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A Bay, a Cape and a Port… St Francis

Beezus @ Cape St Francis
Back at the beach again — Beezus the beach boy at Cape St Francis
Seal Point Lighthouse
Like a rocket ready to launch… but it’s maintenance underway. The Seal Point lighthouse is the tallest masonry lighthouse in South Africa at 27.75m high. It was originally equipped with a three-wick burner producing 15,000 candlepower which was lit for the first time in 1878. Today’s light produces 2.75 million candlepower.

Endless beaches, a busy little port and canal-living make Cape St Francis one of the most desirable destinations on the SA coast.

Or almost… but I’ll get to that later.

When I heard that GT Ferreira (FirstRand Group, Tokara Wine Estate, etc.) has recently bought property there, it’s obvious one can’t question it as an investment destination.

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As a destination for people who don’t know the area, it can be a little confusing because locals differentiate between Cape St Francis, Port St Francis and St Francis Bay.  It really needs a single and cohesive destination name — the tourism organisation uses just St Francis Tourism.

St Francis Bay is 105km from Port Elizabeth, 687km to Cape Town and 1144km to Johannesburg.

The entry to the town is across the Kromme River, which is accessible from the residential canals and is navigable upstream for 10km — providing an added amenity:  fishing, boating, paddling, kitesurfing, windsurfing and waterskiing, while jetskis have access to the ocean through the Kromme River Mouth.

St Francis Bay is the area’s business centre with two shopping centres, where one finds a really good SuperSpar.  There is a Pick n Pay at the big shopping centre just outside Jeffreys Bay 30km away.

You won’t be bored here.  Sports enthusiasts can enjoy over 50 different sporting codes, which includes a variety of water sports and two world-class golf courses.  And there are many tours and other activities to keep the whole family busy.

The SANCCOB Penguin Rehabilitation Centre is situated adjacent to the Seal Point Lighthouse on Cape St Francis and specializes in the rehabilitation of the African Penguin and other marine species.

St Francis Bay
St Francis Bay — architectural uniformity sets it apart from many other coastal resorts
Port St Francis
Port St Francis — a small working and residential harbour, home to the chokka boats
The Canals at St Francis Bay
The Canals at St Francis Bay
Canals at St Francis Bay
Exploring the canals at St Francis Bay with Brian Cunninham, an expert guide

I rarely take tours or go on organised trips, preferring to explore and discover things myself.  But I was pleased to have taken up Brian & Sandy’s invitation to go on a canal cruise on his big party boat.  Brian is on the committee that manages and maintains the canal system, so he has deep insight into everything that goes on.  I heard about the fire that tore through the area in November 2012, gutting 76 homes.  I heard about Carte Blanche’s Derek Watts staying at their guest house and asking to borrow a boat for an early morning ride.  He came back enthused by the friendliness of the locals — they all waved as he rode past.  Until he discovered the area is a no-wake zone and his speed would have got locals extremely animated!

Beezus & I stayed in a 4-bedroom villa at Cape St Francis Resort
Beezus & I stayed in a 4-bedroom Beach Break Villa at Cape St Francis Resort
Cape St Francis Resort
Cape St Francis Resort has villas, cottages, apartments and superior backpackers accommodation.

Cape St Francis Resort has been in CapeInfo’s directory for some while… but it exceeded all expectations when I finally got to visit!

We stayed in one of the Beach Break Villas less than 100 metres from the beach… kilometres of it.  Now this is easily where I could spend my holidays!

I had dinner the evening I was in Cape St Francis at Christy’s Catch — a huge place that must pump during the holiday season.  At the back there’s a pub and disco, and a venue where live bands perform.

But the linefish I ordered — Geelbek — was the freshest and best I’ve enjoyed for a long, long time.

At Port St Francis, I also learned about Chokka (squid) — or black gold  — which is the main commercial fishing activity.  Unfortunately, the South African version is far tougher than from elsewhere but said to be more tasty… maybe because you chew longer?

Christys Catch
The best fresh fish in a long, long time at Christys Catch

And, so what holds the St Francis area back from becoming a really great destination?

A lousy municipality.  Especially around Port St Francis, the roads are so bad that some investors have had second thoughts and invested elesewhere.  At a meeting with the tourism head at Kouga Municipality, Carleen Arends, she acknowledged the problem and said she had told her bosses that she would rather give up her budget for a year if only the roads could be fixed.  Well, hopefully the mayor and municipal manager will be history after next year’s municipal elections.

There’s a local story (which I also heard in Hazview, Mpumalanga a few years ago) that if you see a person driving in a straight line, they are either drunk or new to the area.  Because locals all know that they have to drive like a drunkard to avoid the potholes if they want their cars to last.

Click here for more on the town.  If you plan on visiting, click here to read about the whole area, which includes Jeffreys Bay as well as Hankey and Patensie in the Gamtoos Valley.

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