Bay of many bays
Eighteen bays, stunning sea views and sparkling surf make St Helena Bay a jewel in the West Coast’s crown. Fed by the nutrient-rich Benguela current, it is one of the world’s prime fishing areas and its waters provide a livelihood to locals. The main harbour at Sandy Point bustles with activity, and shipbuilders and fishermen rub shoulders as they go about their daily work.
During the 15th century, navigators seeking the route to the East explored the shoreline in search of fresh water, one being Vasco da Gama who landed here in November 1497 and named it Bahai da Santa Elena.
With imposing granite boulders as the backdrop to the town and long white beaches hugging the shoreline, walkers and beachcombers delight in exploring the area. Endemic Heaviside dolphins, as well as dusky and common dolphins visit the bay in search of food, and the calm waters give shelter to the southern right whales that come to mate and calve in the second half of the year - and can easily be seen from the shore. Humpback and killer whales are also frequent visitors.
St Helena Bay is also a birdwatcher’s paradise and being at the southernmost point of the migratory route from Europe and the Steppes of Russia makes it a must-visit spot for twitchers.
The actual bay of St Helena stretches from Dwarskersbos in the north, past Shelley Point peninsula, to Cape St Martin in the west – traversing a total of 18 bays with intriguing names such as Hannasbaaiand Slipperbaai. Each has its own unique attractions, and many are favoured by catamaran sailors and canoeists. Surfers seek out ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ when the heavy Atlantic swells roll in.
After good winter rains, the veld comes alive with the vibrant colours of spring flowers. Winter is the snoek season and the local women’s sleight of hand as they vlek snoek in the harbour is fascinating to watch. Their cultural heritage is also intriguing, as is their quirky, humourous vernacular. The summer months are all about watersports and rock lobster (known locally as crayfish) whereas autumn is a special time of calm, idyllic weather – the ‘secret season’ - making St Helena Bay an all year destination for outdoor and nature lovers.
St Helena Bay Information Centre
Telephone: 022 7362374
Swemmer Building 86 Main Street St Helena Bay (on main entrance road), 7390
Tuesday - Friday 10h00 - 15h00 Saturday, Public Holidays (Excluding Christmas, Good Friday and New Years Day) 09h00-14h00