St Helena Bay revolves around its thriving fishing industry. With beautiful rocky shores and rolling hills, the cold Benguela’s nutrient-rich waters are home to an incredible abundance of marine life, including crayfish and snoek.
St Helena Bay is remarkable in that it is comprised of 18 small bays, including Hannasbaai, Stompneus Bay, Shelley Bay, Jaloersbaai, Slippersbaai, Vioolbaai and Brittania Bay (named for the wreck that is found there) - all interesting individual communities.
The 31-kilometre of beach and extraordinary sea views draw holiday-makers, especially during flower season.
Southern right whales are seen from August to November, when they enter the bay to calve. Humpback whales and Haviside’s, dusky and common dolphins are locals.
The Da Gama monument between Sandy Point and Stompneus Bay was erected by the Portuguese government in 1969 and commemorates Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s 1497 visit to and naming of the Bay (Bahai da Santa Elena - after the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great).
Some of St Helena’s land is dotted with lamps and walls indicating the intended development of further holiday homes, but this has been held up by the recession. Accommodation ranges from B&Bs and guest houses to a four-star hotel and spa at Shelley Point, and there are restaurants, curio shops and coffee shops.
Look out for
Activities – There is a nine-hole golf course at Shelley Point, 4x4 trails, kayaking, surfing (there are two spots off Shelley Point - one called “heaven” and the other “hell”) and sailing.
Birdwatching – the southernmost point of the migratory route from Europe and the Steppes of Russia, it is a birding “hot spot” that is home to resident and endemic species. Five species of larks (red-capped, large-billed, Cape clapper, Karoo and Cape long-billed) are found here.
Near Kraal Bay are the famous “footprints of Eve” (early hominid footprints preserved in sandstone).
The West Coast Fossil Park showcases the ancient prehistory of the area, including fossils of extinct bears and tigers. Tours, mountain-bike trails, flower walks, a bird hide and coffee are available.
The St Helena Bay Arts, Crafts & Food Market does a roaring trade three to four times a year (Easter, end-August at Shelley Point Hotel, October, and December).