15 unique seaside stays in St Francis Bay

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 22 October 2018

A unique seaside destination with canals, distinctive architecture, natural beauty on land and iconic and iconic surf breaks in the water. Here’s where the to book to make the most of your St Francis Bay stay.

Also read: Get Cheaper Accommodation In Cape Town

How it works:
TripAdvisor lists accommodation rated by guests, but as much as we love peer reviews, they don’t offer a comparative voice – so how do we know No. 1 is really the best? Pippa de Bruyn, who has reviewed accommodation for 20 years for the likes of Frommer’s and The Telegraph, scours TripAdvisor and other online sites when researching a destination. For St Francis Bay, she created a longlist of 33 to inspect. The following made the cut.

 

What we found about accommodation here:

• The bay is divided into six areas, each with its own distinctive vibe. The Canals is the most sought-after area with houses selling in the double-digit millions. It’s adjacent but somehow separate from the original Village; both have tight development guidelines (black roofs, white walls) and a very pretty retail heart. Upon the hill behind is the new St Francis Links estate, popular with more than just golfers. Moving south is Santareme, with its own Mediterranean-inspired building guidelines, and then busy little St Francis Port. At the southern tip is Cape St Francis, with its glorious beach and unconstrained architectural styles.
• With such good self-catering stock, I struggled to make my final selection – so much so, three categories are shared this month! (But the area is popular, so the more choice the better, right?)
• The drawback with self-catering options is they almost all have minimum stays: usually three nights, and two weeks over Christmas or New Year.
• The best holiday-rental agent across the entire bay is Kerry Clare (kcproperties.co.za). The best agent specialising in Cape St Francis only is Diane Nicholson (capestfrancisproperties.com). Both know their stock well and will match your requirements with the best of what’s available.
• I was surprised by the dearth of contemporary-style B&Bs and guesthouses catering to one- or two-night road trippers; thankfully I found one that hits the spot.

 

Best resort

1. Cape St Francis Resort

TripAdvisor No. 1 of 2 Hotels

Photograph by Jotham van Tonder.

Owned by entrepreneur Fasie Malherbe (founder of Penny Pinchers), this predominantly thatched beachfront resort feels like a low-key, quaint village, enhanced by the fact that some of the dwellings are privately owned and permanently inhabited. It’s a real carefree holiday, with fabulous arranged activities (canal cruises, nature walks, excursions to Baviaanskloof and Addo) and daily housekeeping. While every unit has self-catering facilities, there is also a choice of two restaurants; the new Full Stop Café, and Joe Fish (famous for its butter-soft calamari), which overlooks a pool and play area – bliss for families with kids who love to swim. There are several accommodation categories, from tiny cottages sleeping two to luxury villas sleeping 12. Few have sea views, but the furthest cottages and apartments are no more than about 300 metres from the beach; some are even pet-friendly. Despite the size (the resort can sleep up to 480), service is personal and the atmosphere homely – locals frequent the pub as well as Sunday lunches, deservedly popular.
Room tip: The resort includes Seal Backpackers, a hostel in name only: no dorms, only en-suite cottages, of which my favourite were the newly renovated family units (sleep four; from R380 per person sharing B&B).
Cost: Apartments from R350 per person sharing. Cottages from R1,300 (sleeps six). Sea-facing villas from R5,200 (sleeps 10).
Contact: 0422980054, capestfrancis.co.za

 

Best apartment

2. Port Island 3

Unlisted

Photograph by Jotham van Tonder.

Sandwiched between the Village and Cape St Francis, bustling Port St Francis offers something entirely different. It’s a very European experience, strolling along the boat-lined harbour to pubs frequented by hard-bitten fishermen and leisure sailors, then on to dinner with a view (two of the bay’s best restaurants are located here, the unassuming but fabulous Chokka Block and chichi Mauro’s). Port Island 3, built at the harbour’s edge looking out to sea, is my top choice here. This modern three-bedroom apartment is spread over three floors, with a central, capacious, uncluttered living area opening onto a shaded deck. There’s an infinity plunge-pool on the elevated ridge at the narrow harbour opening. This is your front-row seat to the evening highlight: chokka fishing boats heading out to sea, festooned with what look like massive fairy lights.
Room tip: All three bedrooms are en-suite and have balconies with harbour views, and all are on their own level, making it a very private share for three couples.
Cost: From R2,000 (sleeps six).
Contact: 0422980054, airbnb.com/rooms/3622814

 

Best beach bungalows

3. The Happy Mongoose, Wilson’s Beach Cottage

Unlisted

Photograph by Jotham van Tonder.

I was terrifically excited to discover this two double-storey, thatched, timber bungalows at the end of a cul-de-sac, tucked behind vegetated dunes, each with private pathways cut through the fynbos to sweeping Cape St Francis beach. The Happy Mongoose (pictured above) has a great entertainment area: a sheltered bar and dining table overlooking a large deck with swimming pool and firepit, surrounded by milkwoods. The three bedrooms are on this level; up a flight of stairs is the main en-suite bedroom and open-plan living area opening onto a balcony, all with great views. As Durban-based owner Andrew Reynolds aptly puts it, ‘This is a house where you can enjoy a glass of wine while keeping an eye on the surf, and not have to crap on the kids because they have sand on their feet.’ Adjacent is the equally delightful Beach Cottage owned by Bonny Wilson – family photos make Wilson’s feel like you’re borrowing someone’s beach house. Given the prices, you’ll be lucky to bag either.
Room tip: Bonny has made clever use of space, so her cottage has six bedrooms (three en-suite) and can sleep up to 15, making it the bargain of the beachfront for a large family or group of friends.
Cost: The Happy Mongoose from R2,300 (sleeps nine). Wilson’s Beach Cottage from R1,980 for 10 people; extra heads R250 per person.
Contact: Happy Mongoose, 0826557127. Wilson’s, 0827894933. Both on wheretostay.co.za.

 

Best for a small family

4. Wood and Waves

Unlisted

Photograph by Jotham van Tonder.

This dinky little log cabin has a prime seafront location in Cape St Francis, with untrammelled lawns running directly to the Wild Side Rocks pathway, which leads along the shore to the main beach (about a 15-minute stroll). It’s a superb option if you crave a sea view into which the sun sinks daily, but can’t afford the prices the (admittedly much larger) seafront houses are commanding. It’s rustic and intimate – three small, thin-walled bedrooms share a bathroom (there’s another shower and loo in an outbuilding), making it better suited to a family. The bathroom and kitchen were recently renovated, so while the whole cabin has a charmingly oldfashioned atmosphere, the important bits – from stovetop to fridge, shower to toilet – are brand-new. There is also a lovely sheltered outside braai area. It’s managed by agent Debbie Nicholson, so there’s backup should anything go wrong or you have queries about provisions or village life.
Room tip: The bunkroom can sleep three, as the bottom of the bunk is a double bed.
Cost: From R1,500 (sleeps seven).
Contact: 0822672788, capestfrancisproperties.com (web ref: RP1)

 

Best bargains

5. Hobbs, Allegria

Unlisted

Photograph by Jotham van Tonder.

Set back several roads from Cape St Francis beach on an elevated ridge, Hobbs is a modern, purpose-built house with all-new appliances and an airy, double-volume open-plan living area with sea views. It’s a cool, depersonalised, uncluttered holiday home, sleeping 10 very comfortably in five bedrooms (three doubles and two twins). If you’re travelling light – just a partner, or with one or two kids – check out Allegria (pictured below), located near the St Francis airfield (between the Village and the Cape). You’ll have to drive (five minutes) to get to the beaches but this two-bedroom house is charming. Distant sea views and light aircraft landing and taking off are viewed from your bed; there’s also a magical firepit tucked away in a small milkwood grove, and it’s pet-friendly. Cath Mitchley, who lives next door, is a discreet but warm host.
Room tip: The Hobbs’ rooms are very easy to divvy up among friends. Allegria has an additional en-suite bedroom downstairs if you’re more than four people.
Cost: Hobbs from R1,900 (sleeps 10). Allegria from R1,200 (sleeps four), plus R400 for the extra room.
Contact: For Hobbs, 0822672788, capestfrancisproperties.com (web ref: RP117). For Allegria, 0827189701, allegria-stfrancisbay.co.za

 

Canalside luxury

6. Berchinger, Keerweer House

Unlisted

Photograph by Jotham van Tonder.

‘Care to join us for a few days in the Canals?’ This is apparently the address to drop in certain circles, and while we’re not talking Venice, renting is still the most cost-effective way to stay in the bay’s most sought-after enclave. Both these options tick the special-occasion box. Berchinger (pictured above) is a luxurious home situated within secure Marina Village estate, with stack doors opening the living and dining area to the canals, a swimming pool right on the water’s edge and a sandy beach leading to your private jetty. The kitchen is enormous and beautifully equipped, and there’s a covered entertainment area, bar, lounge and built-in braai – ideal for inclement weather. All six bedrooms are en-suite, and the house is serviced daily. Keerweer enjoys similar specs but with five en-suite bedrooms; it’s even more beautifully furnished – no expense spared. If you’re planning to travel during the December holidays, grab whichever of these you can get.
Room tip: Featuring two, equally glam, main en-suite bedrooms, Keerweer is a better option for two families sharing the tab.
Cost: Berchinger from R6,900 (sleeps 12). Keerweer from R6,000 (sleeps 10).
Contact: For Keerweer, 0217900972, perfecthideaways.co.za. For Berchinger, 0422940670, kcproperties.co.za (web ref: Can034).

 

Best-value luxury

7. Edwards

Unlisted

Photograph by Jotham van Tonder.

This classic, thatched St Francis property is clearly a much-loved family home, located on a large plot in the old part of the Village above the main beach, with elevated, unobstructed sea views. It’s been beautifully renovated by the three siblings, and the decor is masterful: an eclectic mix of antiques collected over many years combined with contemporary pieces, luxurious rugs and funky fabrics. There’s a wood-burning oven in the double-volume living area, which is open to the kitchen-dining room, and floor-toceiling doors make the most of the uplifting views. There are three bedrooms on this level, with the main one upstairs, adjacent to the TV lounge. There’s a protected outdoor entertainment area where you can gather for meals and games, with a separate en-suite dorm for the children, equipped with a ping-pong table. No swimming pool is the only potential drawback, but the beach is walking distance away, and in every other respect Edwards is pretty much my ideal holiday home.
Room tip: The children’s dorm can sleep up to eight in bunk beds, making this a great multiple-family holiday choice.
Cost: From R4,600 (sleeps 16).
Contact: 0422940670, kcproperties.co.za (web ref: VB024)

 

Best B&B

8. Canal House

TripAdvisor No. 14 of 18 B&BS/Inns

Photograph by Jotham van Tonder.

Pam and Rob Andrews opened their guest house in December last year, and almost immediately started scoring 10s on Booking.com. This is largely due to the location – each of the four canal-facing suites has a private entrance and large sliding doors that open onto a small furnished balcony, which floats just above the waterway. They are also very elegantly turned out, the most contemporary B&B rooms in the bay area, with luxury finishes in a neutral palette. Then there’s the attention to detail – just about everything on the breakfast table is locally sourced; toiletries are ethically produced; the (outside) showers are enormous; even the coffee mugs are gorgeous! There’s a swimming pool, kayaks are available to explore the canals, and Pam is a born hostess. Lastly, there’s the price: given the rates charged on the canals, this is a bargain, even in peak season.
Room tip: All have great views but Suite 4, the last on the corner, has an additional window and view.
Cost: From R500 per person sharing B&B.
Contact: 0635300046, canalguesthouse.com

 

Worth a look

9. Surf Inn

This has the best beachfront location in Cape St Francis, with lower dunes, so you basically step from the living room and bedrooms onto the deck and lawn, and from there onto the beach. It has as many entertainment areas as bedrooms, from the pool and pergola at the back, the covered patio with braai and the wind-proof downstairs dining room to an enclosed rooftop deck.
Cost: From R6,000 (sleeps nine); negotiable for smaller groups.
Contact: surfinn.rocks

 

10. The Sweet Spot

If you’re a golfer wanting to spend some time getting to know the top-rated links course, this new four-bedroom house, located at the highest point on the secure estate, has the most spectacular view of the entire bay – sipping on a G&T up on the pool deck, you sure have hit the sweet spot.
Cost: From R4500 (sleeps eight), includes a discount on greens fees.
Contact: kcproperties.co.za (web ref: Link013)

 

11. i-Lollo Lodge

This neat, old-fashioned B&B, in the Canals area but not on a waterway, has marvellous views of the beach and across the nature reserve to the mountains. Book one of the three delightful upstairs rooms (1, 5 or 6), each with a deck enjoying enormous, tranquil views.
Cost: From R400 per person sharing B&B upstairs.
Contact: ilollolodge.com

 

12. Dune Ridge Country House

Less a seaside holiday, more ‘colonial safari’ in the atmosphere, Dune Ride is immensely peaceful and gracious, with five-star facilities, a bush spa and, some say, the best fine-dining in St Francis Bay. Highly recommended if you don’t mind being away from the beach.
Cost: From R1,113 per person sharing B&B, family cottage from R915 per person sharing.
Contact: duneridgestfrancis.co.za

 

Don’t miss this

• Tasting the local ‘chokka’ (calamari) – it’s chewier but more flavoursome than the imported kind we’re used to. The half-day Chokka Trail ends at the port with a tasting. R280; book through Cape St Francis Resort.

• Strolling around the port – it’s unexpectedly charming. At night in chokka season (mid- November to March, July to mid-October) you’ll see the boats heading out to sea.

• Seal Point, the most famous surf spot. The lighthouse and penguin rehab centre are also here.

• A frog safari at Dune Ridge (September to February).