48 HOURS ALONG KOUGA TOURISM ROUTES
Wednesday, 15th August 2018
We all know the Kouga region’s Jeffreys Bay as the Eastern Cape’s surf mecca, the world’s best right-hand break and Seal Point in St Francis as another popular hotspot, but what can you get up to besides catching a tan, riding a wave and walking on the beach?
Head out for a weekend and hang ten.
Choose a route
The best way to get to all the spots in Kouga - Jeffreys Bay, the Gamtoos region, St Francis, Oyster Bay, Ashton Bay, Paradise Beach and Humansdorp - is not via the N2 but rather via the scenic Old Cape Road. Hop onto the R102 and travel down the Van Stadens Pass, through Thornhill, go over the Gamtoos River’s single lane bridge and pass the dairy farms of Mondplaas before reaching the coast. Don’t forget to stop for photos every now and then!
Stop for something sweet
On the R102, just before entering Jeffreys Bay you’ll find Suikerbossie – in the past this building has been everything from a nursery, to a vegetable market to an office for a property agency – but for the last few years it’s been on everyone’s lips as the sweet (and savoury) spot to stop for pancakes. Coffee, tea, breakfast pancakes, lunch pancakes and sweet ones like milk tart or peppermint crisp pancakes are only a few items on the menu.
Visit a museum
The incoming tide brings with it great treasures and what started as a private collection in 1945 by Charlotte Kritzinger grew into a museum that became synonymous with Jeffreys Bay and shell collectors. Here you can see it all – over 600 different shells – from the rare paper nautilus, cowry to new species of cone, and you can also shop for a local shell souvenir.
Make time for a cold one
Jeffreys Bay is no stranger to craft beer and visitors flock not only to JBay’s shores for a surf, but also for a locally brewed cold one. The first micro-brewery, Brewhaha opened in 2016 and has been tickling taste buds with their selection of beers as well as fine food. Then, there’s also the Brewery on the Beach with not only beer but also live shows featuring local talent, and St Francis Brewing Co & House Grill is another one not to miss when you are in the area. Lip-smackingly good.
Meet a Jackass
African Penguins, also known as Jackass Penguins, have experienced a big population crash during the last few years and places such as SANCCOB in Cape St. Francis – a penguin and marine bird rescue and rehabilitation centre – have played a significant role in the plight of the endangered African Penguin. SANCCOB is situated next the Seal Point Lighthouse and offers visitors the chance to see what’s going on behind the scenes when it comes to taking care of sick, injured or oiled penguins and other marine birds such as Cape gannets and oyster catchers.
Seal the deal
While at SANCCOB, look up 27.75m to top of the Seal Point Lighthouse, the tallest masonry lighthouse in South Africa that was built in 1878 on the second southernmost point of Africa. Linger a little bit longer and explore the rock pools and appreciate the ocean view.
To the harbour
Port St Francis is one of South Africa’s few privately owned harbours with not only yachts and charter boats moored, but, as a working harbour, there’s also a large fleet of hake, squid and pilchard vessels giving visitors a peek into the world of deep-sea fishing. There are also restaurants, accommodation and tours leaving from the harbour if you want to try your hand at fishing or simply take a relaxing ocean cruise.
Surfing is the name of the Kouga game; there are heaps of opportunities and professionals to learn from but, if you’re not up for a surfing adventure, why not go horse riding at Papiesfontein or Quad Biking in the Kabeljous Valley, jump in Jan se Gat (a waterhole!) and, if heights do no scare you, can always go skydiving.
Shop 'til you drop
Come energised and prepared because here you can shop 'til you drop! The streets of Jeffreys Bay and St Francis are home to many boutique shopping experiences and one of a kind items, whether you’re looking for art, clothes or furniture. Of course, there is also the Fountains Mall, Village Square and JBay Surf Village, which sells everything surf-and-skate related. And there are a few markets not to miss; the Tecome Craft Market (JBay) sells homemade and hand-crafted products, St Francis Market is all about crafts, foods, fresh produce, bakes and other quirky goods while the Milkwood Market (next to the mall) is a farmer’s market for the whole family.
If you had to choose a different restaurant for every meal you’ll need to visit much longer than just a weekend or even a week. Stop for breakfast or lunch at Nina’s Real Food, the quaint Gisters, The Wild Fig Farm, In Food Deli and Restaurant, Tasty Table, La Chameleon in Humansdorp and St Francis’ Rambling Rose Tea Garden & Coffee Shop. Rumour has it that the chefs in Kouga make the best calamari in South Africa, so why not try that? For dinner, head to Marina Wharf where you can go for a sunset cruise on the canals of Marina Martinque from the restaurant, dine at De Viswijf, kick off your shoes at Walskipper, get Italian at Mauros in Port St Francis or go to Chokka Block in St Francis.
Take a hike
The Chokka Trail has been crowned as one of South Africa’s best Visitor Experiences and it is not just your average day hike. This 62km slackpacking trail takes place over 4 days and 3 nights between Oyster Bay, St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis and goes through fishing villages, along the coast, over dunes, through protected fynbos and wetlands. But if don’t have time on your side or if you gradually want to warm up to a longer hike, there are numerous trails in the St. Francis area: a two-hour guided frog safari on foot or, starting at the Sand River Bridge, you can walk (or crawl) up the dune to enjoy a 360º view of St. Francis and there’s always the hour-long Two Harbours Walk that connects the Heritage Eco Centre at the Granny's Pool in Harbour Road with Port St Francis along a rocky shoreline. If you head a bit more towards Port Elizabeth’s side you can conquer Lady Slipper at an elevation of 564m or enjoy the trails at Van Stadens Nature Reserve. If mountain biking trails are what you are after, then head out to the Thornhill where the 3 River Trails situated at Crossways, JBay Bike Park and Woodridge School will leave you spoiled for choice (these trails are also great for hiking and trail-running).
Head back home and catch one last sunset over the Gamtoos River or lagoon before you say goodbye. If the fishing luck is on your side put something in the water, who knows, you might pull out one of the legendary Gamtoos cobs. For drinks and meals, fill up at the Gamtoos Ferry Hotel.