3 separate and very different villages make up the St Francis region in the Eastern Cape. Find out what makes this beautiful area so unique.
About the area
The three villages that make up the St Francis region of the Kouga Local Municipality – St Francis Bay, Port St Francis and Cape St Francis – may have a part of their names in common but that’s where the similarity ends. Each is distinctly different in look and feel.
The St Francis villages are nestled at the Eastern Cape’s southernmost point surrounded by the Baviaanskloof mountain range on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other.
Driving from Port Elizabeth, St Francis Bay (originally established as a small fishing camp by the late Leighton Hulett in 1954) is first up. The village, which has a 70% vacancy rate for most of the year, is known for its canals and white thatch-roofed houses.
Inspired by Arniston, a Western Cape fishing community where all the houses are white with black roofs, most of these St Francis homes open up and have access to the canals via private jetties.
The village theme is carried out throughout, with two or three smallish shopping centres and privately owned businesses such as tea gardens instead of big malls and major retailers.
Nearby Port St Francis, with its Spanish influence and close proximity to St Francis Bay, is a man-made port – the only privately owned port in South Africa – that cost R25m and was officially opened in December 1996.
The fishing industry, particularly chokka, drives the economy here, but there is also a mini waterfront where you can enjoy the village’s specialties at one of the four restaurants with views over the working harbour or out to sea.
Further down the coast is laid-back Cape St Francis, a typical seaside village where chances are you’ll be able to spot locals enjoying the waves on any given day.
But quaint as it may be, this village is home to a state-of-the-art aquatic centre, Liquid Lines, which is the only one of its kind in South Africa.
“Cape St Francis and St Francis (Bay) are, in our opinion, the most beautiful towns in the country. From the unique uniformity of St Francis Bay to the natural beauty of Cape St Francis, there is something to do every day. We often joke that we seem to have more to do in this small town than we did having lived abroad for 15 years.” Haydn Holmes, resident
Things to do:
- Visit the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds which helps get birds back on their feet.
- Get up close and personal with nature and enjoy four days of stunning coastline, sand dunes, tidal rivers, nature reserves and wetlands as part of the Chokka Trail – a 56km hike with overnight accommodation.
- Enjoy the surf at either St Francis Bay or Cape St Francis.
Best in food:
Big Time Taverna: this classic Greek restaurant on the canals offers an experience and atmosphere that would make most jetsetters accustomed to la dolce vita feel right at home. If parking at the popular establishment is a problem, patrons can dock their boats at the restaurant’s jetty.
- St Francis Bay College
- Woodridge College and Preparatory School
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.