Great choice! Apart from the internationally-recognised courses we offer, Nelson Mandela University is uniquely located within walking distance of the sea. Four of our six Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) campuses are in Summerstrand, home to several magnificent beaches.

Should you choose to study at our leading-edge Ocean Sciences campus, you’ll get an even deeper understanding of our deep blue seas through the key research opportunities available. Outside of Summerstrand, we have campuses in Central and Missionvale, offering a broad range of study options to prepare you for your career and for life!

What’s Gqeberha like?

Gqeberha is a laidback city, positioned along 40km of Eastern Cape coastline at the foot of Africa. It’s often called the “friendly city”, the “windy city”, sometimes even the “water sport capital of Africa” but, to the locals, it’s “PE” or “the Bay” (die Baai or iBhayi). We’re pretty relaxed like that!

However you want to call it, the city offers plenty to see and do – superb beaches, nature and wildlife, a citywide art walk, great restaurants and shops, a rich history, vibrant culture, all sorts of sport (including Ironman) and fantastic coffee – all without the big city hassles of long distances, too much traffic, and that rat-race vibe. What’s not to love?

How’s the weather?

Gqeberha’s weather is temperate, with long summer days that are warm and dry (they can be breezy) and a mild winter. Our hottest month is January, our coldest is July, and our sea temperature is warmest in February, typically reaching a balmy 23° Celsius. The sun shines for more than 200 hours every month – and more than 250 in December and January.

Best ways to get around

Car, taxi, bus, Uber or you can easily walk from our Summerstrand campuses to shops, beaches and restaurants.

Coolest places to eat and drink

Cross Marine Drive and you’ll find Barney’s, a bar with an ocean view, while Charlie’s at Summerstrand Village Shopping Centre offers delicious pizza and pasta. Something Good at Pollok Beach, with its relaxed family atmosphere, is another popular eating spot.

For that trendy café culture vibe, head to Stanley Street in Richmond Hill, where the tables spill out onto the pavements. Local breweries such as Bridge Street Brewery and Richmond Hill Brewing Company won’t disappoint. Did we mention we also have a great coffee culture in PE? There are coffee shops everywhere!  

The music scene

Gqeberha hosts a number of beachfront festivals each year, including the Splash Festival, which has plenty of live music to entertain the crowds. The Beer Shack and Barney’s in Summerstrand regularly host live music nights, along with several other venues throughout the city, including The Music Kitchen, Beer Yard, and SoHo Whiskey and Cocktail Bar.

Which beaches are best?

Beautiful sandy beaches just a walk away from the university’s Summerstrand campuses include Pollok, Hobie, Humewood and King’s beaches. All these beaches are top notch, with plenty of safe swimming spots (swim between the lifeguards’ flags), and long stretches of sand for those who prefer a walk or run. If you drive west up Marine Drive, you’ll get to the rockier shores of Schoenmakerskop. Further along is Sardinia Bay, with endless kilometres of unspoilt beach. On the other side of the city, you’ll find the northern beaches, including Bluewater Bay, Swartkops River Mouth and Brighton Beach.

Nature and wildlife

Nelson Mandela University is the only university in South Africa situated on a nature reserve, an 800-hectare piece of protected land, with a broad range of plant and animal species. Walk or cycle the Grysbok environmental education trail or go with a guide. If you want to escape the city, why not club in with friends and head to Addo Elephant National Park, a 30-minute drive away?

More places to visit

  • Take in our magnificent coastline, walking all the way from Pollok Beach to King’s Beach.
  • Visit Bayworld Museum Complex (includes a snake park, penguins and seals) or the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) rehabilitation centre for seabirds.
  • To get a sense of Gqeberha’s roots, visit South End Museum or tour through some of the country’s oldest townships, steeped in history, tradition and culture.
  • The PE Opera House offers plenty of great drama and musical productions.

The art scene

Route 67 is a walking trail along the streets of PE, with 67 public artworks created by Eastern Cape artists, symbolising the years that Nelson Mandela devoted to the freedom struggle. The route starts at the Campanile, goes through Vuyisile Mini Square (Market Square), and then makes its way to the Donkin Reserve (with its massive South African flag). Other great art hubs include Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum and artEC. The university also has its own gallery at its Bird Street Campus, with regular exhibitions displaying staff and students’ work. Hand in Hand Visual Art Studio in Motherwell is introducing art to children and helping to uplift the community.

The sports scene

The beaches in Summerstrand are hot sporting spots throughout the year, with many of our students volunteering or participating in these events. Ironman is Gqeberha’s flagship sporting event, drawing the world’s top athletes to Hobie Beach to conquer Africa’s toughest triathlon. If you’re not quite in that league, the Ocean Racing Series, also at Hobie Beach, runs every weekend through summer, with beach runs and walks, and ocean swims of varying distances.

Through the year, there are also loads of 5km or 10km fun runs, including the Spar Women’s Challenge, which starts at King’s Beach. Saturday morning Parkruns are also big in Gqeberha, with a number of different routes, including Hobie Beach. There are also plenty of trail runs throughout the city. Gqeberha hosts the Algoa FM Big Walk for Cancer each year, which starts at the Boardwalk entrance in Second Avenue, Summerstrand, and the annual River Mile (Sunday’s River) for swimmers. The Herald Cycle Tour, starting at Pollok Beach, is a favourite for cyclists.

Gqeberha is…

  • the gateway to the Garden Route
  • South Africa’s fifth-largest city
  • the southernmost major city in Africa
  • 100% malaria-free
  • the 15-minute city
  • the home of Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi
  • the mohair capital of the world

Places you can easily visit from Gqeberha and what’s special about them

  • Jeffreys Bay, famous for its waves and the J-Bay Open for surfers
  • Bathurst, famous for its giant pineapple and annual ox braai
  • Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea (to the east) or St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis (to the west), best known for surfing and chillaxing
  • Bloukrans Bridge near Plett, famous for being Africa’s highest bungee jump (216m)

Where to shop?

  • Baywest Mall
  • Kenako Mall (near our Missionvale Campus)
  • Greenacres Mall
  • Walmer Park


Gqeberha has a number of private and public healthcare facilities throughout the city, with an on-campus Health Service Team providing primary health care, occupational health care, personal counselling and HIV services.

Main industries

Automotive, auto component, food, pharmaceutical, tourism, agriculture, textile and rubber industries, and more.

NOTE: Some of the activities mentioned may be temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.

As a dynamic African institution located at the foot of the continent, we extend our warmest welcome to students from South Africa and around the world. For a life-changing experience, join the Nelson Mandela University family and start writing your own study adventure story.

Posted on 15 December 2021 16:59:13

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