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Simon’s Town – the forgotten naval base

Simon's Town

The Cape Town peninsula in South Africa features a few interesting and quaint villages. Starting at Muizenberg in the south, the road winds along the False Bay coast to St. James, Kalkbay, Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town. (The name False Bay comes from the days when ship-bound explorers mistook the bay as the southern tip of Africa, giving them false hope that they’ve turned this corner.)

Royal history

Simon’s Town has a rich history. As a natural harbour, the British Royal Navy once desperately fought to take control of it and it still serves as a naval base for the South African navy. Simon’s Town might seem stuck away in a southern corner of the peninsula, but there are surprisingly many things to do, in addition to just having lunch at one of the restaurants serving seafood.

If you like being in touch with the sea, there is kayaking. You can go on a 2-hour trip in a stable sit-on-top kayak from a basin in front Bertha’s landing (a restaurant and small harbour), to the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. This colony is a unique experience and you won’t find many places in the world where you can sit and study (or even swim among) penguins.

Museums

The Dockyard Magazine was once occupied by the Royal Navy’s South Atlantic Squadron and now houses an excellent naval museum. You will find lifeboats, uniforms, photographs, paintings of epic naval battles and even a Wasp helicopter suspended from the roof. Another museum worth visiting is the Warrior Toy Museum, packed with 4000 model cars and trucks, hundreds of dolls, military dioramas and a working model railway.

Lunch

You don’t have to stick to Simon’s Town for lunch. Instead, you can explore the False Bay coast back towards Muizenberg by taking the Mellow Yellow water taxi from the Simon’s Town waterfront. It runs to Kalk Bay and you stand a good chance of spotting the odd whale or two on the way. At Kalk Bay, Kalky’s is the best way to experience fish and chips while you watch the fishing boats going about their business.

Simon’s Town is often on the back burner even for locals, but no one should underestimate this pretty village with wonderful views of False Bay and towards Cape Point.