“Simonites” who live in this unique and attractive town will affirm that the best times of the year in Simon’s Town are the early and late winter months. These are the months when the rest of the Cape Peninsula is cold, wet and windy!

The secret lies in the fact that Simon’s Town is one of only three or four sea-side towns in South Africa that are north-facing, and Simon’s Bay is also sheltered from the strong north-west winter winds by the Cape Peninsula mountain chain on its northern and western aspects.

The climatic advantages of this sheltered bay, compared to the storm ravaged Table Bay, were appreciated by Simon van der Stel when in 1687 he personally surveyed and named Simon’s Bay. His recommendation to the Dutch East India Company (VOC), that Simon’s Bay become the winter harbour for their ships, was only implemented in 1744 after many sailing ships had been storm-wrecked in Table Bay. The Royal Navy also appreciated the safe shelter of Simon’s Bay and moved the headquarters of the Cape Fleet there in 1814. Simon’s Town has remained the main South African Naval Base ever since.

The historic village faces the sheltered bay with its placid waters which change colour with the tides and temperatures of the sea, or reflect the pale pink and silver shades of sunset. In winter the sun rises in splendid morning colours over the Hottentots-Holland Mountains across False Bay, and bathes Simon’s Town in warm winter sunshine for a far longer day than in most other places in the Cape Peninsula.

Of course it does rain occasionally in winter, but the long, cold and dreary days, associated with the Cape in winter are few. Even the strong, sometimes gale-force, north-west winds do not cause the havoc and damage seen along the Atlantic coast and in Table Bay.

The residents of Simon’s Town therefore seldom find it necessary to light a home fire or indoor heater in winter. In the mornings they sit on their sun-filled balconies overlooking the calm waters of Simon’s Bay, the busy harbour and the yacht basin. When the rain does come, it is usually very welcome!

The town centre is quiet in winter and parking is not a problem! Some residents may appreciate the absence of tourists, but most are happy to share this secret season and to welcome our visitors all year round.

What is there to do in Simon’s Town in the so-called off-season? For a start, Simon’s Town offers a large selection of restaurants and places to stay. There are two excellent hotels in Simon’s Town and a third in Glencairn, while numerous B&B or self-catering establishments offer a wide choice of alternative accommodation. Most are listed on this website. The town also offers a wide selection of excellent restaurants from five-star establishments to casual dining at smaller eateries, or “fish and chips” on the town jetty.

Winter is a time for walking, and from Simon’s Town you can walk south along the sea shore towards Cape Point, or north towards Fish Hoek and Muizenberg. The more energetic can walk up the Red Hill road, or via mountain steps, to the signal station and Just Nuisance’s grave on the plateau above the town. Long Beach provides a wonderful walk at sunset or the early morning, and a walk along Willis Way will take you past the Penguins, Boulders Beach and the Golf Course, with changing views across False Bay.

The Historic Mile, extending from the railway station to the Old Burying Ground, is a gentle one and a half kilometre walk. It passes many historic buildings such as Admiralty House and the newly-restored Palace Barracks, the ornate dockyard gates, the British Hotel and Jubilee Square, the centre of the town with a wonderful view over the yacht basin, and the life-size statue of that famous dog, Just Nuisance!

Along the way you will find inviting places to enjoy a cup of coffee, or a pancake, and perhaps take time to browse in several antique and curio shops. From Jubilee Square the road ascends slightly to pass the Dutch Reformed Church, where the music of the original South African Anthem, “Die Stem” was composed. The Historic Mile ends at the Old Burying Ground on the right with a fine view of the Harbour and the Martello Tower on the left. The Old Burying Ground which dates from 1813 has many graves of historic interest, including those of Boer Prisoners of War, some of those who perished in the Birkenhead tragedy, and of many young seamen lost at sea. A little further on Seaforth road leads down to the penguin colony.

The South African Navy is an integral part of Simon’s Town and although the harbour and dockyard are closed to visitors, the comings and goings of our own ships and visiting vessels are visible from almost anywhere in the town, and dockyard tours are arranged from time to time. The colourful yacht basin, home of the False Bay Yacht Club, lies alongside the harbour and the old Cable Restorer, docked on the outer harbour wall with its restaurant, “The Roaring Forties”, is available for special functions.

Should inclement weather occur, this is an ideal time to visit one of our several museums. The Simon’s Town Museum in Court Road is one of the best small museums in the country and the Naval Museum alongside it is of special interest. There are also the Toy Museum and the Heritage Museum nearer the centre of the town. The Bronze Age Foundry has a superb gallery, where bronze castings of international standard are on exhibition and for sale, and there is also a permanent Art Gallery in the Quayside Centre. The Simon’s Town Public Library, situated on the main road opposite the Police station, has attractive reading rooms and a large collection of books and magazines.

For the more adventurous, what better than a trip on the Bay? The Spirit of Just Nuisance operating from the town jetty offers cruises with an excellent commentary around the inner bay and harbour. Boat trips to Seal Island, Cape Point & whale watching (June-November) leave from the same jetty. A guided kayaking excursion to visit the penguins by sea is also highly recommended. Visitors are always welcome at the Simon’s Town Country Club which offers bowls and squash and has a formidable golf links. There are several safe beaches where some intrepid Simonites swim all year round, despite the cold water!

Close to the town several interesting and scenic routes explore the “Deep South”. Red Hill road provides spectacular views over False Bay, and of Simon’s Town and the harbour lying in the shelter of the Simon’s Berg. At the top of Red Hill a road turns off to the signal station and the grave of Just Nuisance, and then winds down towards the Atlantic Ocean. An impressive array of very large stone sculptures for sale stands alongside the first T-junction and is well worth a visit.

From here one road leads straight on to the entrance of the Cape Point Nature Reserve and Cape Point, while the right hand fork brings you to the picturesque village of Scarborough and then along the seaboard, with the huge Atlantic rollers breaking below, to Kommetjie. Here it is worth visiting the impressively tall Slangkop Lighthouse, open to visitors, and also the famous Kommetjie surfers’ beach. The road continues in a north-westerly direction towards Fish Hoek, but you can turn right at the crossroads, and return to Simon’s Town via Glencairn.

Cape Point and the Nature Reserve can also be reached by simply continuing along the Simon’s Town main road passing the golf course and Miller’s Point, after which the road ascends to the Park entrance. Baboons are almost always encountered along this road. Enjoy their antics, but please do not feed or tease them!

The friendly people of Simon’s Town will be happy to share their secret season with you, whether it is as a day visitor or a longer stay. We know that you will be back, or perhaps even wish to join the many who have been fortunate enough to make Simon’s Town their home.

 

Source: simonstown.com

Visit the Cape Peninsula during our “secret season” (moderate temperatures, great sunsets, no crowds…) and take advantage of our Winter Special: 20% off B&B with complimentary Soup & Sherry by our fireplace.
(April – Sept). www.marinerguesthouse co.za – info@marinerguesthouse.co.za – 021 786 4528.

Boulders Beach

Enjoy a day lazing at Boulders Beach and see the world famous penguin colony. Take a dip in the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean and find yourself swimming with the Penguins. Just remember this area is a sanctuary for them and they and their environment should be treated with respect.

Boulders Beach is home to the African penguin, which has been hanging out along the South African coast for years, in more recent times living shoulder to knee-cap with the local human population of Simon’s Town. Named “jackass” after their distinctive Eeyore impersonations, they occur in only 27 other sites, including Robben Island, and despite their large numbers at Boulder’s (some 3000), they are very much endangered …

Fishermans Beach

You will find the sandy shores of Fishermans Beach between the Simon’s Town Golf Course and the very well known Boulder’s Beach, which is home to many penguins and is extrememly popular with locals and tourists. If you’d prefer something a little quieter than Boulders, head down to Fishermans Beach.

Fishermans beach is enclosed by green lawns which are great if you’d like to play some games with friends, or if you prefer the sound of the ocean but the feel of grass instead of sand you can enjoy the best of both worlds here.

The water is slightly warmer than its opposing Atlantic Ocean beaches and this allows for a wide variety of water sports. Paddle out into the shallow waters and glide back in on a body board or explore the further reaches of the ocean on a kayak.

Glencairn Beach

If you’re heading out to Simons Town on the train why not stop off at Glencairn and spend a few hours at the beach? This fantastic little spot is popular with locals who enjoy taking their dogs for walks or basking in the sun for the afternoon.

If you prefer driving to the beach you’ll be happy to know that there is plenty of parking close by, however you will need to walk across the railway line, so take extra care when crossing.

Glencairn beach is also a great spot for whale watching in season and the resident shark spotters keep visitors up to date with the activity in the water. Enjoy a long stroll on the beach or simply enjoy the serenity the beach offers. Children will enjoy their time here to when they investigate the living creatures in the shallow tidal pool.

Seaforth Beach

Seaforth is the ‘freebie’ version of Boulders beach – more than a few of the penguins venture across here from Boulders Beach, particularly early morning and evening. It lies closer to Fish Hoek than Boulders, and has only Waters Edge beach between it and the former.

Seaforth is a beautiful beach, set in amongst a series of boulders and with a serious parking area, where a few traders sell their wares, and there is a restaurant. But it’s a fairly popular beach too, particularly during summer, because it’s a great swimming beach for children, so families head down here to camp out for much of the day.

The grassy slopes that overlook the beach are, understandably, the first spots to go because they’re so great for picnicking; some of them under trees. Get there early.

Smitswinkel Bay Beach

The Smitswinkel Bay Beach can be found, although not that easily as it isn’t very easy to access, just past Simons Town and next to the Cape Point Nature Reserve. You will only get to the beach on foot, so this is not suitable if you’re not fit as the walk is at least 15 minutes long.

The effort however, is well worth it! Because it is secluded this means it is quieter than many of the other Cape Town beaches and you’ll enjoy a peaceful day at the beach, should you choose. Take in the magnificent views of both the bay and the mountain. If you prefer to be a little more active on your beach day get involved in some of the activity as this bay is popular for diving, fishing and snorkeling. But remember since you’re walking to the beach you’ll need to carry all of your own gear!

The water is relatively gentle here so perfect for a mid afternoon dip to cool down. But please be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty here, so you will need to be extra careful when in the water.

Waters Edge Beach

This off the beaten track beach is one of the local secrets. Head off in a southerly direction from Southforth beach, Simonstown (i.e. veer right when the grassy verge behind the restaurant is in front of you), and you’ll find the path and sign for Water’s Edge beach.

It involves entering via what looks like a garden gate, which makes it appear to be a private beach, which it isn’t. The other way to reach it is along the sand and boulders via Seaforth. The beach may be regarded as part and parcel of Boulders beach but actually it lies between Seaforth Beach and Boulders, and most people know nothing about it.

The bay here is a wonderful haven for children, particularly the rock pools filled with star fish. It makes for wonderful swimming and snorkeling, and diving off the boulders adds a thrill’. But shhh, don’t tell anyone about it!

 

 

Source: SAVenues.com

 

 

 

South Africa may be known for its Big Five, but the marine wildlife is just as impressive! Every year, southern right whales take a vacation in Cape waters, treating Cape Town locals to a display of breaching, fluking, spouting, and spyhopping.
Here’s what you need to know:

What you can expect to see

Of the whale species seen in the waters around the Cape, southern right whales are the most common. However, you might also get a chance to see humpback whales and Bryde’s whales.

Southern right whales: Long before they became a protected species in 1935, southern right whales were considered the ‘right whales’ to hunt because of their slow swimming speeds and the fact that their carcasses float. Their slow speeds also make them the ‘right’ whales to watch!

Southern right whales can be distinguished by the callosities (rough patches of skin covered in barnacles) on their heads as well as their long arching mouths and characteristic double blowhole. They average 15m in length and can weigh a whopping 60 tons! The whales migrate annually from Antarctica to the coast around Cape Town to calve their offspring. They usually arrive in June and stay until November.

Humpback whales: Humpback whales, with their obvious humps, knobbly heads, and long pectoral fins, can also be seen in Cape waters during their migration from the polar regions to Mozambique and Madagascar where they breed and give birth.  You are most likely to catch a glimpse of them between May and November. A friendly species, humpback whales can sometimes be seen interacting with southern right whales and bottlenose dolphins.

Bryde’s whales: Although they are the only species of whale that is present in South African waters all year round, Bryde’s whales can be tricky to spot because they tend to dive for long periods of time before resurfacing only briefly. Named after a Norwegian consul who helped set up the first whaling station in Durban, these whales haven’t received much attention from scientists… mostly because they are difficult to find! You are most likely to spot these shy whales between the West Coast and Port Elizabeth. Look out for a large, sleek, dark grey body with white on the underside, and three ridges near the blowhole.

whale_watching_in_cape_town (2)

Best places to watch the whales

False Bay: If you don’t feel like travelling far, there are a few great whale-watching spots near the city of Cape Town. Opt for the higher vantage points along the False Bay coastline such as Cape Point, Boyes Drive between St James and Kalk Bay, and Clarence Drive between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els. During the whale-watching season, you might even be lucky enough to spot them close up if you take the train trip from Muizenberg to Simon’s Town.

Hermanus: Rated as one of the top 12 whale-watching locations in the world by the World Wildlife Fund, Hermanus offers some fine land-based viewing opportunities because the whales often come within metres of the shoreline. There are viewing terraces at the Old Harbour, and Gearings Point is a popular spot. During the whale watching season, a Whale Crier alerts watchers to the presence of whales by blowing on a kelp horn. To fully immerse yourself in the whale experience, visit Hermanus during the first week of October when the seaside town hosts an annual whale festival—a celebration of all things cetacean.

Cape Agulhus: Up to 50 pairs of southern right cows and calves have been known to frolic in the ocean near the southernmost tip of Africa. The Whale Trail, a five-day hike along the cliffs, dunes, and beaches, gives you a wonderful opportunity to view these mighty mammals and their offspring.

Whale_watching_in_cape_town

Getting up close and personal

While the Cape coastline offers many fantastic land-based viewing opportunities, it is an entirely different experience to get close to these magnificent creatures in the ocean.

Dyer Island Cruises: Departing from Kleinbaai harbour near Gaansbaai, this tour operator offers cruises to Dyer Island, which is located 8km from the shore. During the two-hour trip, you will see a variety of bird species, including African Penguins, as well as Cape fur seals. The guides know where all the best whale-viewing spots are and have even catalogued seeing the same whales year after year! The peak season is from July to December, and southern right whales are pretty much guaranteed between August and November.

Website:www.whalewatchsa.com

Simon’s Town Boat Company Your best bet, if you are hoping to do some boat-based whale watching in False Bay, is the Simon’s Town Boat Company. The whale tours are operated by Ocean View Masiphumelele Fishing and depart daily from Simon’s Town at 10:30am and 2pm. Booking is advised.

Website:www.boatcompany.co.za

Source: capetowntravel

Dive festival during the day and St George’s Festival Night Market later. A great weekend to look forward to at the end of April.
Stay over and get 20% off at Mariner Guesthouse: info@marinerguesthouse.co.za / 021 786 4528.


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