When we excitedly planned our trip to Cape Town, we didn’t specifically aim to be in Simon’s Town. We originally wanted to be closer to Cape Town proper, while having easy access to the beach. This was end of year and it is high season in South Africa. Prices were higher and places filled up quickly, so when we found a place in Simon’s Town’s which fit our budget and looked completely stunning from the pictures, we took it right away. It was a decision we never regretted. The more we explored the area in the (way too short) two weeks that followed, the more we were convinced that we couldn’t have been situated in a better spot. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. The town itself
We stayed at a wonderful B&B called The Boat House (which we rented as self-catering), which provided excellent home base for the trip. It has a balcony with the spectacular view of the whole False Bay, within walking distance from the town and comes with an indoor pool and a game room. I wrote more about the property on another post on our top holiday stay.
The town of Simon’s Town is small, and while it’s got its share of day tourists going to the popular Boulders Beach, it still felt mostly low key and local. There are several shops to get simple supplies in town, and there’s a market going on everyday in front of the quay. It’s got plenty of eating out options as well, from the cheap and cheerful Salty Dogs fish and chips kiosk by the quay, the ever-popular Bertha’s, or more upmarket options up around the golf course or Miller’s Point. We had to drive out of town to the bigger supermarkets to get real groceries, but we didn’t have to do it very often.
When we didn’t feel like driving, we simply walked to town, took a stroll and checked the small shops in town. The friendly local kids also let The Kid swam with them at some point, which she enjoyed a lot (and I could tell she was happy to be able to swim well, and to be able to speak English with them).
2. Boulders Beach and other local beaches
The most popular beach in Simon’s Town is undoubtedly the iconic Boulders Beach with its huge boulders and penguins. You have to pay to get in, but it was such a special beach where you could see the penguins up close, spot a dassie or two, or explore above and below the boulders. The Kid absolutely loved to climb all the rocks in addition to taking a dip in the sea (which I found too cold for my liking, but she didn’t care).
But Simon’s Town also have other beaches, such as Long Beach (sandy and flat, popular with dog owners and local families, especially on the weekend), Seaforth beach (a smaller, but safe beach for children), and Fisherman’s beach (a bit out of town, but quite popular with tourists and locals alike).
3. Atlantic Rail Scenic train
There were two things I regretted not doing while I was in South Africa. One is not going up the Table mountain because the clouds made it impossible the whole time we were there, and not taking the Atlantic Rail Scenic train ride from Simon’s Town station. I’m not very sure why I never did it even though I was aware of the possibility at the time. It could be because I caught a nasty cold that lasted 4-5 days I was there and preferred to be driven around while I was feeling wrecked, or but it could also be from the fact that these trains can be fully booked weeks ahead. But if you’re ever somewhere between Simon’s Town and Cape Town, the Atlantic Rail Scenic train is a visually stunning and relaxing way of getting anywhere between the terminal stations. The train station is not far from the city center, just in front of Long beach, but do book ahead, though, the trains are not big, and they are hugely popular.
4. Scratch Patch & Mineral World
Only 3 km away from Simon’s Town is the Scratch Patch and Mineral World. I think their main business is the shop where you can buy almost everything imaginable made of gem stones. But for The Kid and I, we just loved the whole floor area covered in semi precious stones. You can buy a bag in the size of your choice, and go ahead and fill it with whichever tumble-polished rocks you fancied from the patch. It’s a fun and educational experience for us all, and it makes for a great activity in bad weather as well, as the area is covered.
5. If local beaches are not enough, there are plenty others every direction you go
There’s a beach for everybody in Cape Peninsula. From the family friendly white sands of Fish Hoek and Muizenberg, dramatic surfs of Scarborough beach, surfing paradise of Kommetjie, to the trendy beach of Camps Bay. I’ve written about our favourites in an earlier post here.
6. Seal island
There were many boat tours on offer from the town harbour, but The Kid wasn’t interested in sharks and opted for the seal island instead. The island is 16 km away, the trip by boat gave us an interesting view of Simon’s Town from the water side, and the seal island itself was a rock full of frolicking seals. The boat got us as close as safely possible to the island, close enough that you can smell them (which to be honest, pretty stinky), but far enough not to run over any seals swimming around it.
7. Cape Point National Park
Cape Point National Park and the tip of Cape of Good Hope is 24 km away from Simon’s Town. Even though it’s not the southernmost tip of Africa, it’s still an impressive landmark to see. The park itself, which you have to drive through to get to the lighthouse, is abound with wildlife such as baboon and zebra (we didn’t spot the zebra, though), and on the right season, you can also spot whales from the cliff.
8. The wine route starts here
For a sip of the vast wine route of South Africa, the closest wine estates of Constantia are only 30 km away, which make a good start for onward trips to Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl. Aside from beautiful landscapes framed by rugged mountains and great wine, the wine routes are also famous for their fine restaurants.
9. Cape Town is around the corner
The vibrant city of Cape Town itself is only around 45 minute drive (around 40km) from Simon’s Town. We made several trips during our stay and it’s got so much things to do and see, from the colourful neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap, the busy shopping area of V&A waterfront, a quiet walk (or run, in case of The Kid) in the Company’s Garden, to climbing up the Table Mountain (which sadly we didn’t get the chance to do). After a day in the bustling city, it’s so nice to be able to retreat back to ‘our’ small town to unwind.
10. Every route is a scenic route
We did a lot of driving in South Africa, but it never felt as stressful as it would have been in other places, because everywhere we drove, there always some breath-taking views on the way and driving in a car was never boring. Even a trip to the supermarket involves driving along the coast and up the mountain. Going to Cape Town would mean going along the great Chapman’s Peak drive and Hout Bay. I don’t usually like being inside a car for too long, but this is an area best explored with your own vehicle.