Simon’s Town, often spelled Simonstown, is a historic gem nestled in the Western Cape of South Africa. As the site of the South African Navy’s largest base, Naval Base Simon’s Town, this town boasts a rich naval heritage stretching over two centuries. Perched on the picturesque shores of False Bay, on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula, Simon’s Town invites visitors to explore its multifaceted attractions.
The town is a haven for history enthusiasts, where they can observe these charming creatures in their natural habitat. The Cape Point Nature Reserve is another natural wonder, offering breathtaking views and diverse flora and fauna. Simon’s Town also presents the unforgettable experience of whale watching, a highlight for any visitor to this coastal haven. Whether you’re drawn to its historical significance, natural beauty, or the allure of marine adventure, Simon’s Town provides a perfect setting for a day of exploration and discovery.
1. Boulders Beach Penguin Colony
This enchanting destination, nestled within the Table Mountain National Park, offers visitors a rare opportunity to observe these endangered birds in their natural habitat. The colony, one of the few of its kind in the world, provides a unique experience with three pristine beaches, a dedicated area for penguin viewing, and three inviting boardwalks that meander through this protected area. Each step in Boulders Beach unravels the captivating world of the African Penguins, making it a must-visit destination for all.
Boulders Beach is more than just a habitat for penguins; it’s a perfect swimming spot, protected by ancient granite boulders that shield it from wind and waves, making it particularly suitable for children. As part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, the beach maintains high standards of cleanliness and safety and is generally uncrowded.
The African Penguins, once known as Jackass Penguins for their distinctive braying, are not just a delight to observe but also an important species in need of protection. Visiting Boulders Beach contributes to conservation efforts, as the funds help support SANParks’ penguin conservation programs.
Address: Simon’s Town, Cape Town
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: 021 786 2329
Also read: 5 marvellous coffee shops in Simon’s Town
2. Simon’s Town Museum
The museum, established as a community museum, is supported by the Government of the Western Cape Province. It not only highlights Simon’s Town’s significant maritime legacy but also showcases its diverse cultural history.
As a navy suburb, Simon’s Town’s museum naturally focuses on its maritime heritage. However, visitors can also delve into the town’s broader cultural and historical narratives, some of which are complex and thought-provoking. This compact museum is packed with historical treasures and is highly recommended for anyone visiting Simon’s Town. For a modest entrance fee of R20, and perhaps a small donation to support the facility, guests can enjoy an enlightening and enjoyable historical journey.
Address: Court Rd, Simon’s Town, Cape Town
Opening hours: Monday – Thursday; 10:00 am – 3:30 pm; Friday – Saturday, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm; Sunday, Closed
Contact: 021 786 3046
3. Admiral’s Waterfall
The Admiral’s Waterfall is a hidden gem that offers an enchanting adventure for those who seek it. A leisurely walk up from Barnard Street unveils this mesmerizing and secluded spot, complete with a pool and waterfall, providing a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle. Ideal for a picnic, it’s a picturesque location where visitors can enjoy the refreshing ambience and stunning views of Simon’s Town harbour. This secret haven is a call to explorers and nature lovers to discover its beauty and tranquility.
The journey to Admiral’s Waterfall can vary from a gentle walk to a more robust hike, depending on your starting point. In winter, the waterfall is particularly magnificent, with the water gushing down in a display of natural splendor. Hikers often include Signal Schools Steps and the dam beyond the viewpoint in their route. In the summer months, while the waterfall may be dry, the scenic vistas remain breathtaking. This spot is perfect for families with kids and pets, or anyone seeking a brief commune with nature. Although there are no facilities on the route, Simon’s Town nearby offers a variety of amenities to cater to visitors’ needs.
It’s advisable to be mindful of the baboons in the area and avoid carrying backpacks with food. Store your bags in the car to prevent any encounters with wildlife. The hike to the waterfall is relatively short, taking about 10-15 minutes, making it suitable for casual hikers and children. The views from the trail encompass the beautiful Simon’s Town harbour, the ocean, and the surrounding mountains, offering a splendid backdrop for your walk. On wet days, extra caution is advised due to slippery rocks and potential landslides. The Admiral’s Waterfall is more than just a destination; it’s an experience of nature’s beauty and tranquility, nestled in the heart of Simon’s Town.
Address: 37 Barnard St, Mount Pleasant, Cape Town
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, All hours
Also read: In pictures: Simon’s Town Boat Company treated to a killer whale hunt
4. Able Seaman Just Nuisance
Step into the heartwarming story of Just Nuisance, a Great Dane whose remarkable life unfolded during World War II in Simon’s Town, South Africa. In 1939, introduced by Benjamin Chaney, the owner of the United Service Institute, Just Nuisance became an iconic figure in this scenic town. Officially enlisted in the Royal Navy, stationed at the HMS Afrikander naval base, he was the only canine member of the naval forces. More than just a mascot to the sailors, Just Nuisance became a beloved companion, known for his strolls through town and his indulgences in pies, biscuits, and beer.
Simon’s Town itself is a place of stunning views and captivating architecture, offering a multitude of sights and experiences. Among these, the story of Just Nuisance stands out, drawing visitors to learn about this unique naval seaman. Fondly remembered by those who knew him, including the family of a Major in the Medical Corps during WWII, Just Nuisance was known for his gentle and loving nature. His story is not just of a dog but of a loyal friend to the sailors, often accompanying them from pubs to their bunks and even on trains to Cape Town, despite not having a ticket.
This habit of train-hopping without a ticket led to demands from railway officials for his owner to control him. The naval community, having adopted Just Nuisance as one of their own, rallied to his defense. The solution was elegant and heartwarming: enlistment into the Royal Navy. On 25th August 1939, Just Nuisance was signed up, with the paw mark as his signature. His enlistment not only solved the ticket issue but also made him an integral part of the naval forces. Remembered as a symbol of loyalty and camaraderie, Just Nuisance’s legacy continues to be celebrated in Simon’s Town, a testament to the extraordinary bond between humans and animals.
Address: St George’s St, Simon’s Town, Cape Town
Opening hours: Monday, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm; Tuesday; All hours
Contact: 021 786 3046
5. Scratch Patch Mineral World and cave golf
At Scratch Patch museum in Simon’s Town, visitors can immerse themselves in the mesmerizing world of rocks and minerals. This hands-on experience allows both children and adults to explore the wonders of the Earth’s crust by selecting and taking home their own gemstones. Guests are invited to purchase a bag, and then enjoy the thrill of searching for the perfect stones. This interactive and educational activity is complemented by the Scratch Patch shop, which offers a variety of unique items, including trinkets made from Grenadines and fossils. The experience is both relaxing and engaging, captivating visitors as they hunt for their own treasures.
Adjacent to this geological adventure is Cave Golf, an 18-hole miniature golf course ingeniously located inside a genuine cave. This unique setting provides an exciting backdrop for a round of golf, making it a thrilling experience for all ages. The historic military fort of Simons Town, with its tunnels and 19th-century gun batteries, adds a historical dimension to the visit. For those looking for more fun, the indoor Glow in the Dark putt-putt is a delightful attraction. After a day filled with discovery and play, guests can relax in the nearby tea room for refreshments. With something to offer for everyone, Scratch Patch museum and its surrounding attractions present a perfect blend of education and enjoyment for families visiting Simon’s Town.
Address: Dido Valley Rd, Simon’s Town, Cape Town
Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 4:45 pm; Saturday – Sunday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: 021 786 2020
6. South African Naval Museum
Explore the rich maritime heritage of South Africa at the South African Naval Museum in Simon’s Town. This extensive museum, spread across multiple levels and buildings, showcases a vast collection of authentic historical items and remodeled artifacts. Highlights include a dedicated submarine section and an impressive display of a complete firefighter truck and tank. The museum, offering free entry (with donations accepted), also features an operational chapel that hosts Anglican services and communion on Sundays. Carefully curated to appeal to the whole family, the museum presents an immersive experience into the country’s naval history.
The South African Naval Museum is somewhat of a hidden gem, with a discreet entrance and limited parking that may lead visitors to drive past it initially. Once inside, however, visitors are treated to a remarkable collection that spans South African naval involvement in World Wars I and II. The museum doesn’t shy away from the realities of war, showcasing torpedoes, a helicopter, ship guns, model ships, and even a chapel. Officer Precious deserves a special mention for her excellent guidance. Open until 15:00, the museum not only educates but also impresses with its thoughtful displays and organization, making it an incredible visit for anyone interested in naval history or simply looking to explore a beautifully curated space.
Address: St George’s St, Simon’s Town, Cape Town, 7995
Follow us on social media for more travel news, inspiration, and guides. You can also tag us to be featured.
TikTok | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
Also read: 10 Best Places to visit in Stellenbosch