Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Van Stadens River Mouth & Estuary

Located half way between Port Elizabeth and Jeffreys Bay, the Van Stadens River mouth has always been a place where the denizens of Port Elizabeth could relax away from the hurly-burly and bustle of Port Elizabeth. Initially the holiday makers would have to bring everything with them – from the pots and pans to the canvas roof over their heads – on their carts and wagons. 

Today, it sports rondawels, chalets and facilities to cater for all one’s needs. But its attraction is its beauty and tranquillity with miles of sand dunes in both directions

Main picture: Van Stadens Mouth from Cadles in 1870 by Sarah Holland, the earliest drawing of Van Stadens

Nine thirties and forties

The original old wagon track down the hill. The ox wagons would battle over the hill on this old sand road with the oxen pulling their wagons loaded with camping gear, which back in the day were canvas pulled over poles.
The accomodation in this bygone era was canvas pulled over poles to form a tent. The beds were probably non-existent with the ground serving as a floor and a bed
What were they doing? Catching fish or rescuing a dolphin?
What were they doing? Catching fish or rescuing a dolphin?
The camp site from the top of a sand dune
The view of the camp site from the hill on the eastern side of the tents

Nineteen sixties

Farmers invaded. They also brought their large fridges, deep freezers (filled with Karoo lamb), lounge suites, heavy ball & claw wardrobes, etc transported with their farm trucks.

Nineteen seventies and eighties

Van Stadens in the 1970s – Letting one’s hair down

Sandboarding at Van Stadens

Whilst I have not personally sandboarded at Van Stadens Mouth, I have sandboarded at Maitlands and at Sardinia Bay. My father made us a board using 6mm hardboard which had been heated at one end in order to make a curved lip onto which we could hold and steer the board. I cannot recall whether we ever polished it with Cobra wax polish until it shone. Of course, this would reduce friction and increase the speed.

Of course if one were fearless, one could make a dune board out of galvanised iron sheet thinking that it would last a lot longer than polished cardboard. What was never taken into consideration was friction and the fact that the heat would be conducted through the metal to one’s bare feet. Needless to say, these intrepid boarders first and only ride was very short, with most bailing out half way down. Like much of playing, the downhill dune racer would learn a valuable lesson in science that day.



Photos of the 1940s from Donald Davies

Photo of the early 1950s from Yvonne Moore

Facebook: Ex PE 60’s 70’s 80’s

Van Staden’s resort in the early 1950s
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