As a long standing sailor I attest that we have one of the most magnificent beach-fronts as viewed from the sea.
Leaving the Port of Port Elizabeth and heading towards Cape Recife one often sees a school of dolphins along the harbour wall feasting on the fish that find comfort in that artificial reef.
The buildup of the beach along the once popular Fence Surf Spot at the end of the harbour wall is a reminder of how much sand travels along our coast towards the Port of Nqura and Bird Island.
Then along Kings Beach – a magnificent 1.6 km wide expanse of golden sand extending from the harbour wall to Humewood.
Then on to McArthur Baths, which offers outdoor swimming pools with slides and kiddies pools and the Denville surfing spot off the Sandbar and is a favourite of many of the surf schools.
Before one gets to Happy Valley you see the Princess Promenade (opposite Bayworld). On 6 November 1923, Princess Arthur opened the “Princess Promenade” in Humewood which was built in sections over several years. The official opening took place under the Promenade Dome (often erroneously referred to as the ‘Tin Hat’ and which has nothing to do with the memorable Order of Tin Hats – MOTHs), designed by the Assistant City Engineer JJ Burt.
Happy Valley serves as the mouth of the Shark River which, at one time, was once the earliest water supply of Port Elizabeth from the Frames Dam (close to the old Boet Erasmus Stadium). The Shark River is around 15kms in length with its source in the Mount Pleasant area.
Then onto the disused Six Pack / Six Pillars Slipway constructed by the Port Elizabeth Harbour Board at the mouth of the Shark River. The intention was to create a ship repair facility for vessels of up to 400 tonnes. Construction commenced in 1899.
6 Pillars is also a good surf spot which offers a sand bar right off of a sandy bottom.
Moving along towards the Shark Rock Pier one sees another surf spot – Baked Beans which is right in front of Barney’s Tavern on the north side of Shark Rock Pier with a big rock in front of it. Offering a short powerful wave Baked Beans is rarely surfed, usually only by bodyboarders on bigger swells.
One of Port Elizabeth’s enduring features is next on the beachfront tour – the 136 meter long Shark Rock Pier. Named for the Shark River construction started in 1988, took 17 months and was completed in 1990. The idea behind building the Shark Rock Pier was to promote tourism by creating a pier for the public to walk along which would give a scenic view of the city. At night time the view of the city and the sea is spectacular.
Right next to the Pier is Hobie Beach – here we often see dolphins cruising between the Pier and Bird Rock.
Officially named Shark Rock Beach, Hobie Beach only picked up the name in the 1970’s when Hobie Cats became popular and this was the beach they launched from.
We are often asked why the river was named Shark River – “Was it because of Shark Attacks?” but the provenance is a bit more simple: It was originally the Sark river, so named first by the Dutch. The English then bastardised it into Shark instead of Sark.
Moving along the coast towards Pollok Beach one sees Bird Rock – a well known landmark and roosting perch for many gulls and cormorants. On the land-side is a paved road and parking area called Lovers Lane.
Just after Bird Rock one sees the Avalanche surf spot close to the Something Good Roadhouse.
Avalanche is also next to a popular surf fishing spot on which the rocks serve as protection for a children’s beach and rock pool before the start of Pollok Beach watched over by volunteers from the Summerstrand Surf Lifesaving Club.
From the sea one can see high rise buildings such as the Radisson Blu Hotel and the NMU Administration building dominating the skyline. Most other buildings are lower profile and allow wonderful views back up the land-side of Port Elizabeth.
When Sailing we will often make our way out from a position just past the Pipe Surf Spot and close to the Admiralty Way beacon out to the Bell Buoy. Those who can fish are almost guaranteed to catch a fish or three on the way out.
And, if the timing is correct, a slow sail or motor back down to Shark Rock Pier in time to catch the Golden Half Hour of photographer’s light will ensure some memorable images as we return to the Harbour.