Port St Francis, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
Many yachts on round-the-world trips stop over for supplies in Port St Francis.
Port St Francis, one of the great seaside assets of the Eastern Cape, owes its existence, in part, to a tasty ocean dish called calamari.
In these parts, calamari is also known as squid, chokka or, simply, white gold. South Africa exports almost all of it to mostly Mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain.
However, it’s no secret that you can feast on prime calamari at many restaurants in Port St Francis.
Back in the 1980s, sophisticated fishing fleets replete with staff cabins and huge freezers used to sail from Port Elizabeth down to St Francis Bay. Then some leading local lights successfully lured the so-called ‘chokka business’ down to the newly established Port St Francis.
This meant that the boats could be moored in the bay, and the fishermen spent their money in the area. There was also a mini-boom in related industries.
These days, Port St Francis presents an idyllic, modern coastal village.
There is a working harbour where fleets of squid, hake and pilchard vessels are moored right next to upmarket seagoing yachts.
Visitors and locals love coming down to the port to watch the boats being launched, or when they are offloaded. They see the boat crews at work, repairing nets and chatting about their day at sea. It’s a bit like having a touch of Majorca – with an African twist.
The chokka boats go out fishing at night, with massive lights on deck. The lights bring in the fish, which in turn are preyed on by the squid – which are then caught with a hand line or jig by the fishermen.
The offshore sight of the many bobbing lights of a fleet of chokka boats is a special Port St Francis features.
The port – the first privately owned port in South Africa – also has a rather spectacular harbour residential complex surrounding it. And right below these apartment buildings is a series of pubs, restaurants, themed shops and, of course, a yacht club. Oh, and there’s also a little airport nearby for those who wish to fly in.
On the cards are future shopping centres and golf courses, and a slew of port holiday accommodations.
Port St Francis is part of St Francis Bay, said to be named after a Portuguese monastery by one of the 16th century explorers. The bay embraces Port St Francis, St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay.
In centuries gone by, this area was infamous for its shipwrecks. Today, it’s famous for its golf, its great surfing and, naturally, a superb plate of calamari...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
St Francis Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)42 294 0076
Cell: +27 (0)83 305 1718
Port St Francis info
Port St Francis Eco Sport Festival
Tel: +27 (0)82 394 7363, or +27 (0)73 825 0835
How to get here
From Port Elizabeth, travel south on the N2 for approx. 80km until you reach the turn-off to Humansdorp. Drive through Humansdorp and then through St Francis Bay to Port St Francis, which is about 20km off the N2.
Best time to visit
Take advantage of good, warm days (September to early June) and enjoy the seaside air.
Around the area
Travel around St Francis Bay and take in the sights of the local lighthouse, Cape St Francis and up to Jeffreys Bay.
Tours to do
Do the Blowhole Hike through the Irma Booysen Flora Reserve; experience a walk through dune fynbos and on coastal dunes.
If you’re staying in Port St Francis, most of the sights are within walking distance. However, it’s best to rent a vehicle so you can venture further afield.
Length of stay
Set aside at least two days for your stay in the St Francis Bay area.
What to pack
Are you planning a yachting excursion? Perhaps some light hiking? Or just a bit of chilling out? Pack according to the activities you might be doing.
Where to stay
Port St Francis has many self-catering apartment options, ranging from R1 000 to R2 000 per unit per night.
What to eat
Seafood, especially calamari, is the specialty of Port St Francis. There are more than 6 good restaurants in the vicinity – see the listed website for details.
Port St Francis is planning an Eco Sport Festival in April, 2013. This will involve ‘full moon fishing’, chokka boat excursions, nature talks and an environmental film festival. See Contacts for details.