Small in size yet overflowing with secret delights, the little village of Cape St Francis stands majestic and serene on the southeastern tip of Africa. Its atmosphere is soothing, its pristine surrounds are a solace for the soul and its landscape is a playground for sun-kissed repose. Here are its top treasures.
Attitude, or lack of it, is the secret behind this little village, where pretentious airs and graces give way to laid-back acceptance of individuality and free spirit. Two-thirds of the local population are surfers, and while some wiry and sun aged and others are pretty and youthful, all share a common philosophy: life is for living, not regret.
Breathe in, breathe out, salute the sun, and begin your day with some gentle beach yoga. Meditation on a summer’s morning just doesn’t get better than flowing yoga on one of the best beaches in the Eastern Cape, with waves rolling onto the shore on the one side and shimmering sand dunes on the other. While perfect summer mornings may see the main beach fill up fairly quickly, an immaculate stretch of endless sand means there are plenty of places to try out your lotus.
For a bit more action, try one of the numerous walking trails in and around the village that cover stunning shorelines and sparkling nature reserves. Alternately, hit the beach for swimming, surfing or simply sunning yourself. The temperate climate means that just about every day is a beach day, and the uncluttered, natural shoreline is a rare treat. Try the Chokka Trail for an extended outdoor adventure. This slack-packing hike stretches over four days and includes meals and accommodation.
Seal Point Beach is easy to get to and when conditions are fine, shows off a perfect, uncluttered right break that ranks it as one of the top surfing spots in South Africa. Not just for the experienced, newbies can also give the waves a try and surf lessons can be booked through Surf Camp South Africa, located in the village. They also rent out boards and wetsuits, so if you haven’t brought your gear along don’t sweat it.
After an active morning outdoors and on the beach, a treat is in order, so say hello to Hibiscus Health and Beauty Studio. Located at the Cape St Francis Resort, this is your one-stop shop for pampering and me time. Two private treatment rooms set a calm, relaxing tone and there is an extensive spa menu to choose from featuring organic, soothing products.
For an all-inclusive deal without any added hassle, speak to the Cape St Francis Resort. Located in the heart of the village, this award-winning accommodation and recreational facility offers the only non-residential accommodation in Cape St Francis and can tailor-make beach break packages to suit your pocket and desires. Holistic wellness retreats combine health, fun, good food and relaxation in luxury beach surrounds, while those wanting just the basics need to look no further than Seals Backpackers. It also offers direct access to the beach along quaint, cobblestone pathways, two communal-use swimming pools and the only proper restaurant in town.
Lingering over a leisurely poolside lunch at Joe Fish is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. This is especially true on a Sunday, when chilled live music enhances the atmosphere and a scrumptious calamari and rib platter, paired with a bottle of red or white house wine, is the special of the day. Tuck into sticky ribs, crispy chips and succulent local calamari as you wash it down with a good bottle of wine and listen to tunes that mellow the mood. Joe Fish also offers a full á la carte menu and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Seal Point Lighthouse was erected in 1878 and stands as the tallest masonry lighthouse in South Africa. Over the years it has been modernised and refurbished and still plays an important role in warning passing ships of a deadly two-kilometre (1.2-mile) reef running out into the ocean. Although the interior is currently closed to visitors, many still stop at this iconic landmark and it’s a popular location to take photographs. Another attraction here is the penguin rehabilitation centre, located adjacent to the lighthouse. Entrance is free, but there is a donation box and any monies received from visitors goes towards the feeding and rehabilitation of injured seabirds and penguins.
Part of the charm of Cape St Francis is its lack of urbanity, so you won’t find an ATM machine, shopping mall or any big retail outlet. There are, however, a handful of coffee shops to grab some lunch, such as the lovely little Tradewind Cafe, and a few small convenience stores selling beach paraphernalia and basic necessities. The village is small enough to navigate on foot and cycling is also a popular means of exploration. Anything that can’t be found within Cape St Francis itself can be purchased in St Francis Bay, a 10-minute drive away.
One of Cape St Francis’s local treasures is a state-of-the-art indoor swimming centre. Liquid Lines is an unsalted, heated pool that is always busy and offers swimming training, fitness classes and endurance training. Those that prefer can simply book a lane and lap the pool at their own pace. Advanced bookings are recommended due to the popularity of this spot, and there is also an on-site coffee shop and small clothing outlet.
As the sun begins to set, it’s time to pack a basket with a few beers or a good bottle of wine and head down to Sunset Rock for one of the best seats in the house to see nature’s last curtain call. As its name suggests, this rocky location sets you right on the edge of the sea for uninterrupted views of an enormous firey sun sinking into the Indian Ocean. As the glowing orb sets on the rim of Africa, the surface of the sea is set alight, and the horizon explodes in rays of warm hues. It’s uniquely special and mesmerising.