Heart of the Sunshine Coast

Port Alfred is situated halfway between East London and Port Elizabeth, a small coastal town known as the heart of the Sunshine Coast – it is the town with the most hours of sunshine in South Africa! The seaside town is known for its impeccable beauty with its main attraction being its harbour and its stretches of sandy beach that extend for miles.

Port Alfred, although now an active commercial and residential town, has managed to retain its English fishing village charm. For many reasons the town is an ideal holiday destination, but the most obvious is its remarkable range of outdoor activities.  As the town is situated along the banks of the Kowie River which is navigable for about 28 kilometres upstream, Port Alfred offers an unrivalled amount of water sporting opportunities from sunset boat cruises to water-skiing and canoeing and anything you can think of doing on or in the water. The River divides the town in two with a few bridges, the “Coat Hanger” Bridge being a popular attraction on its own, linking the east with the west.

The town also boasts a number of unspoilt beaches included Kelly’s Beach a fantastic swimming beach with Blue Flag. Similar to Jeffery’s Bay, the Port Alfred beaches boast an abundance of seashells with no less than 1800 shell varieties recorded. Excellent diving can be enjoyed on Fountain Rocks, one of South Africa’s most colourful reefs and a breeding ground for the ragged tooth shark. Port Alfred’s dive sites are famous for soft coral, numerous shipwrecks, and the incredible "Lunar landing" where hundreds of crayfish live and breed.

The town is steeped in history with stories that date back to the 1820 Settlers. Stroll down Wharf Street, the oldest street in town, visit the lighthouse and travel inland to Bathurst on the road to Grahamstown to visit more historical sites and the biggest Pineapple you will ever find.  

Port Alfred is home to the Royal St Andrew Hotel, plus many B&B’s, Guesthouses, self-catering cottages as well as a caravan and camping site. There are loads of restaurants and sociable bars to visit including the Little Brewery on the River in Wharf Street.

Places to Visit

Things to do and see

Climate

Port Alfred receives approximately 485 mm of rain annually with rainfall occurring throughout the year.

Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 18˚C and 28˚C.

Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 9˚C and 20˚C.

Transport

There are daily domestic flights into East London Airport, to the East of, and Port Elizabeth International Airport, to the West of Port Alfred. Both Airports are approximately 135 to 150 km’s away via the N2. Car hire facilities are available at the Airport.

History

Port Alfred, also preiously known as Port Kowie, was founded by the British Settlers in 1821. One of the many problems faced by the 1820 settlers was poor accessibility to the outside world. The mouth of the river known to Europeans as the Kowie seemed to be the answer. It was wide and deep enough to allow the entrance of fair-sized sailing ships.

In 1821 the first coasters entered the river and this was the start of Port Alfred, first known as Port Frances, after the daughter-in-law of the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, but in 1860 renamed in honour of Prince Alfred, who was then visiting South Africa.

For years attempts continued to develop the port. Many ships visited, but the river mouth was difficult to enter and several ships were wrecked, in 1831 attempts by government to develop a viable port were finally scrapped. In 1841 William Cock, a local resident, formed the Kowie Harbour Improvement Company, and his efforts led to diversion of the river flow to a new channel along the West Bank. The harbour was reopened in 1863 and for the next 20 years up to 100 vessels called annually.

The advent of steam ships with a deeper draft, the developing of new harbour facilities on the Buffalo River at East London and in 1881 the construction of the railway connecting Grahamstown with the main Port Elizabeth line put Port Alfred into decline as a harbour. The harbour fell into disuse in the 1890’s however, in 1898 harbour life was revitalized with the opening of the small craft harbour on the newly built residential Royal Alfred Marina, where pleasure craft of all kinds, including seagoing yachts, find safe anchorage still today.

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