Port Alfred is a small town which enjoys a mild climate and award winning beaches such as Kelly's Beach which has Blue Flag beach status, meaning it is one of the top beaches in South Africa. The town has recently stepped into the modern world with top-class shopping malls, sophisticated healthcare and a Royal golf course. It is also proudly home to Southern Africa's largest air school, 43 Air School, a world-class training facility for pilots and air traffic controllers and also Stenden South Africa, a subsidiary campus of Stenden University in the Netherlands. This campus attracts large numbers of international students to South Africa every year.
The town is situated on the eastern seaboard of the country at the mouth of the Kowie River, almost half-way between the larger cities of Port Elizabeth and East London and just 30km west of Cannon Rocks and is home to the Kowie Striders Fun Run. Held on the 26th December annually it is enjoyed by holiday makers from far and wide.
One of its most distinctive features is the stunning Royal Alfred Marina where every home owner enjoys private water frontage and a personal jetty. Associated with the marina is a intimate small boat harbour, providing mooring for a variety of vessels from luxury yachts and other pleasure craft, to sporting and commercial deep-sea fishing vessels. Visitors can enjoy boat cruises through the Marina canals but if you feel energetic you can rather hire a water pedalo or canoe to make the trip.
The warm Indian Ocean and many inland water surfaces offer endless opportunities for bathing, boating, water-skiing, surfing, windsurfing, angling, diving, canoeing and bird watching. This is a world of eco-tourism where you can hike and holiday to your heart’s content at a wide variety of venues. It is unspoilt by overpopulation and commercialism, naturally beautiful and a relaxing place to be.
International artists live and work here and each year in July, nearby Grahamstown hosts the world-renowned National Arts Festival with Port Alfred hosting many of the visitors who come to enjoy the music, plays, art, comedy and crafts that attract thousands. In addition, the town has its very own theatre in historic Wharf Street.
Unique in geographical situation Port Alfred is surrounded by a most impressive array of game reserves and parks yet to be equalled in Southern Africa and the area is totally Malaria-free.
More than 1800 different types of sea-shells, including rareties, have been collected on the beaches. Such shells as the perlemoen, phasignella, nautilus and turbonilla are often found.
There are loads of restaurants and sociable bars to visit including South Africa's oldest inn, the Pig and Whistle.
Whether you come to rest or are looking for new experiences, you will find what you want here.
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 Price Alfred, who was then visiting South Africa.
For years attempts continued to develop the port. Many ships visited the place but the river mouth was difficult to enter and several ships were wrecked. In 1881 a railways was built to Grahamstown where it connected with the main Port Elizabeth line. The construction of the railway put Port Alfred into decline as a harbour.
Among remnants of settler times is the Settler Church built by the Methodists in 1826 and used as a place of refuge in troubled times as well as a place of worship. Alongside it is a settler cemetary. The Church bell comes from the wreck of some forgotten ship.
The town's Cock's Castle (Richmond House) was built in 1840 by William Cock, a man much involved in the early attempt to develop a port. He built his home in romantic Gothic style, with immensely strong crenellated walls and a flat roof reinforced to support a cannon.
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