Named quite obviously for the first president of the new South Africa, Nelson Mandela Bay is one of the eight metropolitan municipalities of the nation, a large conurbation wrapped around the shore of Algoa Bay in Eastern Cape Province that also comprises Port Elizabeth, one of South Africa's most important ports; and smaller cities such as Bethelsdorp, Colchester, Ibhayi, Motherwell and the wonderfully named Despatch. The area has a population of 1.2 million and is at the eastern end of the Garden Route, which is a known tourism route stretching all the way along the coast west to Cape Town. Most visitors will want to be in Port Elizabeth, which Nelson Mandela Bay MICE venues most abound; as well as areas offering countryside retreats and safaris.
The main airport in the area is Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ), which is only two miles south of the center of the district of Port Elizabeth and 12 miles south of Ibhayi. It has service from several airports in South Africa but no direct service to North America.
Chief among MICE venues, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Conference Centre is the city's principal gathering spot, whose spaces include the MMM Loubser Auditorium for 200 persons, the 654-seat Goldfields Auditorium and the Up-Market Theatre for 160 persons. When the students are not studying, the centre can host larger groups and offer accommodations.
The best Nelson Mandela Bay MICE hotels are in Port Elizabeth (on good beaches and away from the port facilities) and include the 280-room Tsogo Sun Garden Court Kings Beach; the 173-room Radisson Blu Port Elizabeth, which has eight meeting rooms covering more than 557 square feet of space, including a large ballroom; the 170-room Summerstrand Hotel, which has seven function rooms for groups of up to 300 persons; the 140-room Boardwalk Hotel, Convention Centre & Spa, which is the Port Elizabeth's only casino and has six function spaces, two of which can fit 1,700 persons each; and the 114-room Protea Hotel Marine, with space for up to 90 persons.
One of many MICE venues, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was built for 2010 World Cup soccer finals, hosts numerous concerts, rugby and soccer matches and functions in its World of Windows restaurant for 450 persons, presidential suite for 180 and on its very pitch itself for up to 10,000; Bayworld, which contains the Port Elizabeth Museum, Oceanarium, Snake Park, and No. 7 Castle Hill Museum and has the Bayworld Exhibitions & Events Centre for up to 280 persons, Dinosaur Hall for up to 60 and Marine Hall for up to 300; and AutoPavilion, a museum of Volkswagen cars that can host events and conduct tours of South Africa's production plant for the German automobiles. Two adventurous function sites that require transport are Sahara Lodge in the gorgeous Amakhala Game Reserve, which is approximately 50 miles to the northeast, full of wild animals, and with space for smaller groups of between 25 and 40; and HavanaBlu, which is at King's Beach on the Indian Ocean and is beachside wedding, reception and event venue that can pretty much fulfill any dream and looks especially impressive at night.
Great restaurants for groups in this large area include the Crest Restaurant at the 43-room Beach Hotel, which has wooden roof beams and a central area that can be converted into an awards or dance floor; Coachman on the Bay, which overlooks the Indian Ocean, has a terrace to take advantage of that and an inventive menu; Victorian manor house Hacklewood Hill Country House, another gorgeous spot that feels a million miles away from hustle and bustle, with a fine dining restaurant, as well as eight guest rooms, safari options and meeting facilities for 20 persons; Blue Waters Cafe, another restaurant with an Oceanside balcony and with a menu specializing in surf n' turf, and, 130 miles to the west, Kurland Hotel, which is a fairtytale-ish, white mirage in three large buildings joined by a long deck in Uitenghage, close to the coast, with 12 guest rooms, a massive pool, 1,700 acres, a restaurant called Katarina's for up to 100 persons and that regularly puts on corporate bashes for such companies as BMW.