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Jessie's Bay and Quoin Point

The Overberg coastline between Danger Point (wonder why it’s called that? 😇) in the west and Cape Infanta in the east is littered with some 140 recorded ship wrecks, the Arniston, Cape Agulhas and Quoin Point areas having the highest concentration. We found ourselves exploring this coastline recently and, purely by chance, came across Jessie’s Bay (or Jessie se Baai or, as the locals call it, Die Walle, referring to the ancient weathered dunes at the end of the beach).

Jessie’s Bay can be found about 17km to the east of Pearly Beach. Take the turn-off onto a rather rough gravel road toward Buffeljagsbaai. It’s easily accessible in a sedan (just take it easy on the short gravel section) and you can park and walk the final few hundred metres to the beach. If you’re in a 4X4, pick one of the tracks that will take you right there. Just a head's up though - there are no facilities at all, no cafe for provisions, no life guards, no toilets - nothing.

In fair weather the place is idyllic. The beach is virtually deserted, the sea is a fantastic turquoise, the sand white and gentle waves plop onto a gently sloping shore.

In a storm though, it is an entirely different kettle of fish. The mists and fog roll in reducing visibility, the seas become huge and the hidden rocks that coastline is so infamous for, lurk below the surface awaiting the hull of any ship silly enough to be close in shore.

Jessie’s Bay ends at Quoin Point or Jessie's Point as it's sometimes known. On the dark and stormy night of 7 October 1829 a British sailing vessel, The Jessie, ran aground here as she was trying to make her way around the point. Loaded with passengers, general cargo, and horses, she was on her way to Mauritius, stopping off at Table Bay and Algoa Bay en route. Just what she was doing so close inshore in these brutally treacherous waters is not clear (details are somewhat sketchy).

Apparently there was a westerly gale blowing (which makes sense as a few passengers managed to get into 2 lifeboats, one of which was driven ashore by the wind, while the other eventually made it to shore about 15km to the west of the Breede River mouth in the east - a long way away). Pieces of the ship eventually washed up at the Ratel River Estuary some 7km to the east of Quoin Point. Alas, many lives were lost but the good people of Elim, a Moravian mission village nearby, tended to the survivors that made it ashore.

As a result of this help and kindness, Queen Victoria gave the residents of Elim the right to use the land at Quoin Point. Today, a small lighthouse can be found there and the Schipper and October families of Elim own cottages in the area.

The Jessie wasn’t the only ship that met its fate at Quoin Point. The Joanna, the first East Indiaman wrecked on the South African Coast, went aground in 1682, the Nicobar in 1783, the Doncaster in 1836, the Teuton in 1881, the Alva in 1938 or 1939 (records vary), the City of Lincoln in 1946 and the Esso Wheeling in 1948. Not a bad tally for an isolated little point at the tip of Africa!

Jessie’s Bay is worth a visit. It was a glorious day when we were there - all blue ocean, white sandy beaches and crying seagulls. In a wild storm? Well, that would also be something to see! 

If you do visit, remember to take along everything you need - water, food, sunscreen etc. There are no facilities at all. Closest accommodation, shops and restaurants would be at Pearly Beach.

Both the still images and video clips that we have of this area are available for licensing. Please drop me a mail to chat about rates.

Jessies Bay GPS coordinates: S-34° 45.155' E19° 37.307'

Jessies Bay Google Maps Link

Quoin Point GPS Coordinates: S-34° 46.833' E19° 38.276'

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Photography and stock images of wildlife, travel, conservation, lodges and lifestyle in Africa.

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