St Francis Bay is an attractive beach town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, a paradise for water sports enthusiasts, fishermen and beach goers.
Descendants of the town’s original land owner were responsible for dredging the harbour and distinctive canals to create South Africa’s first marina. Their black-roofed homes with white walls have remained a tradition in this charming town.
The weather is mostly mild throughout the year with long sunny days . This section of the coast is internationally known for its big waves, attracting surfers from all corners of the globe.
If sun, sea and surf appeals to you, then St Francis Bay is your idyllic beach holiday destination.
Things to do
The beaches along St Francis Bay’s coastline are superb. For a day’s outing on the beach, order a picnic basket from St Francis Deli to take with you.
Enjoy a sundowner cruise through the St Francis Bay canal system and over two rivers. The 12-seater barge gently meanders through the waterways for a waterside view of the majestic homes, nature parks and forests along the embankments.
Explore St Francis Bay town, the beaches and Cape St Francis on a bicycle. Hire one from Custom Bikes downtown.
The SA National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in nearby Cape St Francis is a world leader in the rehabilitation of seabirds and the centre is worth touring. Help support a penguin and you get to name it!
Also in the Cape St Francis area is the 1878 Seal Point lighthouse and unspoiled beaches to the west, with practically flawless surfing waves. This area is referred to by the locals as the Wild Side.
The Irma Booysen Floral Reserve has several walking trails to enjoy the indigenous primeval fynbos on display throughout the year.
Attempt the 14km Cape St. Francis to Pouch Cove Hiking Trail for majestic views of the ocean, unexplored coves and the chance to see whales on their migratory route.
For an adventurous drive, we recommend a trip to the dramatic Baviaanskloof Pass. Much of the road is on gravel and in some parts, the road clings to sheer drops overlooking magnificent scenery. On route the road passes forests, dips through rolling hills and traverses a river gorge.
Try a half-day deep sea fishing excursion where the craft operators pride themselves in always finding schools of game fish to give you the opportunity to catch the big one!
Play a few rounds of golf at St Francis Bay Golf Club or the more challenging St Francis Links course designed by Jack Nicklaus.
The Blue Flag Dolphin Beach in Jeffrey’s Bay is a short 30 minute drive from St Francis. While there, try your hand at surfing one of the world’s greatest surfing spots or watch the pros attempt the huge wave barrels at Supertubes.
Where to Eat
Long serving Chokka Block restaurant is located at the working harbour with superb views and a chilled atmosphere. The seafood dishes are always fresh and perfectly prepared.
Trattoria San Francesco serves traditional authentic Italian dishes using only the finest ingredients and is a great family restaurant, where the food is good and the owners & staff welcoming.
The upmarket Chez Patrick restaurant offers contemporary French dishes in sublime surroundings with delicious organic dishes creatively presented. The restaurant has booths for private dining.
Joe Fish Seafood Restaurant and Bar at Cape St Francis has an open kitchen to watch your freshly-caught meals being prepared under umbrellas alongside the pool or on the shaded patio. Snack foods and quality fish & meat dishes are available.
The Lighthouse Restaurant alongside the St Francis Links golf course is a bright, breezy restaurant overlooking the greens and serving flavourful 3-course meals. The venue regularly hosts themed evenings and pub specials.
St Francis Deli is alongside Chez Patrick offering up artisanal breads, cured and air-dried meats, pastries and various other delicacies. The continental breakfast is recommended.
Visit the St Francis Brewing Company to try their assortment of finely crafted beers. The Cherry Beer Special on Fruity Fridays is popular with the locals. Phone before visiting, the owners occasionally take spur of the moment surfing sojourns.
Chez Patrick has a stylish cocktail bar for civilized drinks and hushed conversation.
It’s 40 minutes away but worth the drive to sample the interesting alcohol-laced milkshakes at The Milk House Farmstyle Bar outside Hankey. Basic but delicious meals are served until late most evenings.
Where to Stay
The tranquil, relaxing and well-appointed hotels, guest houses and apartments in St Francis Bay are all centrally located which means you are only a short stroll away from a beach, the river and the town.
Air The Port Elizabeth airport is a 90 minute drive (75km) from St Francis Bay.
Car Hire a vehicle online or at the Port Elizabeth airport.
Taxi JBay Shuttle in nearby Jeffrey’s Bay operates a shuttle service throughout the area, including trips to and from Port Elizabeth airport.
Did you know?
The 1960s cult movie Endless Summer was filmed in St Francis Bay. The exposure placed St Francis firmly on the map of desirable surfing destinations.
St Francis Bay comes alive in April and December when hordes of students and scholars descend on the town to attend the Easter and New Year’s Eve parties at Cobb’s Cove and Billy’s Beach.
Chokka, or squid, is a huge industry in St Francis and local fishing companies catch an average 1000 tons per annum, most of which is exported to the EU.
Scientists have uncovered archaeological evidence of hominid occupation in this area 1 million years ago.