The town of Jeffrey’s Bay, located just South of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, is undoubtedly South Africa’s surfing capital. Stories about the formation of the town abound, many claiming it was found by a shipwrecked captain.
Some say the town was founded by surfers, but the real story is that a certain Captain Jeffrey, while sailing his cargo ship along the coast in the mid 1800’s, decided that the place was the ideal location for a holiday home.
He did just that in 1850, and for years – living alongside the local people – he was the only colonial resident. More residents did move in though, and the local hotel, a landmark, was built in its original form, from timber and corrugated iron, around this time. The original hotel was demolished and rebuilt in 1968, and still exists as such today.
The town of those days, from the reports of locals, consisted of a few families – nothing like the bustling town of today, however, the relaxed, small town atmosphere prevails Many remnants of the old town remain, to document the early history of the town. One such attraction is the Surf Museum, located above the Rip Curl store in the middle of town. Photographs, articles and memorabilia from some of the surfers who have been drawn to the area are displayed here, and give some insight into why and how the town gained this laid back air.
In fact, one of the attractions the town is most famous for is the annual Billabong Pro surfing competition, held in July / August each year, where locals, visitors and foreign surfers compete on the famous waves for top honours. As far as festivals go, another one worth attending, and happening around the same time is the Shell Festival, dedicated to another passion of locals. In fact, no matter when you visit Jeffrey’s Bay, the shell museum will give insight into some of the more exotic species of marine life to be found in the area.
When all the surfing, sun, excellent waves and laid back atmosphere become too much, there are many other attractions in and around the town to vist.
In the suburb of Marina Martinique for example, you can visit the shark aquarium, and get close enough to rescued sharks to reach out and touch them if you wanted to (not advisable, given that some of the specimens on display are over two meters long) Trained guides will teach you more about these creatures, but be sure to time your visit to coincide with feeding, for a show.
Another quite unique activity in the Marina Martinique area is the sand boarding school, located past the residential development, at the beach. Here you can rent a sand board and take lessons from seasoned professionals in this exciting, high adrenaline sport.
Water sports also abound in Jeffrey’s Bay, particularly during the tourist season when swimming and surfing share the water with jetskis and boats for hire.
Accommodation and food in the town are as varied and interesting as the people – from upmarket guesthouses or dinner at the Savoy hotel, to campsites, backpackers and excellent takeaway seafood, there’s something for everyone.