Destination: Simon's Town

01simonstown copyRead any travel guide on Simon’s Town and it is always stated that it’s a navy town with a penguin colony, and whilst all that is true, visitors will soon realize it has so much more to offer. It’s close enough to all the popular tourist destinations like the Winelands and Cape Town yet offers you a relaxed environment close to nature.

For many visitors who pass through – they will see a quaint harbour, a cobbled central square and stand on elevated boardwalks overlooking penguins. However it is a surprising destination of palmtrees, little alleys, overgrown bougainvilleas, long forgotten Mosques, sounds of guinea fowl, good coffee shops and lots of activities for outdoor or indoor enthusiasts.  The beaches are beautiful and clean and no matter which direction you turn you are in nature, surrounded by either the mountains or the ocean.

Simon’s Town has a long history but what is significant is that it was established as the winter harbour for the Cape due to the fact that the harbour is protected from the northwesterly gales that hit Cape Town in the winter months – making it the best place to be during a Cape Town winter.

What to Do:

  • Get there by Water Taxi from Kalk Bay
  • Buy Fish fresh from the boats at Millers Point
  • Walk up the little alleys off the Main Road – cobbled streets & beautiful buildings
  • Enjoy tea from a wooden cup at the Tibetan Teahouse or join them for a free singing bowl meditation
  • Have a picnic on Fisherman’s Beach – see note on beaches below.
  • Scratch Patch: This Aladdin’s den of tumble polished stones will keep the kids entertained for hours.
  • Take a high speed boat trip to Cape Point and see the SW tip of Africa from the water OR try a Harbour Cruise or a Boat trip to Seal Island.
  • Sea kayak to the penguin colony
  • Swim with penguins at Boulders Beach
  • Snorkel at Windmill Beach
  • Eat sushi salad at the harbour
  • Scuba Dive at the Clan Stuart Wreck
  • Hike up Red Hill
  • Walk along Burgher’s Walk at sunrise – few people, great sunrises & a few penguins to keep you company
  • Take the steam train to Simon’s Town –look out for the schedule from Atlantic Rail (& if it’s not running take Metrorail for a scenic journey)
  • Take the Submarine Tour – yes get inside a real sub & discover life under water
  • Great White shark Diving and viewing (this is seasonal but phenomenal)
  • Hike to KleinPlaas Dam – an easy hike to the reservoir along an old jeep track for amazing views.
  • Play golf with penguins at Simon’s Town Country Club
  • Have coffee and a pastry at the Sweetest Thing
  • Visit the street vendors on Jubilee Square for African art & curios – great meandering
  • Go shopping – loads of decor and antique shops as well as antique clothing shops.
  • Meet the locals at the 2 & Sixpence pub (better yet –watch some rugby with them)
  • Birdwatching: Top 10 birds at Boulders Coastal Park for twitchers: African Jackass Penguins, Cape Commorant, Bank Commorant, Crowned Commorant, African Black Oystercatcher, Whitebacked Mousebird, Southern Boubou, Cape Bulbul, Malachite Sunbird, Bully Canary.
  • Watch a bronze casting at the Bronze Age Sculpture house.
  • Walk up to Just Nuisance Grave and Admiral’s Waterfall
  • Watch a Whale! This is seasonal but an incredible sight between August and November- seen from shore or close up by boat!
  • Offshore bird watching – mainly winter. Take a pelagic bird watching boat trip off shore to see the Albatrosses. Full day.

Simon’s Town Beaches:
Coming into Simon’s Town there are a bunch of beaches in a very short space- all clean and beautiful and. Glencairn beach is great for kitesurfers, windsurfers, paddlers, snorkelers and families.  Long Beach is the walking, doing, playing beach of Simon’s Town. Seaforth Beach is an ideal family setting with a natural swimming bay and picnic lawn, Boulders Beach (although not quite free, worth it for the protected granite boulders and the opportunity to swim with penguins), Windmill Beach is a hidden treasure also surrounded by granite boulders and Fisherman’s Beach is a small secluded secret with undulating grassy slopes and finally Millers point recreational area has a children’s tidal pool, snorkeling, scuba diving and there is a boat launching slipway.

Simon’s Town Penguins:
Most notable on the top attractions list are the penguins at Boulders Beach. As locals we sometimes get a bit blaze about these cute little guys that have a dedicated penguin crossing in town. The main colony is on Foxy Beach with elevated viewing platforms and boardwalks, but pop down to Boulders and have a swim with them. The penguins are a huge attraction- Foxy Beach is full of them. It quite literally has thousands of them – old ones, young ones, penguins sitting on eggs, swimming in the sea, waddling around in circles and just generally looking like adorable balls of cuteness.
* Support the Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week – join animal keepers to raise the awareness of the plight of the African Penguin. 27 April 2013

Just Nuisance
Just Nuisance has a statue that holds pride of place in Jubilee Square and this Simon’s Town mascot was a legendary Great Dane dog who became a member of the Royal Navy.  There are tons of stories that locals love to tell of how he got his rank, what his duties were and how he looked after drunken sailors catching the train home.  His grave is situated above town and is a great walk for the slightly more energetic. One of the most popular exhibits in the excellent Simon’s Town museum is the Just Nuisance Room which features his collar, official papers & many photographs.
* Every year there is a Just Nuisance parade on 1 April, dogs of all shapes and sizes welcome

Simon’s Town History & Museums:
Simon’s Town is rich in history and we’re not talking about boring dates here! There are national monuments at every turn and up every alley. Architecturally Simon’s Town has many period homes and historical buildings along St George’s Street (the Main Road), with ornate wrought iron balconies, dressed stone, white plaster walls, wood framed windows and sturdy doors. Up the side alleys many houses date back to the early 19th century. The facades of the houses have sturdy wooden balconies, with carved patterns and old fashioned shutters.  Great for photographers!

Simon’s Town has some excellent small museums which are well laid out and very informative. From the Simon’s Town museum with the history of the town to the Warrior Toy Museum (We suggest going with someone who played with items similar to the collection of vintage toys –  paper dolls, train sets, porcelain dolls, model ships, Dinky toys and toy soldiers).
The South African Navy Museum  has a great collection of naval equipment, weapons & model ships. Kids love it!
* Take note of the SA Navy Festival from  5th– 7th April  .
Linked to the SA Navy Museum is the Submarine Museum, which gives you a chance to go on a inside a real sub and discover life under water.
And finally there is the Heritage Museum where you’ll meet Patty who curates the museum. Her family used to live in Amlay house (which is now the museum) before the Group Areas Act forcibly removed them. There are fascinating displays of the Cape Malay Muslim culture as well as historical events.  Ask about a walking tour to see the Nooral  Islam Mosque.

Getting there:
By Road:  Car, limited bus service, taxi or bicycle.
Main Road (M4) south from Cape Town.
You can also go over Ou Kaapse Weg, then Glencairn Expressway.
By Train: Cape Town – Simon’s Town Metrorail. Daily service, less frequent on weekends. Or get the Southern Line Hop on-Hop off ticket & stop along the way.
The train station is about a 10 minute walk to the city centre.
By Boat:  Unless you have your own boat or are in the Navy, your boat access is via the Watertaxi from Kalk Bay – Simon’s Town.
By air:  Cape Town International Airport is about 45- 60 minutes drive from Simon’s Town.

Getting Around:
We recommend walking! The centre of town is pretty small and parking can be tricky so once you have a spot, go ambling – it’s more fun to find the hidden alleys and tucked away shops.

Simon’s Town -Where to Eat:
Lots of seafood, good coffee, great pastries, sushi, Italian, steaks, light lunches and fabulous breakfasts. All have great views of the bay.  Read more. 

Simon’s Town Accommodation: Where to stay
Simon’s Town accommodation is plentiful but sought after. Reserve your Simon’s Town accommodation early. Find and book a Guest House,  Bed & Breakfast or Self Catering Accommodation in Apartments, Cottages, Holiday Houses and Villas in Simon’s Town. More…

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