In years gone by, when sailing fleets from Europe called
in at the Cape, they soon discovered that Table Bay was extremely dangerous
during the winter months, with gale force northwesterly winds causing many a
shipwreck on the lee shore.
While exploring the peninsula Governor Simon van der
Stel discovered the bay which he named Simon's Bay after himself. He then ordered
that all sailing ships visiting the Cape during winter should anchor in the
Bay for safety reasons. Goods were off loaded and transported through to Cape
Town by cart and wagon. When the British forces first took the Cape in 1795,
their ships also found refuge in Simon's Bay.
The long association with the Dutch East India Company,
and British and South African naval forces, have given the town a very unique
character. For centuries Simon's Town has offered friendly hospitality to local
and foreign visitors. This long tradition has been maintained to the present
day, with efficient and friendly accommodation establishments, pubs and restaurants
to be found throughout the town.
The main attractions of Simon's Town are easily accessible
from the main road that runs through the town. The most popular is Boulders
Beach National Park with its unique land based African penguin colony just to
the south of the town. Boardwalks take visitors down to Foxy Beach where several
thousand of these delightful birds can be observed close up. Penguins also swim
amongst the bathers in the sheltered coves of nearby Boulders Beach.
At the centre of the town is Jubilee Square with its
tall palm trees and the proud statue of Able Seamen Just Nuisance, the famous
Great Dane, once the mascot of the Royal Navy. During the Second World War A.B.
Just Nuisance befriended the visiting sailors and was an inspiration to many.
His name and legend still lives on today with the 1st April each year (his birthday)
known as Just Nuisance Day. Just Nuisance Day is celebrated in grand style with
a parade of Great Danes and other dogs through the town to Jubilee Square.
The Simon's Town waterfront below Jubilee Square overlooks
the yacht basin and town pier. Boat trips along the shore and into the naval
harbour provide and interesting introduction to the town and its rich history
as well as a glimpse of the South African Navy with its modern fleet of ships.
Trips on powerful motor launches are also available to Seal Island and Cape
Point. Sail boat charters out in the bay also offer sunset cruises.
Every year, in autumn, the SA Navy holds its festival
when the dockyard and naval vessels are opened to the public. The Penguin Festival
in spring is also a highlight in the town's events calendar.
For those with an interest in history, there are four
museums in the town. The Simon's Town Museum, in the historic Residency Building
of 1777, one is able to explore the history of the town in more detail. The
museum arranges guided walks along the historic mile and the cobbled lanes past
many historic buildings including the Mosque and beautiful churches.
The S.A. Naval Museum situated in the Mast House (1815)
and identified by its distinctive clock tower has a fascinating display of maritime
history particularly of the Royal and South African Navies. There is also a
submarine diorama and many other working exhibits on display.
The Heritage Museum in King George Way is a showcase
of the rich Muslim culture, which exists in the town.
As a contrast for children of all ages, there is the
Warrior Toy Museum situated in the Town Hall. This has a unique collection of
toys old and new and includes collections of dinky toys.
There is a wide choice of restaurants in the town, offering
steaks, fish, pizza and even fine French cuisine. Several of these restaurants
are situated in the waters edge with wonderful sea and harbour views.
Souvenirs and treasures old and new can be found in
many of the curio shops and art galleries lining the winding main street. Stylish
boutiques offer locally designed clothing. The historic Albertyn Stables (1799)
below the Main Street house the Bronze Age foundry and numerous fine sculptures
are on display in the shady garden.
There are many opportunities for sport and leisure activities
within the town. These include golf, squash and bowls at the Country Club, with
angling, scuba diving and sea kayaking along the sea shore and also departing
from the town jetty. The mountains above the town and in the Cape Point Reserve
offer many enjoyable hiking trails.
The presence of the Southern Right and other whales
during the months June to November offer the visitor spectacular sightings of
these great sea mammals either from shore or from boats departing from the town
No matter what time of the year you decide to visit
Simon's Town, you can be guaranteed a memorable experience.