Port St Johns

Jewel of the Wild Coast

Port St Johns sunriseScenery, Port St JohnsLandscape, Port St Johns

The rugged Wild Coast stretches for 250km from the Kei River to the Mtamvuna River at Kwazulu Natal and has a sub-tropical climate with humid summers and mild winters.  The region has an almost sub-tropical climate with lush vegetation ranging from dune forests which give way to dense forests and, further inland, become grassland. Sandstone is predominantly found to the north of Port St Johns, whilst to the south there is the Karoo System. Precipitous cliffs and narrow gorges are a feature of the Egosa Fault which runs parallel to the coast at Port St Johns and has resulted in the formation of spectacular waterfalls such as the 146m-high Magwa Falls and the Waterfall Bluff where the Mkozi River plummets 60m directly into the sea (there are only two such waterfalls Worldwide).

Map of Magwa Falls

Click here for a Magwa Falls Photo and a detailed PORT ST JOHNS MAP

Port St Johns is located approximately midway between Durban and East London on the Wild Coast of South Africa, a 250-km stretch of unspoilt coastline between the Mtmvuna River in the North and the southern Kei River. There are various theories as to the origin of its name, some believing it to be related to an imaginary image of St John on the left cliff beside the river, others stating that a Portuguese vessel had passed there on 24th June (St Johns Day) or that it was believed to be the site where the Sao Joao sank in 1552. Historians also believe that Port St Johns may have been the site of the second European landing when the Nossa Senhora de Belem was grounded at the site of the current Outspan Inn in 1635. Other famous shipwrecks along this treacherous coastline include the Grosvenor (1782), Waratah (1912) and even modern day casualties such as the Aster (1999) and the BBC China (2004).

The town is situated on the banks of the Umzimvubu (Mzimvubu) River, which literally means “home of the hippo” and has its source in the Lesotho Mountains. Originally an area some 10km distant from the rivermouth had been cultivated to supply passing naval vessels with fresh produce and by the 1880’s the town was established. Due to the shallowing of the river it has not served as a port since 1940 but developed into a popular tourist destination.

After the region was incorporated into the independent Transkei in 1976 it started declining and has not yet fully recovered, although there is ongoing improvement in developing the region since its re-incorporation into South Africa in 1994. Many South-African statesmen have their roots in the Transkei, including Nelson Mandela who is from the Thembu-tribe and a direct descendant of King Ngubengcuka. According to custom the Royal heir is selected from the “Great (Right Hand) House” and the “Ixiba” or Left Hand House from which Mr Mandela is descended, served to council the rulers.

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For more Sardine Run footage visit Earth Touch

Where to stay

Umzimvubu Retreat

Tel: +27 (47) 564 1741 Fax: +27 (47) 564 1310 Web: homepage

The Outspan Inn

Tel: +27 (47) 564 1057 Fax: +27 (47) 564 1057 Web: homepage


Tel: +27 (47) 564 1344 Fax: +27 (47) 564 8280 Web: homepage

iNtaba River Lodge

Tel: +27 (47) 564 1707 Fax: +27 (32) 941 5572 Web: homepage


Tel: +27 (47) 564 1098 Fax: +27 (47) 564 1402 Web: homepage

Cremorne Estate

Tel: +27 (47) 564 1110 Fax: +27 (47) 564 1113 Web: homepage



Flickr Images

Port St Johns

Pure Pondo Adventures

ECDC Gallery

Tourism PSJ

Port St Johns – Backpacker Central

SA Info

SA Tourism

Amapondo’s Blog

Port St Johns Municipality


6 responses to “Port St Johns

  1. Kathryn Costello

    May 8, 2009 at 9:08 am

    How lovely to read a well informed article about my home town and environs – thank-you!

    • Pierre

      May 8, 2009 at 9:29 am

      Hi Kathryn – you’re very welcome! And also very lucky to have your own corner of paradise … I love your hometown and fine establishments such as your Outspan Inn can never be promoted too often 😉

  2. amapondo

    May 20, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Hi Pierre
    THis is a great page on Port St Johns! I especially lov the beautiful pic of Mount THesiger.
    Thanks for the link!
    Pop in when you’re next in PSJ and we’ll do sundowners on the mountain.
    Many thanks!

    • Pierre

      May 20, 2009 at 5:12 pm

      Hi Annie – thanks for stopping by and congrats on your site, its looking great. With any luck I’ll get to PSJ come September … The pic is courtesy of Umzimvubu Retreat (Christie). 🙂


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