8 Things to do at Simons Town – The Forgotten Naval Base

Things to do at Simon’s Town – The Forgotten Naval Base
Things to do at Simon’s Town – The Forgotten Naval Base

Simon’s Town is a town located on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is situated about 50 kilometres south of Cape Town. The town is home to the South African Navy and is a popular tourist destination due to its historical and scenic attractions.


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

Royal history
Royal history

Simons 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 of Bertha’s landing (a restaurant and small harbor) 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.

8 Things to do at Simons Town

Following are the things to do at Simons Town:

1. Simons Town Museum

Simon’s Town Museum
Simon’s Town Museum

Situated just outside Cape Town, Simons Town is a historic naval town with a rich cultural heritage. The “Residency,” constructed in 1777 as the Cape’s winter residence for the Governor of the Dutch East India Company, is now home to the Simon’s Town Museum. The Simon’s Town Historical Society founded the Simon’s Town Museum in 1977. The Museum was first housed in the old Simon’s Town Municipality complex before being relocated to “The Residency” in 1982.

Over the years, the structure has served as a hospital, post office, school, customs house, police station, gaol, and magistrate’s court. The Simon’s Town Museum collects and displays the cultural history of Simon’s Town and its connections with the Dutch East India Company and the Royal Navy. Visitors can explore the Museum’s exhibitions and learn about the town’s fascinating history. Simon’s Town is also home to several military bases and museums, making it a popular tourist destination and things to do in Simons Town for history buffs.

2. South African Naval Museum

South African Naval Museum
South African Naval Museum

Simons Town, located on the Cape Peninsula in South Africa, is home to various things to see and do. One such place is the South African Naval Museum. The museum honours the history of the nation’s navies and is located in Simon’s Town, South Africa’s principal naval port. A life-size submarine control room, naval guns, torpedoes, and other items provide glimpses into contemporary naval operations.

If you enjoy hearing about heroic acts performed at sea or want to see what it’s like, inside a submarine, the South African Naval Museum should be your next stop. Just try not to ring any brass bells dotted throughout the museum! The South African Naval Museum is one of the most popular things to do in Simons Town and high on the list of attractions in Cape Town, but it’s not everyone can get there. There are some sections outside and up at higher levels where access may be difficult for older people or those with disabilities – like Middle North Battery!

3. Able Seaman Just Nuisance

Able Seaman Just Nuisance
Able Seaman Just Nuisance

Just Nuisance, a Great Dane, is the only canine that has been recognized as an official member of the Royal Navy. During World War II, he served with HMS Afrikander, a Royal Navy naval base in Simon’s Town, South Africa, between 1939 and 1944.

His owner, Benjamin Chaney, who ran the United Service Institute, a popular hangout for sailors from the Royal Navy, brought him to Simon’s Town as a puppy in 1939.

He soon became a familiar figure around town, taken for walks and treated to pies, biscuits, and even beer by the sailors, to whom he became a kind of mascot. So naturally, the dog grew fond of sailors – all sailors – and followed them everywhere, including the naval base, dockyards, and even onto the ships. He wasn’t a small dog – he was large even for a Great Dane – but when he started lounging around at the top of the gangplank, he blocked the way, earning him the nickname ‘Nuisance.’

4. Admirals Waterfall

Admirals Waterfall-Simon's Town
Admirals Waterfall

There are plenty of things to do in Simons Town, and one of the best is to visit the Admiral’s Waterfall. The waterfall is hidden away at the top of a ravine, and to get there you have to walk up a slight incline that begins at the end of Barnard Street. As you round a sharp bend, the sight of the deep ravine will immediately grab your attention. Up top is where you’ll find the hidden pool and waterfall. It’s a great spot for a picnic, and you’ll be able to take in the breathtaking views of Simon’s Town harbour while you’re there.

5. Simon’s Town Ghost Walk Tour

Simon’s Town Ghost Walk Tour-Simon's Town
Simon’s Town Ghost Walk Tour

Local tour guide Andre Leibbrandt came up with the idea for ghost walks through Simons Town six years ago to generate extra revenue. Leibbrandt poured over old books and maps, spending countless hours learning about the town’s spooky history in preparation for the tour.

The ghost walk takes place at night and covers approximately two kilometres. Some of the stops along the way include the Lavender Lady, shocking exhumations, creepy hotel shenanigans, and graveyard figures. Guests are encouraged to bring along a camera and an open mind. The Simons Town ghost walk has something for everyone, whether you’re a skeptic or a true believer in ghosts.

6. Simon’s Town Warrior Toy Museum and Shop

Simon’s Town Warrior Toy Museum and Shop-Simon's Town
Simon’s Town Warrior Toy Museum and Shop

The Toy Museum in Simons Town is a fantastic place to take the kids or to enjoy a trip down memory lane if you’re an adult. With over 4000 different car models on display, each with its own story to tell, the museum is like taking a journey through time. The sales section is also excellent for those who want a bargain, with prices much lower than you would find in the shops.

In addition, the two railroads and other play items are fully operational, so you can relive your childhood while your children enjoy theirs. So whether you’re looking for things to do in Simons Town on a rainy day or a die-hard collector, the Toy Museum should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

7. Jubilee Square & Jetty

Jubilee Square & Jetty-Simon's Town
Jubilee Square & Jetty

The best place to experience the local culture in Simon’s, a naval town, is Jubilee Square & Jetty. Since the 1880s, locals have gathered in Jubilee Square, situated in the centre of Simon’s Town. Jubilee Square & Jetty is the ideal stop for food and relaxation whether you’re travelling to the penguin colony close to Boulders Beach or looking for things to do in Simons Town.

In addition, Jubilee Square has been the place of numerous regional celebrations and events. Still, it is also known for its lively market, a collection of vintage cars, and the Great Dane Parade honouring Just Nuisance.

8. Scratch Patch Mineral World and cave golf

Simon's Town
Scratch Patch Mineral World and cave golf

The Scratch Patch is a hands-on museum where visitors can learn about the rocks and minerals that make up the earth’s crust. Cave Golf is an 18-hole miniature golf course that is set inside a real cave. Both attractions are located inside Simons Town’s historic military fort. Visitors can also explore the fort’s tunnels and gun batteries, which date back to the 19th century. Both Scratch Patch and cave golf are great ways to learn about the local geology, and they make for an enjoyable day out. Add this to your list of things to do in Simons Town with your kids.

Where to eat

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, Kelly’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 Cape Point.


About the author

Anton Venter