Do you remember those long road trips, when you left home in the early hours of the morning, stopped along the way for a picnic with cucumber and egg sandwiches and over-sweet coffee, breaking overnight at a Karoo farm, and went to bed with a tummy full of lamb and roast potatoes?
The pandemic has made us all hanker after these simple and comforting experiences. If you’re still dilly-dallying about your next holiday and are cautious about air travel, then consider road tripping to the best kept secret destination, where nature and adventure meet at the tip of Africa in the coastal village of Simon’s Town.
A mere 45 minutes drive from Cape Town, 30 minutes from the wonderful Constantia vineyards, 10 minutes from Cape Point, and 20 minutes from great Atlantic surfing beaches, Simon’s Town is an ideal base from which to explore, where you’ll find a range of world-class accommodation, from boutique hotels, guesthouses or B&Bs, and self-catering establishments, to camping at Miller’s Point, with magnificent views from many vantage points.
The Marine Big Five is one of the town’s great assets which can be enjoyed through a variety of water sports and activities, from water bikes and kayaking, scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing to shark expeditions, and boat trips to view the Southern Right and Humpback whales, dolphins, seals, and the renowned African Penguin colony at Boulders Beach.
If the acclaimed Netflix documentary, Octopus Teacher resonates with you, then enjoy snorkelling in one of the world’s most pristine kelp forests close by – soon to be featured in a new documentary entitled “The Great African Seaforest”. If you or one of your family members are an aspiring marine biologist, then join the international research centre for the day where you’ll be introduced to the marine life of South Africa, learn how to ID fish and shark species and collect data alongside marine biologists working on an international database collaboration. And if this isn’t enough there are fabulous pelagic birding trips that go out way beyond Cape Point in search of the amazing array of Albatrosses.
Another proud accolade of Simon’s Town is the environmental status that includes an International Blue Flag Marina at False Bay Yacht Club, and Simon’s Bay which, as part of the unique gateway to the False Bay coastline, was made a Mission Blue Marine “Hope Spot” in 2014.
The picturesque village of Simon’s Town boasts a wealth of historic and strategic places of interest and has been a naval base and harbour for more than two centuries circa 1650. The harbour and main street is a wonderful places to ramble, with interesting museums, boutiques and good restaurants, with fresh seafood, artisanal coffee and decadent patisserie. You can also book guided driving, walking or hiking experiences along the coast or in the mountains and there are magnificent cycling routes which criss-cross the southern peninsula and extend into Cape Point National Park.
For the aspirant golfers, there are world-class courses close by at Westlake and Clovelly and Simon’s Town’s own very challenging links course. If lazy days of sun-tanning and swimming are your things, then kick back on one of the small and beautiful hidden alcove beaches that stretch from Seaforth along the coast to beyond Millers Point and enjoy the hot summer days and azure seascapes.
Other family entertainment includes nearby mini indoor Cave-golf at Scratch Patch Mineral World, and the thrilling and famous night-time historical ghost tour through the centre of town past the wall of remembrance and ending in the historic burying ground where The Unknown Seafarer lies.
There are wonderful stopovers en route to Cape Town, such as the environs of Bloemfontein, Colesberg, Graff Reinet, Beaufort West, Ladysmith, Robertson and Prince Albert, where you’ll find a range of accommodation in towns and on farms and game reserves, which range from rustic, conventional to quirky and chic.
Make Simon’s Town your home base and return at the end of your day to enjoy the beauty and tranquillity that this small historical gem has to offer.
Written by local resident, Patricia Pichulik