Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kidz Adventures - Exploring PE's history

During the school holidays its always a bit of a challenge to keep bored children busy.  Most parents end up taking them to the movies, for ice cream at Micky D's, playing putt putt and games or one of the party places with jungle gyms and trampolines.  Me? Well, I try to spend at least a day with the Kidz exploring Port Elizabeth or surrounding area for them to get to know the city better.  During the past holiday we headed out to discover some of the city's historic sights along with their friends AB and JB. 

The first stop of the day was the oldest building in Port Elizabeth.  Fort Frederick was built by the British in 1799 to protect Algoa Bay from French invasion but never fired a shot in anger.  In actual fact the fort was the first permanent stone structure built by the British in Africa south of the equator.  The fort is perched on top of the cliffs above the Baakens Valley has a magnificent view of the lower valley and Port Elizabeth Harbour.  The guns on the fort are ship cannons which were placed there symbolically since the original guns were removed.  JB wanted very badly to direct a salvo out to sea but there were no enemy ships in sight.

The next stop on our tour was just a couple of hundred meters down Belmont Terrace.  The Donkin Reserve with its historic lighthouse and pyramid is my favorite historic site in Port Elizabeth.  The Donkin is surrounded by a number of other historic sites and the new Route 67 development has blown new life into the area as an attraction.  The pyramid (Donkin Memorial) was built in 1820 by Sir Rufane Donkin as a monument to his late wife Lady Elizabeth Donkin after whom he also named the town.  The lighthouse was originally built in 1861 and the old lighthouse keeper's cottage is now a Visitor Information Centre run by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.  Some of the Route 67 art pieces like the untitled Anton Momberg conversation piece and the Voting line make for great pictures, with or without human subjects.

While walking around the Donkin with the Kidz I noticed their eyes kept going to the lighthouse so I decided it was time to climb.  Entrance to the lighthouse is only R5 per person payable at the NMBT office.  The climb up the lighthouse is done by a few sets of steps and ladders and even though Drama Princess was a bit hesitant at the start they all flew up there like a bunch of monkeys.  The view from the top of the lighthouse is breathtaking all around with the beachfront, harbour, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium as well as the surrounding area visible.  The Donkin Lighthouse is well worth the climb.
From the Donkin we followed the winding Route 67 path down towards the city centre for a visit to the city's historic Public Library.  Stopping briefly for a quick pic with Queen Vic (made of Sicilian marble and erected in 1903 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee) we headed inside with the Kidz under strict instructions to keep it quiet.  The Kidz were amazed with the library's interior with its balconies and stained glass windows.  They immediately went exploring and found their way up onto the balcony walkway where, not before long, they stood admiring the beautiful windows.  The Public Library was opened in 1902 with the front stone facade built in England before being shipped to Port Elizabeth in numbered block.  I remember how we roamed the library as kids and it was awesome to introduce the Kidz to a place from my childhood memories. 
The last stop of our outing was at St Georges Park to visit the newly restored Pearson Conservatory.  The conservatory is another of the places we roamed around in as kids on Art in the Park Sundays while my mom had her stall there.  Although the inside of the conservatory has changed a bit from how I remember it, its still well worth a visit.  By now I had used up my quota of good behaviour made available to me for the day and the four of them started to get a bit too active for my liking.  With St Georges' play area close by the four set off to play in the park and expend some built up energy before coming back complaining that they were getting hungry.  It just never stops, does it?


  1. I just love that the children can have fun and learn about history at the same time! Too often today educational outings don't interest the kids! Good on you Jonker - so glad to see yours have appreciation for good things! Lovely post!

  2. I received the following via email from Arnold who couldn't comment from his smartphone:


    I'm Arnold from Motherwell PE,Wow Aaaaaaauuuummm! Mmmmh! Breath taking,but I can't post a Comment in the website,anyway that's an inspiring short story.

    These Photos reminds me when I followed the History of South Africa.But it was cool to go through the Port Elizabeth History because I could visit the places such as;at the Donkin,Queen Victoria and the Fort Fredricks etc,but I didn't go through to visit them all since I need some more chance.

    It is really a wonderful thing that you did to take children out to see the historic sites,these pictures will help them when they're old,help them to memorize and read history again for their own to inspire others.

    Thanks very much for the beautiful pictures...I found that link through a Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism twitter handle...Thanks

    Yours truly