Simons Town, more than Penguins and Navy ships

After a very busy year we were looking forward to a well deserved break in December and what better place than the beautiful Cape. A friend recommended a very nice B&B up against the mountains in Simon’s Town that has the most spectacular view over False Bay.
My opinion of Simon’s Town has always been that it’s a Navy town with a cute penguin colony, but I soon realised it had so much more to offer. It’s close enough to all the popular tourist destinations like the wine lands and Cape Town yet offers you a relaxed environment close to nature. We woke up in the mornings to the sound of Guinea fowl and the wind rustling through the trees. This was of course shortly followed by the distant hustle and bustle on the naval ships docked in the harbour.

What to know before you go

  • Tourist season is during the South African school holidays, peaking in December.
  • Whale season is between July and October, with occasional sightings in November.
  • Best time for good weather is during February
  • Nearest airport is Cape Town International.

The experience

I have been to Simon’s Town on previous occasions, but always just driving through or visiting the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. This time we were staying there for two weeks and decided to spend most of our time exploring the town and what else it had to offer, while taking some day trips to nearby attractions.

DollSimon’s Town is full of history and there are a couple of museums and historical sites in town. The Naval museum is just off the main street on the edge of town. It offered a very insightful look into the history and activities of the Navy in South Africa. The displays are very informative and they have a wonderful collection of naval equipment, weapons and model ships.
Another naval tour that offers a very unique experience is a visit to the retired navy submarine SAS Assegaai. Tours can be booked from Jubilee square. We were allowed to go inside the submarine and see how the crew lived and worked. I enjoyed all the tales our guide entertained us with. He used to serve in the navy and had a lot of knowledge about the history of the submarine.
We also went on a trip down memory lane at the Toy museum. It was wonderful to browse through their collection of vintage toys, remembering the countless hours we played with similar toys. There were paper dolls, train sets, porcelain dolls, model ships, Dinky toys and toy soldiers. If you love toys from yesteryear then treat yourself to a visit!

Some of the historical sites we visited were the old burial grounds and the war memorial on top of the mountain. We didn’t spend too much time at the burial grounds but it did leave a lasting impression on me. Some graves had no names on them, others listed sailors that died at sea, their ages younger than twenty. The World War I memorial is on top of the mountain and we stumbled on it by chance while on a hiking trail, looking for the grave of Able Seaman Just Nuisance. He is the legendary Great Dane who became a member of the Royal Navy. His statue can be seen on Jubilee Square and the locals love to tell stories of their most famous sailor.
stownThis particular hiking trail is very steep but it’s a good workout! And the view is worth every step. There are a couple of hiking trails in the area. We also did the Waterfall trail. It’s not a very long trail but you are again rewarded with spectacular views of False Bay and a small waterfall.

We had some beautiful sunny days but also a lot of windy ones and didn’t spend too much time on the beaches. Boulders beach is very popular with tourists and day visitors, but most locals go to Windmill Beach.

On one of our day trips to Cape Town we took the Metrorail. It takes a very scenic route along the coastline before turning inland, travelling through Wynberg and Rondebosch. I think it’s a hassle free and nice way to get to Cape Town, and I was surprised at how many people used it for day trips.stown2

There is a variety of restaurants in town, most serving seafood, pizza, pasta and steaks. There are a couple of specialty restaurants with more interesting menus. Do visit some of the pastry/coffee shops.

I had a wonderful time in Simons Town. Our stay was relaxing, we were surrounded by beautiful scenery and there was enough to do when we had enough of lazing around. We did a lot of walking in and around the town, popping into the many shops, eating ice cream and enjoying the holiday feeling.

You are welcome to view my photos of our trip here

The awesome stuff

The penguins are a huge attraction.
The town is rich in history.
The beaches are beautiful and clean.
You are in nature, surrounded by either the mountains or the ocean.
Enough to keep any outdoor enthusiast busy.
Delightful restaurants and interesting museums.
It’s close to many other tourist attractions.
More than enough outdoor adventures like kayaking.

The less awesome stuff

The tourist hot-spots can become overcrowded during peak season.

The verdict

It is absolutely worth a visit, definitely more than just penguins and a naval base
Next time we will go during the whale season and hopefully admire these gentle giants close up.

Hiking Trail
View over the bay
Penguin at Boulders Beach