By Sue Sturman Planning a day trip to Simon’s Town ? Here’s how best to use your time:
Simon's Town, Cape Town, South Africa
As you approach the town, the first special place to visit is “Mineral World” (turn right at traffic lights into Dido Valley). This unique factory is the largest gem tumbling plant in the world. Visitors can watch an amazing range of gemstones being tumbled and polished. Superb gifts of jewellery and so forth are available at bargain prices at the factory shop. Very popular too (especially with children) is the “Scratch Patch” where visitors choose their own gemstones. [Allow 30 – 45 minutes] Returning to the Main Road, you pass the North Battery, on the sea side. This is the oldest gun battery in South Africa, and is still regularly used by the South African Navy.
Next to Simon’s Town rail station is Long Beach. Turn into Drie Gebroeders, a short lane named after the Dutch East India Company vessel stranded on this beach in 1792. Trek fishermen cast their nets daily from Long Beach and many visitors enjoy watching the nets being pulled in and fish sold on the spot.The road passes elegant Admiralty House with its superb gardens (unfortunately not open to the public). Turning left into Court Road at the historic St Francis Anglican Church, visitors will reach the Simon’s Town museum. It is situated in the former Governor’s House (the Residency) and the museum depicts the cultural history of the town including the Royal Navy links.
There are regular “ghost tours” of the prison cells. The Museum’s friendly ghost called Eleanor still appears regularly and is described as “a lady wearing a long dress.” If you need refreshment after this tour, there is a pleasant tearoom on the ample veranda with views across the dockyard and bay. [Allow 30 – 45 minutes]
The museum arranges two walking tours of the town: firstly the Historic Mile – the numerous old buildings lining the main St George’s Street: the second tour along the cobbled lanes includes the Simon’s Town Mosque. Cost: R10 per person. [Allow 1 hour]The Naval Museum in the Dockyard is also well worth a visit. The heart of the town is Jubilee Square dominated by the statue of “Just Nuisance”, the famous Great Dane who served faithfully in the Royal Navy in the Second World War. His birthday is celebrated every year with a parade of Great Dane dogs through the town. [Allow 15 minutes]
Just below the Square is the attractive Simon’s Town Waterfront. From the Simon’s Town Jetty the “Spirit of Just Nuisance” offers harbour cruises around the bay and into the S A Naval dockyard. This cruise provides an excellent introduction to Simon’s Town as waterfront historic buildings and landmarks are pointed out, and the impressive close-up view of naval vessels at anchor. Cost R15 per person. [Cruise time approximately 40 minutes]
The charter vessel “Nuisance Express” is available for trips to Cape Point [90 minutes] and Seal Island [60 minutes].
Between August and November, daily whale-Watching and eco-cruise tours to Seal Island depart at 11h00, weather permitting.Cost R250 for adults, R100 for children under 14). [Allow 3 hours]
Moving on through Simon’s Town you will see the Old Town Hall, built during the last war as the “Sailors and Soldiers Rest Room”. Here you will find the Warrior Toy Museum, a superb collection enjoyed by children of all ages. [Allow 30 minutes]
Turning down towards the sea into King George’s Way next to the Toy Museum, Amlay House, the visitor finds the Noorul Islam Cultural Museum. This collection highlights the rich Muslim culture of the town. Cost: Adults R2, Students R1, Children 50c. [Allow 30 minutes]Across the way the old Albertyn’s Stables Building, which houses a fine art gallery and the Bronze Age foundry. Tours and bronze pours are open to the public, but require advance booking. [Allow 30 minutes]
Travelling out of town towards Seaforth, the road passes the Dutch Reformed Church with its famous ‘Stem Pastorie’ where ‘Dominie’ de Villiers composed the music for the first South African national anthem, “Die Stem”.
No visit to Simon’s Town is complete without a stop at the famous Boulders Beach – home of the African penguins. Turn left opposite Simon’s Town School into Seaforth Road, and park at Seaforth Beach. A short stroll down Kleintuin Road leads to the National Parks Board Kiosk. The visitor pays R10 and follows the wooden boardwalk to view the penguin colony.
A short stroll along the Willis Walk passing Boulders Beach brings you to the Penguin Point Restaurant - and a sundown toast to Simon’s Town , its penguins, and the end of a perfect day!