The best holiday destination in South Africa
The beauty doesn’t stop at your holiday house! St Francis Bay accommodation offers a unique holiday destination situated about 100km west of Port Elizabeth at the start of the Garden Route. It is situated approximately 2 hours from the world famous Tsitsikamma forests.
A St Francis Bay holiday allows you to discover this unique and exclusive paradise on South African’s Sunshine Coast which draws people from all over the world.
Enjoy the glorious beaches, excellent water-sports, a leisurely lifestyle and the magical beauty of its un-spoilt surroundings. St Francis Bay situated midway between Port Elizabeth and Knysna, offers a delightful escape from the pressures of daily life in a haven of peace and tranquillity. Once you have experienced this lifestyle, it becomes a precious memory to cherish forever. This is the essence of St Francis Bay.
What you see today in the St Francis Bay Canals and the town itself, has been pioneered by men like Leighton Hulett, who in 1954, set up a humble fishing camp on his farm Goedgeloof. It was his insistence on a certain amount of uniformity that gives St Francis Bay it’s unique character! Leighton later went on to acquire more land on the banks of the Kromme River, where in 1968, he began work on the beginnings of the impressive St Francis Bay Canals you can see today.
Cape St Francis, visualised by John Booysen who made a swap of his Chevrolet car for part of a farm bordering the lighthouse at Seal Point, originally became a township. In 1965, after just two years, the township was proclaimed the town of Cape St Francis.
Things to do on your St Francis holiday
The canal at the end of your deck is the ultimate holiday playground – its Blue Flag status means that the water is pristine and perfect for enjoying by boat, canoe or just plain swimming. Cruising the canals is very popular in St Francis – a really cool way to entertain and enjoy the sights only seen from the canals. Go people watching, house spotting or take a slow ride to one of the restaurants on the canals.
If you dont have your own boat, residents of 39 or 40 Canal Rd or 19 Marina Island have the option of renting a 3.6m rubber ducky with a 15hp motor, perfect for cruising and exploring Alternatively, book a barge cruise with one of the licenced operators in town. Most canal cruises are about an hour or so long, and are suitable for younger kids.
Beaches and sea
The beaches epitomize perfection – some of the whitest, cleanest stretches of sand on the South African coastline, with clear and warm water offering endless opportunities for holiday fun.
Take your littlies to paddle at Grannies Pool, your groms to test their surfing skills at Hullets break, body board and swim at main beach or catch a left barrel at Ann Avenue. Paddle the backline on a Stand up paddle board, or paddle out into the bay on a kayak.
Bring your beach umbrella and laze in the sun, read your book or catch up with friends, enjoying the peace of mind that comes with having skilled lifeguards patrolling the beach in season and the knowledge that the bay is closely watched and serviced by our award winning National Sea Rescue Institute stationed close by at Port St Francis.
Make sure to buy your fishing and bait collecting licence before you head off to dive for oysters and mussels for your sundowner snacks. Or else you could enjoy a gentle snorkel session off Sanatereme Bay, also known as Second Bush in the history books.
St Francis Bay is also home to Bruce’s Beauties, one of the world’s best known beach breaks, featured in the 60’s cult film Endless Summer. Try surfing the fast and furious right break which does not disappoint when the winter swells, offshore winds and storm surges combine to make the iconic barrelling waves so famous amongst surfers. If that’s too much adrenaline then spend the day on the rocky shore watching and photographing the action – you may be lucky enough to catch World Surf League pros strut their stuff here.
The Kromme River
The Kromme River is navigable for 8 kilometres with multiple designated ski zones. Enjoy river boating at its best – fast and furious skiing and wakeboarding, quiet fishing and birdwatching, or just plain fun and laughs on a tube ride. If you dont have your own boat, residents of 39 or 40 Canal Rd or 19 Marina Island have the option of renting a 3.6m rubber ducky with a 15hp motor, perfect for cruising and exploring Take a walk or run to the river mouth at low tide, keeping an eye out for an elusive pansy shell in the shallows. How about a game of touch rugby or beach cricket – or even the legendary beer ball on the river bank at sunset?
There are many active sports clubs who welcome holiday visitors – squash, tennis, running, open water swimming, paddling and cycling. All year round, you can enjoy sporting events catering for the serious competitor or the weekend enthusiast. You’ll never run out of opportunities to enjoy St Francis.
Take a class to learn something new or brush up on old skills – yoga, pilates, aquafit or swimming at Liquid Lines, in Cape St Francis. Is learning to kite surf, wind surf, body surf, stand up paddle surf or just ordinary surfing a bucket list item? Look no further than our experienced local surf schools for help with ticking those off.
Runners can keep pace at the Saturday morning Park Run at the Links, cyclists can explore mountain biking trails that weave their way through the dunes, rocks and fynbos. These mountain bike trails are especially magical during the golden hour, just before sunset.
Laid back Sports
For those who prefer something a little more sedate, you can hook up with the bridge, bowls or bird watching clubs. Meet up with Nomvulas Knitters, Talhado Children’s Haven or the Kromme Enviro Trust if you would like to engage and give a little back to the local community. Our regular coastal clean up days are a wonderful way of doing good for the environment while keeping the kids busy outdoors.
St Francis also plays host to many fun filled festivals including the Tuna Classic, the popular Calamari Festival during late September and the Port St Francis triathlon in December. Enjoy local products and crafts at the Morning Market under the trees on selected Saturdays.
St Francis Bay boasts two stunning 18 hole golf courses that make it the perfect holiday destination for any golf enthusiast!
The Jack Niclaus designed St Francis Links Golf Course is considered to be the closest to a Scottish links to be found anywhere in South Africa. This means that it is a difficult, windswept course with thick surrounding fynbos. Perfect to challenge your ball skills and swing! There are coaches on hand to help you should you need it, as well as golf cart hire.
Should you wish for a bit more traditional course, the charming St Francis Golf Course is conveniently situated in the middle of town. This 18 hole course challenges with beautiful stretches of bunkers, trees and water hazards. St Francis Golf Course is more amateur friendly. Hire a cart, play a round, and enjoy a well-deserved drink at the 19th hole!
The fishing in St Francis is excellent. One can arrange a deep sea fishing trip with one of the many operators from Port St Francis, and spend a thrilling day at the Agulhas Current trolling for Tuna or Dorado.
Should you be more of a shore angler, there are a number of superb fishing spots on the coast line, and the the Kromme River and its mouth offer a different sort of angling, with grunter, Garrick and an array of estuarine fish on offer.
Whether it is fine dining or rustic fish and chips by the docks that you crave, the town has it all. A number of restaurants in the actual town centre cater for a fine dining dinner. Be sure to call and book at your favourite place to ensure seating.
If it’s a more casual atmosphere you are looking for, be sure to visit one of the local pubs, coffee shops or tick the St Francis Brewing Company off your bucket list! Here you will find delicious local fare, such as fresh calamari and chips, succulent burgers, and oozy cheesy pizzas.
Many places offer a kids play area too, so you can relax while your youngsters tire themselves out. The Village also offers an active nightlife, all year round, with pop up clubs and concerts in holiday season to keep your older teenagers and students in the mix.
Nature and walks
It is this harmony with nature that makes a holiday in St Francis Bay extra special. Endangered Cape Fynbos is indigenous to the area, and can be found from the beaches to right up the Kromme River. Hikes and guided walks are the best way to discover this jewel in the Cape Floral Kingdom’s crown.
If you feel like a leisurely stroll, you can walk along the beachfront between the two harbours or at the Seal Point Nature reserve. There are many benches along the route to rest at should you wish to.
The Chokka Trail is a three day guided hike for those wishing for a bit more adventure. The hike follows the Sand River, where you stand the chance to see a variety of wildlife. Bushbuck, duiker, mongoose and abundant birds all use the river for food and water. Be sure to book however, and know your fitness level!
Cruises, charters and whale watching
From about August, St Francis is visited by a number of whales on their way to the Antarctic. These migrating behemoths stop to mate and calf in the bay. You can witness their adventure by booking a licenced boat charter. Here, you can be dazzled by breaching Humpbacks, and enjoy the majesty of the Southern Rights. Watch in excitement as pods of dolphins race alongside your boat on their high speed hunt of bait fish, and enjoy the spectacle of millions of sea birds, diving into the ocean boiling with bait balls.
Port St Francis
Shops and restaurants
The restaurants and shops situated in Port St Francis, or the harbour, are friendly and convenient.
Take a stroll around the boats before stopping at one of the eateries looking out over the bay. The freshest fish and chips, piping hot calamari and a cold drink await the thirsty shopper. If you want to take home the catch of the day to braai at your leisure, be sure to visit the fresh fish market for a variety of produce.
Forget the big city waterfront crowds… The commercial harbour of Port St Francis, built in 1995, has always held a unique charm because of both its size and the constant activity. Also, no visit to St Francis would be complete without stopping in at one of the fine restaurants to sample the succulent calamari dishes that drive the lucrative chokka industry. In addition to entertainment and industry, the Port also provides anchorage for pleasure craft and ocean going yachts.
Chokka, or squid, is a St Francis delicacy, and there is no better way to eat it than fresh off the boat. Take a stroll around the boats in the early morning as they unload their catch. Head over to one of the fresh markets or restaurants to try calamari your favourite way, you won’t find better!
Cape St Francis
Just 10km from the St Francis Bay Village lies another world of adventure to explore for St Francis Bay holiday makers. Cape St Francis has the most beautifully pristine beach. A symmetrical curving stretch of gleaming sand in the lee of rolling dunes awaits you. The beach leads your eyes to the lighthouse, built in 1878, which warns ships of the dangerous reefs that stretch more than a kilometre out to sea. Viewed from the sky, the lighthouse stands on a rocky promontory – thundering waves splashing white foam ribbons on the huge coastal boulders
Jutting out to sea, Seal Point has seen it fair share of history. From ship wrecks to voortrekkers, taking a tour around the reserve is bound to be interesting. The Seal Point nature reserve has a number of gorgeous walks, both guided and not. Catch a glimpse of the rare Black Oyster Catcher as it goes about its business, or simply feel the wild of an untamed shoreline. Here, surfers brave the rocks and take on the aptly named Full Stop to surf the legendary Seal Point surf break.
Built in 1878, the Seal Point (or Cape St Francis Lighthouse, the names are interchangeable) stands 28 meters high, and has stopped many a ship from being wrecked on the rocky shore. Before the lighthouse was commissioned the strip of land was notorious for taking sailors’ lives. Today the lighthouse is not working, but you can take a guided tour inside and around it, and imagine what it must have been like to keep the massive bulb lit.
Cape St Francis is the wild side of St Francis Bay. Rocky coastline meets blue green sea in a swirl of foam and spray. Discover Johnsons pool, sheltered from the onshore wind, or enjoy more of the beach with activities like snorkelling in rock pools or collecting pumpkin shells for holiday memories
Sand boarding is another activity that one can find in the dunes of Cape St Francis. Be sure to contact a well-known operator to hire good equipment and great instructors.
All in all, you can expect your whole family’s needs to be more than fulfilled by a holiday in St Francis Bay. From adrenaline fuelled activities such as surfing, kayaking, deep sea fishing and sand boarding to the more sedate like canal cruises and shopping, you will find something for everyone here. And, by far, the best way to enjoy it is to book canal accommodation with St Francis Bay Accommodation.