Donkin Reserve – A Step into Port Elizabeth’s Past

Port Elizabeth’s Donkin Reserve is better known for it’s historical interest than its wildlife. In fact, the only wildlife you’ll find here are birds. Situated near the beach in the midst of a historical and commercial hub interspersed by inner city suburbia, the Donkin Reserve is essentially a small open public space which was proclaimed by the founder of the city, Sir Rufane Donkin. The area measures roughly the size of two small city blocks and it features park benches, walking paths, the Opera House, a lighthouse and a memorial.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the Donkin Reserve is the touching memorial to Sir Donkin’s wife. This pyramid shaped structure bears a plaque with the inscription: “To the memory of one of the most perfect of human beings who has given her name to the Town below.” The structure is a testament to the loving relationship that Donkin had with this wife and a bit more of their story can be learned when visiting the adjacent lighthouse.

Sir Rufane Donkin arrived in the area in 1820 by sea along with 4000 British settlers. Contrary to popular belief that the town was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth the First – of whom there is a statue only a block away – the sea port was actually named for Sir Donkin’s wife Elizabeth. The lighthouse, which stands on a sharp incline and overlooks much of the city, was built in 1861 and now serves as the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality tourism information office. The view from the top of the lighthouse makes for excellent photographs. The Donkin Reserve is a national monument which is maintained by Momento’s of Africa.

Upon completing your tour of the lighthouse, you can get a map from the Tourist Information Centre which describes a five kilometer (three mile) discovery trail which takes you through the old centre of the city and guides you past 47 historical sites. Caution should be exercised when walking the trail and all camera equipment, cellular phones and other expensive devices should be kept as hidden as possible. However the trail and a visit to the Donkin Reserve is highly recommended as it adds a personalized touch to any visit.

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