to do in Port Alfred

Situated on the scenic Sunshine Coast of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, Port Alfred has rightfully earned its reputation as a beloved holiday destination. It’s also conveniently located equidistant from the cities of Port Elizabeth and East London, making it easy to reach. With its extensive stretch of sandy beaches and idyllic location along the Kowie River, Port Alfred is a beautiful destination that offers plenty of recreational fun for visitors.

A brief History of Port Alfred

Port Alfred traces its roots to the early 19th century when British settlers established it as a military and naval base. Originally named Port Frances, it gained strategic importance due to its harbor on the Kowie River. In 1860, the town was officially renamed Port Alfred in honor of Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria. Thriving in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through trade, agriculture, and timber, Port Alfred evolved into a cultural and recreational hub, drawing tourists and retirees with its historical architecture and the scenic Kowie River. The establishment of the Royal Alfred Marina in 1989 brought upscale residential development, revitalizing the town and solidifying its status as a sought-after destination. Today, Port Alfred continues to be a popular destination for tourists and retirees seeking a tranquil coastal lifestyle.

Best Things to See and Do in Port Alfred

Whether you love nature, enjoy history, or just want to relax by the sea, Port Alfred has activities for everyone. Keep reading to discover the best things to do in this beautiful place.

Enjoy beach days in Port Alfred

Port Alfred’s beaches stand out with their beautiful scenery, gentle waves, and soft sands. Because of this, the beaches here are great for both swimming and water sports. Some of the beaches are also surrounded by dunes, giving you a chance to try your hand at sand boarding.

East Beach

East Beach, Port Alfred

East Beach is a favorite among families and dog lovers. With its long stretch of sun-kissed, golden sands, it is a wonderful beach for swimming, walking and soaking in the sunshine. It’s also a renowned surfing spot, with excellent waves! Ever wanted to try sand boarding? The dunes surrounding East Beach provide the perfect opportunity for that, too!

Where to find East Beach: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

West Beach

West Beach Port Alfred

While strong rip tides at West Beach make it less suitable for swimming, it remains an excellent family-friendly destination, featuring a scenic, extensive stretch of sand that’s perfect for leisurely strolls, sunbathing, and fun beach activities.

Where to find West Beach: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

Kelly’s Beach

Kellie’s Beach proudly holds the prestigious Blue Flag status. This means safety, cleanliness, facilities, and lifeguard services are top-notch. The 400-meter-long beach provides lots of space for activities and sunbathing. Kids can enjoy playing in the rock pools on the west side of Kellys. Surfing is a hit here too, with beach breaks that offer both right and left-hand waves. 

Walk along the pier at West Beach

West Pier at West beach in Port Alfred

The West Pier provides great views across both the ocean and West Beach. I found it fascinating how forcefully the waves crashed against the pier – it certainly made for an impressive sight. For the history buffs, it also has quite an interesting story. The pier was originally constructed in an effort to create a harbour, thereby encouraging trade. However, its original purpose was short-lived. The Harbor, operational for just two decades, fell into disuse during the 1800s. The advent of the railway line connecting Port Alfred and Grahamstown made the harbor obsolete, leading to its abandonment.

Where to find West Pier: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

Enjoy a meal at one of Port Alfred’s restaurants

Port Alfred has lots of seafood spots thanks to its coastal setting, with fresh catches served daily. There are also cafes, bistros, and relaxed pubs and grills around town. But, my two best picks in Port Alfred are Tash’s Restaurant & Craft Bar at the Royal Alfred Marina and Guido’s at West Beach.

Tash’s Restaurant & Craft Bar

outdoor seating at Tash's restaurant and craft bar in port alfred

I really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Tash’s Restaurant & Craft Bar, as well as its prime location at the Marina. The outdoor seating area provides lovely river views in a comfortable and casual setting. The menu has a variety of choices, including steaks, hamburgers and seafood dishes. Tash’s also serves an impressive range of craft beers, wines, and cocktails.

Where to find Tash’s: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

food at Tash's restaurant and craft bar in port alfred

Guido’s

Right by the West Beach parking lot, there’s a popular restaurant known as ‘Guidos‘ where you can enjoy great food in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere. Guidos is famous for its delicious wood-fired pizzas, so it’s the perfect place to enjoy some food after a day at the beach.

Where to find Guidos: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

After your meal, you can head to the beach bar next door for some enjoyable downtime, where you can have a cold beer and a game of pool.

The Beach Bar, Port Alfred

Admire the boats and houses at the Royal Alfred Marina

The royal Aflred marina in port alfred

The Royal Alfred Marina in Port Alfred is a high-end residential project that radiates luxury and exclusivity. Lying in a network along the river, the marina features five artificial islands linked by bridges. Residents of the Royal Alfred Marina enjoy a waterside life style, with private waterways for peace and privacy. Strolling around and looking at the houses and boats in the small harbor is a nice way to spend time in Port Alfred.

Where to find the Royal Alfred Marina: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

Soak in some history along Wharf Street

Wharf Street in Port Alfred

Wharf Street, Port Alfred’s first street, was once the heart of commerce when the river was a bustling port for ships in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, it’s a popular spot for both tourists and locals to visit. There are a few shops and well-preserved old buildings to explore along this street, including an art gallery, fish market and a brewery.

Where to find Wharf Street: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

Warf Street Brew Pub

Warf Street Brew Pub in Port Alfred

The Wharf Street Brew Pub is situated in a building dating back to 1853, which originally served as the customs hut for the harbor master. It is, in fact, regarded as the oldest continuously used building in Port Alfred. The staff at the Wharf Street Brew Pub are welcoming, the food is delicious, and their craft beers are fantastic. What’s not to love?

The Little Brewery

The little Brewery in Port Alfred

Right next door to the Wharf Street Brew Pub, you’ll find the charming Little Brewery, complete with its own dedicated brewing and fermentation rooms, as well as a bottling corner. The brewery invites visitors to come in and take a look around if they wish.

Cruise the Kowie River

Exploring the picturesque Kowie River, which offers a 22km navigable route winding from the river mouth to Waters Meeting, is a great way to see the natural surroundings of Port Alfred. One of the popular activities is to take a guided barge river cruise, with several tour operators offering choices that vary from one-hour trips to personalized cruises of different lengths.

Get your Adrenaline pumping with Watersports on the Kowie River

If you’re a watersports enthusiast, the Kowie River is the place to be. Try your hand at kayaking, paddleboarding, or even hire a boat for a day of fishing. The river provides a dynamic setting for various water-based activities.

Be mesmerized by spectacular sunsets

A sunset in Port Alfred

The sunsets in Port Alfred are out of this world. When the sun sets, the sky lights up with a beautiful blend of oranges, reds, and pinks, casting a golden glow on everything. No matter where you choose to watch the sunset – be it from the beach, your lodging, or along the river – the experience is truly magical.

Get your coffee fix at the trendy Kong Coffee

Kong Coffee in Port Alfred

With its distinct style and ambiance, Kong Coffee brings a fresh and innovative approach to the local coffee scene. It’s more than just a coffee shop, though. There’s also an attached Vintage Jewellery shop, a plant nursery, and a gift shop. It’s cool, it’s trendy and if you love coffee, then this is the place to be.

Where to find Kong Coffee: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

Take a short road trip to Bathurst

Only 15 kilometers from Port Alfred, you’ll find the charming village of Bathurst. Established in 1820, it is one of the oldest settler villages in the region. Bathurst is known for its historic charm, with well-preserved buildings dating back to the 19th century. It is also home to South Africa’s oldest continuously licensed pubs, the iconic Pig & Whistle Inn. You can explore the village’s unique attractions, such as the enormous Big Pineapple, which houses an informative exhibit about the local pineapple industry. Every Sunday, there is also a farmers’ market, selling local produce and crafts.

Where to find Bathurst: Click here for precise Google Map Directions.

READ MORE >>> 8 Reasons to visit Bathurst in the Eastern Cape

Where to stay in Port Alfred

Port Alfred offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Below are two popular choices for stays in Port Alfred:

  1. Royal St. Andrews Hotel: This historic boutique hotel in the heart of Port Alfred offers luxury accommodation, fine dining, and a beautiful garden setting.
  2. Halyards Hotel and Spa: Located on the banks of the Kowie River, this hotel has comfortable rooms, a spa, and easy access to water-based activities.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, I highly recommend Villa Majestic. It’s conveniently located just a 5-minute drive from Kelly’s Beach, a safe spot for swimming and families. The breakfast is amazing, and the host is really friendly and welcoming, making you feel right at home.

In conclusion, Port Alfred is a fantastic coastal destination in South Africa. It boasts beautiful beaches, breathtaking sunsets, and a rich maritime history. Whether you’re looking for relaxation, family fun, or a romantic getaway, Port Alfred has something just right for you.

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