Freeing your mind and surrendering your body
to the fresh outdoors on an undisturbed run is not difficult to do in Port Elizabeth, as the city is lapped by the ocean and bordered by some spectacular nature reserves. Whether lacing up your sneakers to hit sand, tarmac, gravel road or dirt path; the choices are limitless for amateur and professional runners alike. Here are some suggestions of where to get your running fix in the Bay.
The Roseate Tern Trail
This gorgeous circular trail is located within the Cape Recife Nature Reserve and takes you across pristine beaches scattered with rock pools and past the historic Cape Recife Lighthouse. The route is well marked, making it easy to navigate, and is also a popular bird watching location so expect to see lots of wonderful feathered creatures along the way. Take in the awesome views of the bay as you pound the sand and keep an eye out for the rare Roseate tern that nest along this stretch of beach.
Cape Recife Nature Reserve, Schoenmakerskop, Port Elizabeth, +27 41 583 4004
Hopewell Conservation Estate
This eco-retreat is located less than half an hour from central Port Elizabeth and is set on 3,100 hectares of urban nature reserve. The fenced wilderness offers trail runners an opportunity to get up close to nature as they make their way through indigenous flora, wild game, bushland and scenic valleys. There are a number of different trails to choose from that offer endurance challenges of varying degrees. After a hard run you can grab a well-earned break and bite to eat at the on-site restaurant.
Hopewell Conservation Estate, Stanford Road, Port Elizabeth, +27 71 106 0306
Hiking Trail, Ruins
The Sacramento Trail is a favourite among Bay locals and popular with runners as well as those just looking for a pleasant walk through nature. It is a circular 8 km (5 mi) route through the Schoenmakerskop-Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve and meanders across some of the most remarkable seascapes and landscapes in Port Elizabeth. Depending on the time of year, runners may also be able to marvel at some spectacular dune vegetation that jumps out in riots of colour around spring time. There is a bronze canon, monument and ruins of a mill to admire along the way.
Sacramento Trail, Schoenmakerskop, Port Elizabeth
Sardinia Bay Beach
Mile upon mile of spectacular, uncluttered shoreline must surely be near the top of any avid nature runner’s wish list. Sardinia Bay dishes up just that, accompanied by fresh sea air and garnished with a dash of pure beauty. Here runners can lose themselves in the rhythm of their stride as they whip past the sand dunes and dodge the crystal clear water that gets pushed up onto the beach by the tide. Horse riders and those walking their dogs may occasionally pass you by, but otherwise its just you and the sound of the ocean.
Sardinia Bay Beach, Sardinia Bay Rd, Schoenmakerskop, Port Elizabeth
Lying slightly outside of Port Elizabeth and at the base of the beautiful Lady Slipper Mountain is Slipperfields, offering scenic trail running and mountain biking routes. The rugged and picturesque setting is a great place for a mild to intermediate run that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. Those looking to challenge themselves a bit can tackle one of the more demanding routes such as the downhill Viper Trial. Although non-technical, the route features a number of berms and drop-offs and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Vomit trail’. You have been warned!
Slipperfields, R102, Uitenhage Farms, Port Elizabeth, +27 71 856 5787
De Stades Trail
The De Stades Trail is considered one of the most beautiful in the Port Elizabeth region and is located within the Maitland Nature Reserve. Here indigenous coastal forests vie for space with sand dunes and the area is alive with birdlife. Follow the trail under a canopy of trees as it heads up an old wagon path and listen out for the call of the Knysna loerie as you make a fairly steep incline to the top of the route for stunning views over the Maitland River Mouth. The return trip is almost all downhill and slightly rugged, so keep a lookout for obstacles.
Maitland Nature Reserve, Beachview Road, Port Elizabeth, +27 41 956 0155
The Guinea Fowl Trail
Working up a sweat becomes a truly pleasurable affair on the Lower Guinea Fowl trail as you pass by scores of beautiful wildflowers and peaceful ponds filled with blue water lilies. The 7.5 km (4.6 mi) route follows the edge of Baakens River floodplain as it passes through a steep-sided valley with the suburbs of Port Elizabeth peeking out above. Be on the lookout for small wildlife such as tortoise and rock hyrax and there is also an excellent selection of birds to admire as you run through the valley. The route begins in 3rd Avenue Newton Park and ends in Target Kloof, so unless you are planning to run back again, make sure you have a ride waiting on the other side.
Baakens Valley, Glenhurd, Port Elizabeth
Just outside of Port Elizabeth’s city limits lies the pretty little villages of Amsterdamhoek and Bluewater Bay, the former nestled peacefully along the Swartkops River and the latter on the Indian Ocean shoreline. Here runners can forget their troubles and strife on the picturesque Aloe Trail beginning at the gate at the top of Tippers Creek Road. The trail is a circular route that begins on the escarpment overlooking Amsterdamhoek before taking a return path via valley bushland and finally back to the plateau where you began.
Tippers Creek, Wells Estate, Port Elizabeth
Van Staden’s Wildflower Reserve
The Van Staden’s Wildflower Reserve offers various trails for running enthusiasts and nature lovers alike that wind and curve through a literal wonderland of indigenous flora. The landscape is stunning, with the fresh country air stimulating the senses and beautiful views offering a feast for the eyes. Succulents, flowers, river banks and verdant wooded slopes all around bring nature into your running space for a serene and zen-like experience.
Van Staden’s Wildflower Reserve
The Port Elizabeth beachfront
No list of the Bay’s most peaceful running trails would be complete without the inclusion of the iconic Port Elizabeth coastline. From King’s Beach through to Hobie Beach, Pollock Beach and beyond, runners can hit the sand or the sidewalk as they stretch their legs. Jogging along the promenade early in the morning should tick all the boxes as the salty sea air mingles with the sounds of the city and seagulls screech in the sky above. Once the hard work is over treat yourself to a yummy breakfast at one of the many beachfront cafes and restaurants.