Set nearly 500 miles east of Cape Town in the Eastern Cape province, the industrial-port city of Port Elizabeth (or, PE, as it's called) is a fixture on the South African cruise circuit, thanks to its revitalized central historic district, bustling beaches and, above all else, its proximity to the superlative elephant sanctuary and game reserve at Addo Elephant National Park featuring the "Big 5": lions, leopards, Cape buffalo, rhinoceros and elephants.
Here, sunbathers, active types (watersports and surfing abound), and old lighthouses fringe the swaths of sandy beaches (Humewood Beach ranks tops) hugging Algoa Bay. The city's central district sets the stage for a cluster of renovated Victorian buildings, historic sites and a surprising collection of engaging public art projects. Further afield, guided township tours propose insight into local African Xhosa culture and the nation's challenging political history. Visitors with a full day in port could tack on the can't-miss half-day excursion to Addo Elephant National Park with a half-day exploration of Port Elizabeth's urban-and-waterfront highlights.