Port Elizabeth is the underdog of cities in South Africa because it comes across as small and quite often people think that there isn’t much to do but that is far from the truth.
I’ve lived in Port Elizabeth for the most part of my life – a born and bred “baainaar” which can simply be translated as someone from the bay and I haven’t even touch the tip of the iceberg in terms of experiencing all the attractions this little city has to offer.
My family and I recently went on the Route 67 tour in Port Elizabeth and it is definitely an experience not to be missed. This is a must see stop for the whole family to walk and to enjoy. I had no clue that a tour like this of the friendly city even existed but keep reading to see what fun we had.
Route 67 consists of 67 Public Art Works symbolising Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of work dedicated to the Freedom of South Africa. The tour starts at The Campanilewhich is one of Port Elizabeth’s most prominent attractions. It was my first climbing all the way to the top. With a 360 degree view of the city you can bet the views from up there are breathtaking.
At The Campanile who will see some of the first Art Work displays including the Campanile Frieze and the Wall Of Text. The next part of the tour takes you along the Walk Of Words – which is a tiled path of words in different languages to represent the new South Africa and it’s prosperity as a democratic nation. This then leads you up a stair case to The Fishbone – which signifies a historical path between the city and the harbour and the famous Market Square.
We spent an considerable amount of time here as our tour guide explained the origins of everything to us – I am not about to spill the beans but the stories are really interesting and it truly makes you realise how rich our history is. The next part took us past the Public Library, St Mary’s Cathedral and the Youth Mural – which represents the spiritual journey undertaken by those who fought against oppression.
You know that knobby feeling in your throat when you’re holding back tears? That’s what I felt when I saw the Youth Mural. I felt truly grateful to all the people (young and old) who fought and shed blood for my freedom. It’s definitely not something that came easy to the people of South Africa and we need to honour their work by promoting love and equality in everything that we do. It really makes you ponder on how petty our struggles actual are compared to what our freedom fighters faced.
The route then leads you up the Mosaic Stairs – which speaks about the journey from darkness to the explosion of colour and hope. You will also notice the Voter’s Mark along the way which represents the votes made during the election. The walk up is steep but worth every climb. There’s an incredible view of PE to enjoy from up there too. At the top we finally reached the Donkin Reserve. This attraction is made up of the reserve, a stone pyramid, a lighthouse, the Piazza Mosaic and heartwarming artwork illustrating once again the journey of Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa.
And as we marvelled at it all, our tour guide told us the tale of Sir Rufane Donkin and how he erected the stone pyramid monument in loving memory of his late wife Lady Elizabeth – I was so shocked to learn that our city was actually named after her and not the Queen of England as I always assumed.
Then something interesting happened, we reached a piece of art work that had been left untitled – purposefully. It was a female figure behind a chair. Our tour guide explained that this artwork was meant as a conversation piece rather than a conceptually specific entity and allowed the viewer to interpret it. I personally have never come across an untitled piece before and it was truly mind blowing to hear so many different views even though we were all looking at exactly the same thing.
Let me know what the piece says to you in the comment section.
The next part of the route took us to the King Edward Hotel, The Grand Hotel and The Little Theatre where we saw the Harmony In Nature – which is a piece that uses the combination of optical illusion and mathematics to produce remarkable art. It truly something to take the time to see. We also saw the Beaded Quotes – which is a series of artwork by 30 beaders from the Eastern Cape who beaded 67 qoutes by Nelson Mandela over the last 67 years. Each resultant beadwork adds to a larger experience and abstracted narrative of South Africa’s challenges.
At this point I was so thirsty and hungry but thankfully there were little shops on our way to the Fort Frederick. The fort was built in 1799 by the British Forces to defend the mouth of the Baakens River and has a magnificent view of Port Elizabeth. It was named after Frederick, who was the Duke of York and Commander of the British Army at the time. Without giving too much away from your experience one interesting fact about the fort is that no retributive shot had been fired from Fort Frederick even to this day.
I won’t recommend visiting Fort Frederick by yourself, always go with a tour guide or a group of people.
I didn’t show you all the art on the Route 67 tour but you can view some more here. The end of the tour and where we parted ways with our tour guide was at 7 Castle Hill which a double storey house that has been restored and used as a museum. We couldn’t enter because it was closed at the time and we decided not to wait for it to reopen but continue back to the car. This site did have an entrance fee.
Our overall experience was amazing and I would definitely be going on this tour every time we visit Port Elizabeth. I’d like the thank Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism for giving us the opportunity to experience this attraction. While this was a collaboration post, some expenses were covered by us. All pictures, opinions are my own and all information correct at time of publishing.
How To Book Your Tour
Guided Tours of Route 67 is available at the Donkin Visitor Information Office inside the lighthouse building for FREE but you have to cover the cost to enter some attractions along the way if you wish to enter.
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism
Telephone : +27 (0) 41 582 2575
With the Nelson Mandela Bay Pass you are able to gain free admission and discount to over 55 attractions and activities in and around Nelson Mandela Bay! Read more here.
What To Bring Along
- Water and snacks
- Comfortable shoes
- Baby Carrier
Have you been on the Route 67 tour? What was your experience like? I’d love to hear from you.
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