Simon’s Town was named after Dutch explorer, Simon van der Stel, and has a fascinating history that remains one of its chief attractions. In fact, even if you do not come to Simon’s Town to enjoy the old-world architecture or the many museums, the historical charm just permeates every part of this naval seaside resort.
Since its discovery in the late 17th century, Simon’s Town has been known for its safe harbour. From that time, it has been visited by notable figures, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Lord Nelson.
It also played a major role in the World Wars. However, it was only in 1957 that the harbour was handed over to South Africa. Today, it is still known as this country’s naval epicentre. Flanked by the blue shimmer of the ocean and the jade-coloured mountains so typical of the Western Cape, Simon’s Town and its harbour truly are magnificent.
The locals are made up of a hotchpotch of people from all over the world. Some are descendents of the original indigenous folk, while others are travellers who fell in love with Simon’s Town and could never leave. This has made Simon’s Town particularly diverse in terms of its culture and heritage. It is young and vibrant, but also historically fascinating with a touch of Victorian nostalgia.
Due to the popularity of this vibrant town amongst international tourists, there are plenty of options for places to stay in Simons Town. These include excellent bed & breakfasts, guesthouses and hotels.
Boulders Beach is one of the beautiful attractions of Simon’s Town. This is a small beach covered in Cape granite boulders rounded by centuries of erosion. This beach is home to a huge colony of endangered African penguins, who amble around quite confidently. There are few other places in the world that offer tourists such an up-close experience with a land-based colony. Boulders Beach is part of SANParks and is protected as a valuable resource. Boardwalks and a viewing area have been constructed to allow visitors to get an optimal look at these animals without infringing on their habitat too much. Still, you are sure to meet up with a few friendly birds in the parking lot or on the swimming beach.
Jubilee Square is a popular hub, with plenty of restaurants and cafés, as well as shops and the famous statue of Just Nuisance. Just Nuisance was a Great Dane and the only dog ever formally enlisted in the Royal Navy. He made daily trips on the train, of his own accord, and was soon the sailors’ friend and companion. When he died at age seven, he was given full military honours.
The Simon’s Town Harbour is home to the Naval Museum as well as a number of fascinating vessels. Of course, enthusiasts will love the experience, but even those that know (or care) little about ships and submarines will find this an interesting find within beautiful surrounds.
The Heritage Museum is something very special. This tells the story of the Muslim culture that once occupied Simon’s Town, and the non-white people that were forcibly removed during the Apartheid regime. There are beautiful displays as well as different walking tours to various mosques in the town to see the remnants of this once-rich culture.
Other popular attractions in Simon’s Town include:
- Admiralty House
- The Dutch East India Company Hospital, dating back to 1764
- The Historical Mile along St George’s Street
- Game fishing and boat cruises
- Whale watching