cape st francis resort

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Our Family Stay at Cape St Francis Resort, South Africa

Our own beach house with breakfast cooked for us each day and a magnificent sandy beach that stretched for miles, Cape St Francis Resort is a little piece of heaven.

 

After a quick two night stay in Plettenberg Bay, our Garden Route adventure led us to Cape St Francis. I assumed, like many, that Plettenberg Bay was the ‘best’ beach resort on the Garden Route. I was wrong. Located only sixty miles from Port Elizabeth, Cape St Francis boasts the mildest temperatures and the longest hours of sunshine on the coast. It’s unique location as the most south easterly point in South Africa allows you to see sunrise and sunset from the same vantage point – something I found astonishing! With a host of water-sports on the beach, as well as a top rated golf course close by and the chance to see dolphins and even whales (from August to December) – I am still lost as to why Cape St Francis is not more widely known.

When we arrived at Cape St Francis resort, I knew immediately we were going to love it here. Our beach house was amazing! A massive thatched house, just 100 meters from the beach with a BBQ, sun loungers and our own swimming pool, we were all blown away. There was even a rooftop with a table for sundowners! We were literally a minute walk from six miles of magnificent beach and so few people on it. The only problem was two days wasn’t going to be enough!

 

 

We spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and decided to have a ‘braai’ (South African barbeque) that night. After two weeks of dining out for lunch and dinner, it was great to be able to sit in, relax and cook. The small shop on site had a selection of meat and salads and we had a nice bottle of wine from our recent stay in Val du Charron wine estate. It was perfect. The next morning, we were greeted by two ladies who said they had come to cook our breakfast. I had noticed that breakfast was included, but I had no idea it was going to be cooked and served up to us in our own house! What followed can only be described as a decadent display of fruits, granolas and yogurts. It was incredible, but it didn’t end there. We were then offered a hot food menu. We had choices of fried, poached, boiled or scrambled eggs, omelettes or a full breakfast with sausages, bacon, mushrooms, beans, tomato etc. I wasn’t sure whether to be embarrassed or grateful. Maybe I felt a bit of both, but it was an experience I will never forget.

cape st francis resort

Cape St Francis Resort has a real family holiday atmosphere. It reminded me of a Mediterranean holiday resort, and was completely different to any of the other places we had stayed in South Africa. It was founded by a back-packer in the early 70’s who initially built a hostel. While he still owns it he continues to travel the world, albeit on a luxury yacht! The food, the service and the accommodation is superb. There is a wide selection of accommodation options to choose from. There are self catering apartments, three and four bedroom cottages, four star beach villas, like the one we stayed in, and five star beach villas. This means that although you might be staying in a five star beach villa, the resort does not feel five star. The atmosphere is so relaxed, almost like a home from home.

cape st francis resort

We enjoyed lunch at the pool bar, Joe Fish.  All of the food was excellent and far superior to your average pool bar restaurant. I tried the healthy burger and it was was delicious, it was served without a bun but with salad and sweet potato fries. The kids were able to play happily in the pool while we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and soaked up the sun.

cape st francis resort

In fact it was so good we decided to dine in the restaurant for dinner on our second night. The restaurant didn’t have bright white walls and modern furniture, it was a mismatch of chairs and tables, in a room that looked homely, if even a little tired. It didn’t matter. We stayed in an expensive, modern beach club in Plettenberg Bay, a few days before, but ask me which I preferred? I would say Cape St Francis every time. There was no need to dress up, shorts and flip flops were perfect dinner attire and when dinner was over, I relived my youth as the live band rocked Sweet Child of Mine from the bar!

cape st francis resort

 

Things to do:

We decided to take a long walk the beach. We were told it was about 5km to the port but it took a lot longer and was more arduous than expected. We had a few brief scary moments when the weather closed in and we had to cross difficult dunes, we actually thought we were lost! However it was a great family achievement and one we will remember favourably. A  few hours later we arrived in the port, albeit with help from Tyler, a friendly guide who works in the resort.

cape st francis resort

Cape St Francis port is the only privately owned working harbour in South Africa and their calamari is exported all over the world. The place to go for food is the Chokka Block. This is renowned for calamari tasting, but it was fully booked while we were there, so make sure you book in advance.

cape st francis resort

When we initially drove into Cape St Francis we passed a small street with a sprinkling of shops and a bar. We naively thought this was the town. It was only when we decided to take a boat trip that afternoon, that we found the ‘real’ Cape St Francis. This pretty town has a selection of shops, bars and restaurants and is located beside upmarket canals. Many people stop here for a few days while driving the Garden Route, but don’t bother to venture outside the resort. This is a mistake. There is so much to do in the surrounding area. We took a cruise along the canals which took about an hour. We got terrific insight into the local area as we ogled at the multimillion euro thatched homes with speed boats parked outside! Built in 1967 by a local who came back from the Everglades, Cape St Francis Bay is world’s apart from the beach resort. We sat back and enjoyed some sundowners, it was so relaxing. This leisurely canal cruise can be booked at reception.

cape st francis resort

Cape St Francis is home to five nature reserves which have numerous walks and hiking trails. Seal Point and the Cape St Francis Lighthouse are next to the penguin rehabilitation centre, where African Penguins are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild. The penguin release rate is as high as 96% and with penguin releases every 10 days, you may even be lucky to witness one! If you want to travel further afield you can visit Baviaanskloof, the world’s largest nature reserve, about an hours drive from the resort. Expect to see deep gorges, mountain cliffs and stunning views as well as an abundance of wildlife. Ado Elephant Park boasts the largest concentration of elephants in the world where visitors can see over 100 elephants on one game drive. It is also home to lions, buffalo and various antelope. If you still feel the need for adventure, the world’s highest bridge bungee jump is located in Tsitsikamma National Park, as well as a host of other activities. Both Ado and Tsitsikamma are located just 90 minutes drive from Cape St Francis Resort.

cape st francis resort

 

Driving the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is a superb family holiday, I would go so far as to say, one of our best. But sometimes you need to just relax, stay in a holiday resort rather than a hotel. Cape St Francis Resort is that type of place – we were on our holidays after all! Plettenberg Bay, Jeffries Bay and Kynsna are all renowned as being the best places to stay on the Garden Route – but take the road less travelled and stop in Cape St Francis.  You won’t regret it.

 

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Planning a trip to South Africa? Read all my posts from my South African adventures here.

Top Tips For Visiting South Africa

Cape Town – What to Do, Where to Stay, Where to Eat & Safety

Val du Charron Wine Estate – The Best Place to Stay in South Africa’s Winelands

A Luxury Safari at Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa – The Ultimate Travel Experience

Sarah

The Travel Expert

DestinationsLong HaulRest of the WorldTravel Tips

Top Tips For Visiting South Africa

Lion Amakhala

Check out my top tips for visiting South Africa, I hope they help you with your travel plans.

 

We visited South Africa on our honeymoon ( many years ago!) and loved it. We decided to go back and bring the kids this time. We spent sixteen days travelling around South Africa, from Cape Town to the Winelands, along the Garden Route and enjoyed a safari on the Eastern Cape at the end. We had an amazing trip, filled with life long memories. Many people assumed we would have safety concerns, but the truth is we didn’t. We did get great advice from our travel agent GoHop.ie before we left and we also picked up a few tips along the way. Here are my top tips for visiting South Africa!

Cape Town

Allow yourself at least four or five nights here. There is so much to do in Cape Town and it is a great city to start off your holiday in South Africa. The Waterfront is very commercialised, but it is a good place to stay. You will feel extremely safe walking around and there are lots of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from. We stayed in the Waterfront Village apartments and found them great, they offer the comforts of an apartment, with the service of a hotel.  Top attractions include Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Visit the colourful houses of Bo-kaap and allow yourself a full day to drive the Cape Peninsula. Read my guide to Cape Town, where to stay, where to eat and safety, here.

Attractions:

Unlike most things in South Africa, the tourist attractions can be quite expensive. Make sure you book as much as possible online before hand. Not only will this save you money, but you will skip the queues when you arrive. Trips to Robben Island need to be booked as far in advance as possible, as visitor numbers are restricted each day. A visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium is a must if travelling with kids. Located on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, you only need to spend a few hours there but the kids will thank you for it! While you are at the Waterfront, don’t bother with the Cape Wheel, it is over priced and the views are much better from Table Mountain!

Water shortage

Cape Town has a severe water problem and there are water shortages in many parts of South Africa. Although this varies depending on where you are, some establishments have little or no water in bathrooms. Locals use water very sparingly and you should too. I recommend bringing a small hand sanitiser with you at all times.

tips for visiting south africa

Table Mountain

If travelling to Table Mountain (or any of the high peaks, Signal Hill or Lions Head), bear in mind that temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler than in the centre of Cape Town. Wear warm clothes or at least bring a jumper with you. Queues for the cable car to Table Mountain can be two hours in peak season. Book online, you still may have to queue, but it will be shorter. It only takes about two hours to hike it, so if you don’t fancy queuing, this is a great alternative, weather permitting. It is a strenuous climb though so a certain degree of fitness would be required.

tips for visiting south africa

Taxis

Try to use only metered taxis or alternatively download the uber app before you go. Taxis are very cheap so if you are in a restaurant or hotel, ask them to order one for you and you shoudn’t have any price issues then. If you get into a taxi without a meter, make sure to agree a set price before you go. Haggling is expected and don’t be afraid to walk away!

tips for visiting South Africa

Winelands

Skip Stellenbosch. It is a big busy city and not exactly the quiet countryside town you might be expecting. Franschhoek is much nicer, although has a Disney type feel to it. We stayed in Val du Charron, just outside Wellington and loved it. Read why I think Val Du Charron is the best place to stay in the Winelands here.

Garden Route

Give yourself plenty of time. Drive times from the Winelands to the Garden route are 4 – 5 hours so it is unlikely you will fancy doing anything on your first day. Take that into account and book a minimum of two nights in particular towns if there are activities you are interested in. Towns like Hermanus are popular for whale watching, but remember the whales are usually only there from June to December. Although it is a nice drive and roads are good, at times it can look very similar to a drive in many parts of Ireland. If you are short of time, consider flying from Cape Town to George or Port Elizabeth and skipping the 1200km drive. Seaside Resorts such as Cape St Francis Resort where we stayed, is only ninety minutes from Port Elizabeth, and it is a great alternative to Plettenberg Bay. Read all about our family stay in Cape St Francis Resort here.

Safaris

There is such a wide choice of safari options to choose from. If you wish to visit Kruger National Park, bear in mind you will need to take malaria tablets before you arrive. Game Reserves along the Eastern Cape, near Port Elizabeth, are usually malaria free. We stayed in Amakhala Game Reserve and loved it. Most game drives are early morning (ours was 6am) and afternoon so if you want to make the most of your stay, be sure to arrive in time for your afternoon game drive. Many people leave this part of the holiday untill last, if so, book an afternoon flight so you can avail of a morning game drive before you leave. Despite temperatures of 28 degrees, we found it cold in the open jeep. Bring plenty of warm clothes, particularly for the morning drives. You can read all about our luxury safari in Amakhala Game Reserve here.

tips for visiting South Africa

Car Minders

When you park your car at the side of the road, ‘car minders’ will undoubtedly approach you. Locals will offer to mind your car while you go into a shop, restaurant or attraction. This might sound bizarre and is a bit disconcerting, but bear in mind the unemployment rates in South Africa are staggering. Do your bit to help the local economy and accept graciously. When you return give them a 5 rand coin. It is only about 30 cent, and it’s better to be safe than sorry!

tips for visiting South Africa

Keep valuables in your hand luggage.

Unfortunately there are stories reported of suitcases being tampered with in some airports, particularly Johannesburg. We didn’t have any issues, but we were asked in Port Elizabeth if we had locks for our cases at check-in. When we said we had no locks, we were then asked if we wanted to remove any valuables, before they were checked in! Our luggage arrived safe and sound but it was a nervous wait!

tips for visiting South Africa

Money:

Take out cash in the airport when you arrive, the exchange rate is usually better than at home. There are plenty of ATM’s around so just take out as much as you think you may need for a few days, rather than carrying large amounts of cash. There is a small fee (about €2.50 per €200) in some machines. Some petrol stations and small local shops / restaurants don’t take credit cards so make sure you have cash available.

tips for visiting South Africa

Do something you have never done before!

South Africa is full of extraordinary sights and has adventure on every corner. From shark-cage diving to bungy jumping, river rafting to paragliding, face your fears in South Africa and try something new! I paraglided off Signal Hill in Cape Town and it was amazing!

Before you go – travelling with children:

If travelling with children make sure you bring their original birth certificates with you. You will not be allowed enter the South Africa without them. Photocopies will not suffice. If a single parent is travelling alone with one of their children or if you are travelling with a child that is not your own, there are further legal requirements – see more here.

Book with a specialist

There are so many things to do in South Africa, it is impossible to see it all! Talk to a specialist and let them know what you want from your holiday. Whether you want quiet romantic hotels or family friendly options, they will recommend the right one for you. I booked with GoHop.ie and they were excellent. The meet and greet service at the airport was superb. We received a travel digest with detailed maps, travel distances and a list of things to do in each resort. You also have the advantage of having someone at the end of the phone if you need any assistance.

 

Planning a trip to South Africa? Check out all my posts from our South Africa adventures here.

Cape Town – What to Do, Where to Stay, Where to Eat & Safety

Val du Charron Wine Estate – The Best Place to Stay in South Africa’s Winelands

Our Family Stay at Cape St Francis Resort, South Africa

A Luxury Safari at Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa – The Ultimate Travel Experience

How To Plan The Perfect South African Road Trip

Sarah

The Travel Expert

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