Port St Francis – the home of the calamari industry

Port St Francis is a small, sophisticated, harbour with an enticing blend of authentic fishing community, upmarket residential complexes and tourism.

Boats in port. Photo: Stan Blumberg
Boats in port. Photo: Stan Blumberg

Named by a Portuguese explorer after a monastery in his home country, Port St Francis has become the hub of the South African chokka (calamari) fishing business.

Port St Francis, one of the great seaside assets of the Eastern Cape, owes its existence, in part, to a tasty ocean dish called calamari.

In these parts, calamari is also known as squid, chokka or, simply, white gold. South Africa exports almost all of it to mostly Mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain.

However, it’s no secret that you can feast on prime calamari at many restaurants in Port St Francis.

Back in the 1980s, sophisticated fishing fleets replete with staff cabins and huge freezers used to sail from Port Elizabeth down to St Francis Bay. Then some leading local lights successfully lured the so-called ‘chokka business’ down to the newly established Port St Francis.

This meant that the boats could be moored in the bay, and the fishermen spent their money in the area. There was also a mini-boom in related industries.

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These days, Port St Francis presents an idyllic, modern coastal village.

The swimmers at Shark Point on their way to Port St Francis
The swimmers at Shark Point on their way to Port St Francis

There is a working harbour where fleets of squid, hake and pilchard vessels are moored right next to upmarket seagoing yachts.

Visitors and locals love coming down to the port to watch the boats being launched, or when they are offloaded. They see the boat crews at work, repairing nets and chatting about their day at sea. It’s a bit like having a touch of Majorca – with an African twist.

The Port was even the finish zone for three modern day adventurers who pioneered an ocean swim from Cape St Francis to the Port in April 2014. One of the swimmers even swam butterfly for the entire 8 km distance.

The swim formed part of the Nautical Capital Festival which takes place annually at Port St Francis.

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