The Perfect Holiday
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Join the Navy - See the Penguins
This charming naval town is steeped in history and tradition. Named after the governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel - upon whose recommendation the Bay was used by the Dutch East India Company for winter anchorage the main focus of the town is, of course, its naval base.
Simon's Town was seized from the Dutch by Britain's Royal Navy in 1814, who used it as their South Atlantic station until handing it to the South African Navy in 1957 - and this British influence is immediately apparent in the architecture of the town.
A number of excellent museums illustrate Simon's Town's naval and cultural heritage. For local history, visit the Simon's Town Museum - it's housed in 'The Residency' (1777) and offers regular walking tours of the historic town centre. The Heritage Museum preserves the history of generations of Muslim residents of Simon's Town and also tells of their forced removal from the area under the apartheid regime. The South African Naval Museum houses a submarine diorama and is the custodian of the Mortello Tower, which is one of the oldest surviving Corsican-pattern towers in the world and can be visited, by special arrangement, in groups of 10 or more.
And, of course, no child - of any age - should miss the Warrior Toy Museum, with its permanent displays of dolls and tin soldiers, miniature cars and trains.
Able Seaman Just Nuisance, one of South Africa's most famous canine friends, was a Great Dane who become the darling of Royal Navy ratings during the Second World War. Remembered for his intelligence, his fondness for pub-crawling with seamen and his uncanny knack of getting them back to base again when they were a few too many sheets to the wind - Just Nuisance is buried at Klaver Camp. His grave overlooks the Bay and is marked with a headstone that bears testimony to the love and esteem in which he was held. A bronze statue of Just Nuisance has pride of place on Jubilee Square.
Other historic sites include the Church of St Francis (the country's oldest Anglican church) and the Roman Rock Lighthouse (commissioned in 1861, it is the country third oldest lighthouse in the country and the only one in South Africa that's built on a rock). For more about the historic buildings of the town, pick up a detailed map from the information office in St George's Street and walk the Simon's Town Historical Mile.
If you're after outdoor activities, there's plenty for the adventurous: snorkeling at Long Beach, scuba diving in the many coves of Simon's Town - Froggy Pond - Millers Point area, deep sea angling with experienced charter operators, boat-based whale watching, golf and swimming (visit Miller's Point for its recreation area and tidal pool).
For more sedate entertainment, take a cruise around the naval dockyard aboard 'Spirit of Just Nuisance' (daily departures from Simon's Town's Waterfront Jetty) or enjoy one of the many restaurants at the Waterfront or along Main Rood. And for shopoholics, the Main Rood, Jubilee Square and the Waterfront Complex present a terrific variety of curio and specialty stores.
In Simon's Town you can visit one of only two breeding colonies of Jackass penguins on the African mainland, with access from either Seaforth or Boulders Beach. The larger part of the colony - at Foxy Beach - is reached by following a bridle path along the shore-line, and a boardwalk extends onto the beach to allow visitors an up-close encounter with this endangered bird species. They're endearing little creatures and nest just above the beaches along the coast, so you could well experience on encounter with some of them whenever you're enjoying the excellent sunbathing or swimming anywhere along Simon's Town's coast.
Dido Valley Road's Mineral World is a favourite destination with fascinating tours through a gemstones tumbling factory, scratch patch for the whole family to enjoy and an unusual jewellery and gift shop.
Annual Events: The Navy Festival takes place each year in March and April. This spectacular showcase for South Africa's Navy - where exhibitions, demonstrations, drills. night shoots and fun runs are just a few of the many activities and attractions - is a must-do outing for the entire family.
Simon's Town's traditional New Year's Eve party is held in Jubilee Square and this is the party at which to see and be seen. With the Main Road's party lights sparkling for the occasion, thousands of revellers gather to enjoy music and celebrations and side-walk cafes ensure that you are never short of refreshments as you party the night away.
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