Hotels in and around the Simons Town suburb
Simon's Town is a well-known naval base situated just 40 minutes (by car) from Cape Town's city centre. It is steeped in historical abundance, telling the stories of the lives and travels of the sailors that have frequented it for centuries. In addition, local Africans had also made this area their home. As the two shared the space and resources, Simon's Town became defined by its multicultural heritage.
Nestled between False Bay and the gorgeous mountains of the Western Cape, Simon's Town is a relaxed and beautiful venue from which to explore South Africa in luxurious comfort.
Situated along the coast, Simon's Town is great for water-lovers. Humpback and Southern Right whales pass these shores during spring and summer, and a huge colony of penguins characterises the shoreline. There are several guesthouses and B&B's in this town, catering for all visitor needs – from budget accommodation to more opulent lodgings. Restaurants dot the main street and harbour, providing stunning views of the ocean, complemented by world-class cuisine.
South Africa's national flower is the Protea, and it was in Simon's Town that this species was first discovered in its natural habitat. Robert Brown was the esteemed botanist who delved deeper into this plant after he first saw it in 1801.
When Dutch governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, declared this bay a safe winter harbour in 1687, it was named Simon's Vlek after him. It eventually became the Royal Naval Base and the home of the South Atlantic Squadron when the second British occupation occurred in 1806. When Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled at St Helena Island, this squadron was granted the responsibility of his care. By 1910, the harbour and the Selborne dry dock had been completed, and Simon's Town played a significant role as a harbour and repair station for ships in World War II. Today, there are several museums, shops and monuments that refer to this bygone era, lending Simon's Town an old-world charm and rich cultural heritage.
Simon's Town is about 40 minutes' drive from Cape Town's city bowl, depending on traffic. The drive itself is scenic as the roads wind between ocean and mountainside, providing the best of both views. The roads are safe and well indicated.
Should you require a taxi, call a reputable service to organise one or request that your hotel or tour operator does this for you. Do not make use of the minibus taxis in South Africa, unless you are comfortable and familiar with local customs and languages.
Cape Town International Airport has been revamped in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. This means that it is even better equipped to handle large numbers of flights and visitors with efficiency and safety foremost in mind.
Because of Simon's Town's situation along the coast, water sports enthusiasts are well rewarded. These waters are full of marine wonders, one of the most impressive of which is the sharks. Shark cage diving is a popular activity and the many professional companies that offer it have much experience in the safest and optimal viewing methods. Visitors are sent into the water in a cage while sharks are lured using food. From the safety of this wire box, one can witness the power and beauty that have instilled fear in the heart of many an able seaman.
Boulders Beach is home to a colony of African penguins in astounding numbers, exceeding several thousand. The population was propagated by breeding, as well as by migration from the nearby Dyer Island (usually to fulfil feeding requirements). Boulders Beach belongs to the Cape Peninsula National Park, which controls the movement of the birds (who once held free reign and became rather pesky). Visitors are encouraged to swim amongst these marine birds and enjoy their humorous antics up close and personal.
Because of its wealth of historical significance, Simon's Town is home to many museums and sights that reveal secrets of the past. The Dutch East India Company Hospital is one of these, and dates back to 1764, when it was built on the face of one of the mountains. It was here that many a sailor and explorer was cared for during their trips to and around South Africa. The Simon's Town Museum is fascinating, as is The South African Naval Museum in the Mast House (1815), which focuses on maritime developments.
Visitors to South Africa are urged to apply a high-factor sunscreen at all times. In addition, wear a sunhat and light, cotton clothing that covers the neck and shoulders, particularly during midday. Try to avoid being outdoors, and certainly on the beach, between 10h00 and 14h00.
It is advised that you bring your prescriptions for spectacles and medication so that you can restock at a local pharmacy without having to consult with a doctor. Ensure that your tetanus shots are up-to-date as some areas are fraught with litter, including broken glass, cans and metal.
Simon's Town is a small village outside of the major city centre of Cape Town. However, caution should be exercised, particularly at night. Do not walk around on your own, or while carrying large amounts of money or equipment (camera, etc...)
When on the beaches, always apply strict water safety rules and listen to the lifeguards on duty.