Eastern Cape DestinationsPort Alfred, Sunshine Coast
Port Alfred, with its stretches of sandy beach that extend for miles, lies on the banks of the Kowie River. Port Alfred was established by a group of English settlers in the early 1800s and, although now an active commercial and residential town, it has retained most of its English fishing village feel. Port Alfreds former thwarted attempts at becoming a major seaport, impossible due mainly to the sandbank at the mouth of the Kowie, have given rise to a huge yacht harbour and residential marina.
Port Alfred is known fondly as the ‘heart of the sunshine coast’ and lies on Route 72 equidistant from Port Elizabeth and East London. Port Alfred boasts a wonderfully temperate climate - never too hot or cold - with rainfall in the spring and autumn months. This makes it an ideal water sports destination enhanced by the fact that the Kowie is navigable for about 28 kilometers upstream. The Kowie River, which flows into the Indian Ocean, divides the town in two and the banks are linked by a couple of bridges. Boat cruises and various hiking trails navigate this river region, rich in indigenous vegetation, fauna and bird life.
It is also the venue for the Kowie River Canoe Trail - a 40km-long return paddle and a 12km hike. Participants navigate the river to Waters Meeting Nature Reserve near Bathurst and then hike through forests famous for sheltering endangered barred owls.
The town of Port Alfred is now much sought after and it attracts holiday makers to its shores, not least because of its wonderful swimming beaches. Much like Jeffrey’s Bay, you can collect shells on the beaches and over 1800 different types of seashells have been spotted, including perlemoen. Water sport abounds here and you can swim, surf, boat, water-ski and scuba dive when you’re not fishing.
For those seeking dry land, there is always the Gary Player golf course at the Fish River Sun hotel, just 20 minutes drive from the town and neighbouring game reserves such as Shamwari. There are a few shopping centres, although not very large, cinema, restaurants and a marketplace in Port Alfred.