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Travel: Quiet Time in Stilbaai

1967
VIEWS

Are you tired of reading about a superb campsite, only to discover the words “only accessible by 4×4 or vehicles with high ground clearance”?

You gnash your teeth in frustration, because you only have a road caravan, or a small sedan and trailer. Well, then let me tell you about Stilbaai and Jongensfontein – two small seaside towns with great caravan resorts accessible by tar all the way.


Stilbaai lies alongside the banks of the Goukou River Estuary, and the smaller village of Jongensfontein is a mere 16 kilometres away. Both are part of the famous Garden Route, about a four-hour drive from Cape Town.

Situated 26km off the N2 between Riversdale and Albertina, Stilbaai with its shallow bay, long sandy beaches, lagoon and Goukou River, offers swimming, sunbathing, surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, rock, surf and boat angling, hiking, canoeing, boating and waterskiing. Neighboring Jongensfontein offers everything that its larger sibling offers, with the exception of the Goukou River.

Stilbaai is not only a great place for fun in the sun. There is a serious side to its character too. Have you any idea where the oldest example of art in the world was found? A minute piece of ochre inscribed with a pattern by a human hand, some 75 000 years ago.

This piece and probably the earliest example of modern abstract thought was found at the Blombos Cave some twelve kilometres from Stilbaai. Of world archeological importance, other artefacts found in Blombos and nearby caves have been carbon dated to be 77 000 years old. This identifies the caves as oldest known example human settlement today.

A replica of the ochre art piece is displayed at a small museum, the Blombos Museum of Archeology, housed in at the De Jagerhuis is also the information office for Stilbaai. It’s a truly great little museum and well worth a visit.

Another fascinating archeological treasure is the ancient fish traps used by the early ancestors of the Khoi people. They are reckoned to be up to 3 000 years old. These fish traps, known as vywers, are still used by the local fisher folk to this day. In days gone by they were passed down from father to son. Later a co-operative was formed and nowadays the catch is shared amongst the members. I loved the names of the 20 odd vywers. Names like Krom Knie, Sny Brood, Alleroudste (the oldest and still considered the very best trap) , Roodt se vywer, Niksvanger!

The best time to see the fisherman working the traps is in the winter months. The traps can be found about half and hours walk from Stilheuwels on the hiking trail from Stilbaai to Jongensfontein.

There are also many nature reserves in the area: To the east is Pauline Bohnen Nature Reserve, a large reserve with various hiking routes; the Skulpiesbaai Nature Reserve is situated near the harbour and reaches up to the Noordkapperpunt fishponds; and the Geelkrants Nature Reserve is situated next to the Pulpit.


Jongensfontein Caravan Park

Contact: Lizette Floris | Phone: 028 713 7850 | Cell: 081 551 2999 | Email: jft[at]hessequa.gov.za

This camp is popular, I can tell you. Coming to a standstill at the stop street overlooking the park, I could see it was packed to the hilt. It was school holdidays and the weekend before Easter. Lucky to get a place, I set up camp at stand No 50 just behind one of the three ablution blocks.

My neighbours, the Jouberts – Francois, his wife Cecile, and their son Niël – offer to help me the moment I unhitched. The farmers from Montagu even gifted me with a large bag of nectarines and some of the sweetest plums I have ever tasted.

Like the Jouberts, I found the Jongensfontein caravan park one of the friendliest I’d ever stayed at. A lot of the campers have been returning year after year, making lifelong friends.

The campsite is literally right next to the ocean. With sandy beaches, safe rock pools for the younger kids to splash around in, and great fishing, you quickly understand why this is such a popular spot.

It’s a large venue with 116 stands, all of which are electrified. All the campsites are on grass and share taps with drinkable water. There are 3 ablution blocks with a total of 15 showers and 4 baths for the ladies.

Lizette Floris, who is charge of the park, runs a tight ship. During my visit the cleaning team were busy keeping the ablution blocks neat and tidy from early morning till knock-off time in the afternoon.

I think what surprised me most was the discipline of the parents. There were hordes of young kids – on bicycles, tricycles and anything on wheels; kids where playing on the seafront playground area, while the older kids were surfing and playing touch rugby with the dads. Yet the noise stopped on the dot at seven in the evening. And it was hardly believable, but none of the kids made a peep until about 9am in the morning. I really enjoyed the friendliness and good neighbourliness of this well-run camp, young and old all having a great time.

Supplies are easy to get at the Drie Pikkewyne collection of shops just a hundred metres from the campsite entrance. There’s a bottle store, a small shop, laundry facilities, and a licensed restaurant – the calamari and chips are first class. There is another shop just up the road from the campsite, but if you are looking for a big shop there’s a well-stocked Spar only 16kms away in Stilbaai. In the shopping mall is a host of restaurants, a bottle store, ATMs, and a really well stocked fishing shop.

Note: There are no braai facilities, so make sure you bring your portable braai and grid.


Ellensrust Caravan Park

Tel: +27 (0)28 713 7848 | Email: ellensrust[at]hessequa.gov.za

If you follow the road from the N2 down the main road into Stilbaai, you will find the Ellensrust campsite. I was amazed that so few people were camping at Ellensrust, having just been to a packed Jongensfontein. But after finding one of the few sites with shade near one of the ablution blocks, I took a mosey around to see what Ellensrust had to offer. Well, it’s got a lot to offer!

Although it has no sea view, it’s only a short walk on a wooden boardwalk over a low dune before you have access to the best swimming beaches in Stilbaai: Lappiesbaai and Stilbaai West. In season these two beaches have Blue Flag status. Talking to fellow campers, I learnt that Ellensrust is packed to the hilt in December. In fact, they say “it is like a city”.

The resort also has access to the Goukou river mouth. Like the nearby Jongensfontein caravan park, Ellensrust also has access to the beach and the river mouth – so there is something for everyone. It’s an extremely large campsite with 338 stands. The camp allows up to 6 people per site. There are also 21 self-catering chalets and rondavels available.

Situated right next to two magnificent beaches, it’s not hard to understand why it’s so popular. All the stands have close access to electricity with shared drinking water taps nearby. There are five ablution blocks spread out over the camping area. The ablutions are a bit old fashioned, but very clean and neat.

There are no credit card facilities at the camp, so payment is either by EFT on booking, or cash. The large Lappiesbaai Restauarant is at the end of the wooden walkway on your way to the beach. I didn’t try the restaurant, but by the number of cars in the parking lot, it seemed popular. The Spar is a short drive down to the bridge over the Goukou River, up the hill and on your right hand side. Gas refills are available at the local Engen garage.

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