Did you know?
Port St Johns is probably named after the São João, a Portuguese ship that was wrecked off this coastline in 1552.
Port St Johns is a swashbuckling village of legend on the Pondo side of the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. It is also one of the highlights on any international backpacker's world itinerary because of its natural setting, frontier atmosphere and appeal to more adventurous younger travellers.
The village lies on the Umzimvubu River, Xhosa for 'hippo'. The most famous hippo ever to have visited Port St Johns was Huberta who ventured south in 1931 and settled upriver for more than four months during her trek from Zululand down to the Eastern Cape.
From one of the most interesting airstrips in Africa, one can see the famed Gates of St Johns (Mounts Thesiger and Sullivan) on either side of the river. Three good beaches, excellent fishing and a general atmosphere of live and let live have made the coastal village an attraction for young tourists looking for adventure on the wild side of Africa.
These days, tourists do far more than lie on the area's golden beaches. This is prime hiking country, full of forests and trails, where more than 250 species of birds have been recorded. Canoe trips, horse trails, dolphin and whale watching, golf and simply chilling out are all leisure activities regularly exercised in Port St Johns.
Cultural tourism and shopping for African items go hand in hand, and the choices range from reedware to walking sticks and quality fabrics. You can also go on guided tours to neighbouring Pondo villages to meet locals and see how they live.
The backpacker facilities in this African village are excellent. They cater for couples, solo travellers and small groups of young people. The backpacker lodges will help their guests set up activity itineraries every day, which include everything from jungle swings to unusual walking destinations.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)47 564 1344
Jungle Monkey Backpackers
Tel: +27 (0)47 564 1517
How to get here
If you are driving North to Natal then when you get to Mthatha, look for the signs to Port St Johns in the centre of town. Its a little over 90km down to the coast. If you are coming in from Johannesburg, then do take the Bulwer route off the highway south from Howick.
Best time to visit
Port St Johns is a year-round destination, with a generally temperate climate.
Around the area
The ruins of the first Customs House are well hidden up the river. Tours can be arranged to see them and to wander over King's Ride where Dick King forded the Umzimvubu River on his historic ride, and wonder that his poor horse survived.
Tours to do
Bookings can be made for the three Nature Reserves near Port St Johns at the Eastern Cape Tourism Board's Mthatha Office.
Most points of interest in Port St Johns are within walking distance. There are local taxis, car hire is available and a backpacker's Baz Bus passes through regularly.
What will it cost
Costs are kept low in Port St Johns to attract the backpacker fraternity.
Length of stay
There's enough to keep you busy in Port St Johns for a week or more.
What to pack
Pack your beach gear, your clubbing outfit, your sarong and your sandals.
Where to stay
There is a good choice of accommodation and hospitality to suit both comfort levels and the pocket.
What to eat
Ask the host at your accommodation and you will be pointed at the current top eating establishments of Port St Johns.
Check the Port St Johns website for event details during your stay.
Pondo crafts at roadside or at one of the local shops.