The Sunshine Coast offers diverse scenery and experiences and its beauty lies within its small towns, stunning beaches and river banks, and the warm-hearted people which reside in them. The area stretches from Alexandria in the West through to the Great Fish River in the East and inland beyond Bathurst to the North.
This is the area with the most sunshine hours in South Africa, facilitating the enjoyment of outdoor activities such as quad biking, surf sailing, deep sea fishing, kite surfing, skiing and hiking. Beautiful rivers navigable for up to 32km and rich coral reefs offer magnificent diving opportunities. Horse ride along the golden beaches, or through game parks.
There are a variety of accommodation ranging from luxurious lodges, hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, private homes, hiker’s huts and camping facilities. The arts and crafts in the area are well known, with many acclaimed artists living and working here. One can visit their studios and watch them at work.
The Sunshine Coast also boasts wonderful culinary experiences, from cosmopolitan cafes to lavish banquets and everything in between.
One can firstly pay a visit to the Addo National Park – “the Home of the Big 7” – before commencement of the route in Alexandria. Alexandria, a small farming town, was established in 1840 and named after Rev Alexander Smith of the Dutch Reformed Church, and proclaimed as a municipality in 1886. It is one of the most important chicory producing areas in South Africa and has numerous historical buildings. Quin Sculpture Garden, home of popular South African sculptor, Maureen Quin is a must visit. The area has great ecological importance as the largest active shifting dune field system in the world, visible from space. There is a narrow stretch of pristine indigenous forests at Woody Cape, home to many naturally occurring mammals and a diversity of birdlife.
From Alexandria there is a lovely scenic drive through the State Forest and pass Woody Cape, the southern hemisphere’s largest shifting dunes (covering approximately 15 800 hectares). SANParks assumed management of this coastal area in 2002. Follow the road down ‘the golden mile’ through some of SA’s finest dairy farms and enjoy the magnificent views of the ocean and Bird Island. Bird Island was proclaimed as part of Addo Elephant National Park in 2005 and is part of a group of four islands and is an important breeding place for marine bird species. The island supports the largest breeding colony of Cape gannets in the world (over 160 000 birds) as well as other birds such as African penguins and rare roseate terns.
The next stop will be in Cannon Rocks. Cannon Rocks is a delightful seaside village situated between Boknes and the boundary of the Greater Addo Elephant Park. The legendary explorer Vasco Da Gama sailed this coastline and Cannon Rocks owes its name to the wrecking of the Portuguese ship Sao Joao Baptista that ran aground here after a battle with two Dutch ships in March 1622. The survivors, 279 of them, began their arduous walk to Lorenzo Marques (Maputo) but only 28 completed the journey. The old cannons and anchor from the wreck were discovered and remain on display in the village. Today Cannon Rocks borders directly onto the Woody Cape section of the Greater Addo Elephant National Park. The caravan Park at Cannon rocks Holiday Resort is situated only a few hundred meters away from lovely surf and fishing grounds and has 74 wind protected stands, serviced by two immaculate ablution blocks and a Laundromat.
From here the route will take us to Boknes, literally walking distance further north. There are many theories about the origin of the name “Boknes”. With refence to documents by Gordon (1785) “Boknes” was called “Bocna” – also the “Hottentot” form of ‘father’s river’. The vast expanse of the warm Indian Ocean in front and rolling green farmlands behind, is making Boknes a small piece of paradise. Boknes is within easy reach of the Kariega and Sibuya Game Reserves, Shamwari Game Reserve and the Addo Elephant Park, a disease and malaria free area in which the big five can be seen.
One can also opt for ‘the Poor man’s game drive’, 7 kilometres west from the Boknes/Cannon Rocks turn off on the R72. The dirt road is flanked by numerous Big 5 game reserves, crosses the Bushmans River and continue through more game reserves. The road crosses the Kariega River and back to the R72 and Kenton–on-Sea. The drive can be as rewarding as anywhere, is ten minutes from Boknes and costs nothing!
Boknes’s historical importance comes from the discovery of the Dias Cross in 1937-38 by Prof Eric Axelson. There were 5000 fragments of the original Padrao Sao Gregorio recovered which was planted in 1488 by Bartolomias Dias at Kwaaihoek. It was about 75% of the original Dias-beacon.
The cross was reconstructed to the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1944 a replica of the cross was built and can be reached from Boknesstrand by foot. The unspoilt beach walk within the Addo Elephant National Park will take about an hour.
The remote beach at Boknes offers connoisseurs of solitude an opportunity to revel in isolation. Birds abound at the lagoon and the beach give one a chance to watch the sea birds in their glory. The Boknes beach also has Blue Flag Status.
From here the route will take you through Boesmansriviermond and Kenton-on-Sea. Boesmansriviermond has been a well-known holiday resort since the mid 1800’s. It has the second longest tidal river in the country with a tidal section of approximately 32km. There were many famous shipwrecks in the area, the best known being the Norwegian barque Volo, wrecked near the river mouth in 1896. The founder of Kenton-on-Sea, Charles Butt and a farmer from Boknes, Kaaljan Scheepers saved the lives of the crew and the ship’s cat.
Kenton-on-Sea is referred to as “the Jewel of the Sunshine Coast” and sometimes also as “the Place between Two Rivers”. Kenton is blessed with magnificent natural assets – ocean, beaches (one has Blue Flag status), two rivers, the Joan Muirhead Nature Reserve. No development is allowed on the bush covered dunes between the rivers. Virtually everything one needs in daily life is available in the village and there are numerous restaurants, some in idyllic positions, and coffee shops. Casual Kenton also offers lovely craft stores. Be sure to stop at the bead shop and to visit the pottery studios in and around Kenton.
The R72 will take you further through green pasture covered hills to Port Alfred where you can spend a couple of days. One can experience the natural beauty of the Eastern Cape bushveld at Mansfield Game Reserve. This exclusive reserve is set along the Kowie River, a mere 6 kilometers outside of Port Alfred. There is a variety of accommodation options available: from elegant lodging, superb restored ox-wagons dating from the 1800’s to a rustic campsite. The reserve offers bird watching, fishing, canoeing, game drives and hiking trails.
Port Alfred is a vibrant coastal town on the Sunshine Coast between Port Elizabeth and East London. The endless golden sandy beaches, quaint old harbour and upmarket residential Royal Alfred Marina draw holidaymakers from all over the world. Wharf Street on the older side of town, is famous for its fresh fish stores, antique and second-hand furniture stores, the Little Brewery on Wharf Street, stunning restaurants, the Little Theatre on the Wharf, a Tattoo parlour, Art Gallery (many within the historic buildings of mid-19th century).
The Little Brewery stands on the bank of the Kowie River. It occupies the only stone building in town which also happens to be something of a historical landmark. Since its construction in mid-19th century it has been a Harbourmaster’s office, a city hall, a general goods store and even a cinema. A brewery was established in 1998, with the current owner taking over in 2008.
The Buffalo Tug ran aground in 1889 and the wreck is still visible at the end of Wharf Street. Van der Riet Street, an eclectic mix of restaurants, gift stores, boutique hotel and a cocktail bar, is also a tourist must-do!
From Port Alfred one can do a day trip to Bathurst and via Kleinemonde to the Fish river mouth. The Lighthouse at the river mouth was built in 1898 and is a 9 metre octagonal masonary tower, 76m above sea level and 800m from the shoreline. The light flashes once every 10 seconds and has an approximate candle power of 5,000,000 with a range of 32 nautical miles.
The Sunshine Coast Route will end in Bathurst where one has to pay a visit to Richard Pullen’s Earth Works. It is a working studio with a great selection of pottery on display.
Bathurst is also well known for the Pig and Whistle, a national Monument, built in 1831 by Thomas Hartley, one of the 1820 Settlers. It is the oldest operating Inn in the country and the ideal place for a farewell drink…….. Hope to see you there.
Explore Africa Adventures is putting a safari itinerary together for the Sunshine Coast………
Watch this space……………we hope to see you there!