Sand River Walk
This walk is tough and demanding. It is really best done as part of the Chokka Trail, when you can walk with the flow of the sand from Oyster Bay to St Francis Bay. But when you don’t have time, a trail booking or permits, a walk up the dune field from St Francis is a good second best for those with an adventurous streak.
There is no marked trail and the dunefield is mobile and changes constantly. This is not a walk for anyone who fears the unknown.
It’s also important to note that the land is owned by the property owners on either side of the dunefield. Please respect this and leave no litter, do no damage, keep kids and dogs under control, and co-operate with the landowners.
The distance is really as long or as short as you want it to be. The path shown on the map is about 7km – in other words, a 14km round trip. The length of the full dune field as the crow flies, from St Francis Bay to Oyster Bay, is 13km. However you need a permit to exit at Oyster Bay as it is on private property, so unless you want to do 26km maybe you want to turn around at a point short of the end. In addition, you will need to plot a winding course through the dunefield to avoid dead-ends created by patches of vegetation. Have a look at the most recent Google Earth images before you start!
Drive out of St Francis Bay towards Humansdorp. Cross the Sand River bridge and turn into the entrance to St Francis Marine. There is plenty of space outside this property for you to park (please don’t block the entrance).
Walk up the track back towards the Sand River bridge. Beware of trucks and heavy vehicles – the entrance to the walk is a working sand quarry.
Turn in between the dunes and walk through the quarry. Keep kids and dogs close and exercise caution. There are front end loaders, trucks and other vehicles working here on weekdays.
The route you want is directly across the quarry from the entrance you came in at. There is a signboard on top of a dune: skirt that dune on the left and you will find yourselves in the dunefield. There is no path or trail: stay over to the right of the dunefield and make your way west along the sand dunes. Check Google Earth before you start to see where you might be blocked by vegetation. And be prepared to backtrack from time to time. It’s an adventure!
You will find ponds trapped in the dips if there has been rain. There is clay close to the surface and it prevents the water draining away into the sand. You often find water birds at the ponds and the vegetation around them is eye-catching in the ochre of the sand. Good photo opportunities.
There is no shade on the dunefield so the sun can be unkind. Overcast conditions are good for this walk.