Beautiful Cape St Francis lies on the southeasternmost tip of Africa, hugged by sandy shores and natural reserves abundant in indigenous bushland. It makes for a fabulous escape from the city, where one can slow the pace for a while. Here are some of the best things to see and do in this charming village.
Seal Point Beach is one of the best in South Africa, with lovely long stretches of sand and relatively safe waters for swimming. It is also one of the least commercialised beaches in the country and the villagers hold its natural integrity in high esteem. The kids can boogie board the morning away or build sand castles until sundown, while surfers come and go and the occasional pod of dolphins passes by the bay.
The Wildside refers to the rocky stretch of coastline that is first seen upon entering the village and, although too rough and dangerous for swimming and surfing, the pristine beauty of this area is fabulous. Walking trails and small paths meander through the fynbos, across small shale beaches and over tidal pools, taking travellers into a wonderland of indigenous fauna and flora and stunning sights. A walk can be easy or slightly more strenuous, depending on which path you choose, and it’s a fabulous place for kids to roam free and explore.
African penguins are adorable to watch, and being able to get up close to one is quite a novelty. The Cape St Francis Penguin Rehabilitation Cente is a branch of the SANCCOB (South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), which functions primarily as a hospital for sick and injured African penguins. Once the birds have been nursed back to health, they are returned to the sea. Visitors can watch volunteers in action and check out the ‘penguin hotel’. For a fee you can also ‘adopt’ a penguin, and give it a name of your choice.
If you’re an avid beachcomber then you’ll be thrilled at what’s to be found on the beaches of Cape St Francis. Unlike some beaches around the world, here you are permitted to collect a few handfuls of small marine treasures. The best spot for this is the small shale beach close to the lighthouse, where shells in the thousands wash up on the shore. Look out for the delicate, green-coloured ‘pumpkin shells’ that range in size from pinhead to golf ball.
Trade Winds is a delightful little coffee shop where a lot of locals come to start their day with breakfast and coffee and hang out. The menu covers all the traditional breakfast options, as well as sweet treats and lunches. Grab one of the tables outside for village views or a cosy corner inside for a quiet chat, or get a coffee to go and explore the village.
When the wind picks up and whips across the sand dunes you’re bound to spot some fearless kite surfers on the beach, who ride the waves at phenomenal speeds as they race across the water. Those who dare can give this a try, but it’s not an easy sport and previous experience is strongly advised. The less fearless can simply sit back and enjoy the show.
Skipping through the daisies takes on new meaning in Cape St Francis, where blankets of wildflowers cover the surrounding landscape in spring and an abundance of indigenous vegetation scents the air with its spicy aroma. There are five natural reserves in the area to choose from, but for a pleasant walk try the Irma Booysen Flora Reserve. The paths are well marked and there are a few benches here and there where you can pause to admire your surroundings. Best of all, it’s right on your doorstep.
Although Cape St Francis is tiny it’s not short on flavour, and there are a few great spots in the village that serve top-class food and a selection of beers. You can’t go wrong with seafood at Joe Fish, and their Fishy Friday deals are great value for money. The bar is well stocked and offers some great local craft brews that pair excellently with fresh local calamari or a sticky rib basket.
While not quite in Cape St Francis, the Kromme River lies less than 10 minutes away and is a popular location for river cruises. These take you meandering through the St Francis Bay canal system, where waterways are flanked by luxurious holiday homes and private moorings, before smoothly gliding out into the river itself. Take along a few friends, as a sunset cruise is always fun with a group. Drinks and picnic baskets are available by prior arrangement. Contact Cape St Francis Adventures for bookings.
Cape St Francis has no street lights and very little traffic, leaving nights in inky darkness, except for the twinkling stars. New moon evenings are especially stunning, as stars shimmer and shine in a thick blanket that comes close to completely covering the sky.