St Francis Bay is perhaps the Eastern Cape’s best kept secret. First sighted in 1575 by Portuguese sailors who named it after their patron saint, St Francis Bay is only an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth.
This tranquil village with its meandering waterways, picturesque thatched houses, abundant birdlife and miles of golden beaches is the perfect spot to just get away.
A unique eco-destination, mild year-round temperatures and the longest sunshine hours on the South African coast make it a sought-after destination for the discerning traveller.
In the 1960s, photographer Bruce Brown searched the world for the perfect wave. He found it at St Francis Bay and named it 'Bruce's Beauties'. St Francis Bay is one of the world's great surf spots – and you need not be a surfer to enjoy this graceful sport. Delight in watching the followers ‘search’ for the perfect wave! We can arrange surfing lessons with an ex-world champion surfer.
Learn how to catch a wave with an ex-world champion surfer, Leonard Payne. Leonard has been a surf coach for the past twenty years, and has lived in St Francis for 30 years. He has great knowledge of the ocean and the area, and knows when it is suitable to do surf lessons. St Francis Bay offers a variety of surf breaks within walking distance from Sandals Guest House. Beginners can join Leonard at the beach break at Main Beach. For intermediate surfers and long-boarders, Huletts offers a left and right hand wave off the reef with an easy paddle out through the slipway. Leonard has a variety of surfboards, either for coaching or to hire.
Visitors to St Francis Bay who don't surf and want to do something different can go snorkelling on the surrounding reefs with surf coach Leonard Payne where they can enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the ocean. See what is below the surface and view the natural inhabitants of the ocean clearly – the fish life, sea urchins, starfish and oysters. Snorkelling equipment available to hire.
Enjoy a boat cruise around the bay and discover an abundance of bird and marine life, including penguins, whales and dolphins, or cruise up the coast taking in the beauty of the scenic reserve, sand dunes and beaches along the way up to Shark point to check out the seals lazing on the rocks.
Take a boat cruise along the coast between June and November to spot southern right and humpback whales who visit these waters on their annual migration south. They can be seen putting on a spectacular show swimming with the numerous pods of dolphin who reside here year-round along with penguins, seals and a variety of other bird and marine life.
The Ocean Museum is situated in the Heritage Centre at the bottom of Harbour Road at Granny’s Pool and is a project of the Enviro-Trust. The museum shares space with Bruces Ocean Museum Café and opening times coincide with those of the coffee shop. The museum concentrates on the biodiversity found in the ocean and on the local shoreline. There are displays on penguins, fish, dolphins and whales, some highlighting related environmental issues.
This is a tough and demanding walk best done as part of the Chokka Trail, when you can walk with the flow of the sand from Oyster Bay to St Francis Bay. But when you don’t have time, a trail booking or permits, a walk up the dune field from St Francis is a good second best for those with an adventurous streak. If there has been rain, you will find ponds trapped in the dips.
Seal Point Lighthouse is situated less than 10km from St Francis Bay. It was completed in 1878 and stands at a height of 27.75 metres, making it one of the tallest lighthouses in South Africa. To this day, it is still the tallest masonry building on the South African coast, and continues to warn ships from running onto the treacherous reefs around Cape St Francis.
Bring your own or take part in a guided trail and look out for dolphins, seals and, in season, whales.
Stand up paddle surfing (SUP) is an emerging global sport with a Hawaiian heritage. This is a great way to explore the canals while getting some exercise in and is ideal for family and friends. Go big and try the XL Ride Paddle Board which takes between 4 and 8 people.