Home to a colony of African penguins…not so secret.
Named after governor of the cape colony from 1677-1699, Simon van der Stel…not so secret.
Situated on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula on the shores of False Bay, Simon’s Town has been an important naval base and harbour (first for the Royal Navy and now the South African Navy) for more than two centuries – also not so secret.
Very much a few busloads of tourists a day kind of place, not so secret at all.
But, travel through town, past Boulder’s beach and Millers point and escape to the idyllic Cape Point Cottage, for a weekend at least. It is truly magical. Removed from the town hub, you are faced with views of the ocean, only interrupted by massive palm trees lightly swaying in the wind.
It really feels like you are in the middle of nowhere, and even the tar road snaking past below disappears into the abyss, taking with it the sounds of life in the city. Dramatically perched in a cleft along the side of the mountain is a house (the owner being in residence occasionally), and next door to it, a secluded cottage of timber stone and glass, blending into the surroundings so well, you almost miss it. Don’t take too much with you, as it all has to be carried halfway up the mountain, although Tarisai, the gatekeeper, will gladly assist.
Open plan with natural finishes and no curtains or blinds of any kind, we were nervous at first, but soon overcame our fears as we sat in front of the crackling fireplace sipping red wine by candlelight (there are 2 wooden screens you can move around as needed!). With solar-powered electricity and a rainwater tank, Cape Point cottage is green in every sense of the word. Modern technology comes in the form of a Weber braai and wireless internet. Equipped with everything you might need except food and drink, you really don’t need to go anywhere, but as you are in one of the most beautiful areas on the peninsula, why not explore a little? You are now a tourist after all, so as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them!
A note on food and Drink: Simon’s town is only equipped with a Friendly 7 eleven, so stock up before you arrive. There is also a Checkers in Fish Hoek, a ten minute drive back towards Cape Town. For a list of restaurants in the area, check the eat out website. Closest to the cottage is Black Marlin, a great option!
Things to do:
Wander the historical mile of Simon’s town – packed with historical buildings (hence the name) like Admirality house, the Palace Barracks, the ornate dockyard gates, the British Hotel and jubilee square – down to the harbour and around and have a drink somewhere you can sit and watch the boats. Read this post detailing the historical mile if you want more info!
Visit one or all of the several museum’s in town.
Go have a laugh at the cute but awkward penguin colony at boulders beach. Hint: Spend the day lazing in the shallow pools between the boulders but remember, it fills up early and will cost you R45 per adult and R20 per scholar aged 2-11. Pensioners go free.
Visit Cape Point National park (R85 per adult, R30 per child) for a day close to nature. Lots of walking routes, breathtaking scenery and beaches abound. Ride the Flying Dutchman funicular up to the viewing point below the old lighthouse, or lunch overlooking false bay at the two oceans restaurant.
Interesting fact: The Dutch Reformed church in the main road is where the South African National anthem ‘Die Stem’ was composed.
Have your picture taken with the statue of the legendary dog Just Nuisance (on Jubilee square), the first and only canine ever to enlisted in the navy. He died in 1944 and was buried with full military honours.
Visit Simon’s Town Country club for a game of bowls, squash or links golf.
Do a bit of bird watching as Simon’s town has a World Heritage status bird life.
Escape the rat race and go enjoy a cup of tea at the Tibetan Teahouse, situated next to the Sophea gallery. If your spirit is not duly refreshed, the tea house also serves Tibetan inspired vegan/vegetarian food and the gallery has a shop selling Tibetan jewellery art and collectibles.
Go have a lazy lunch at the Black Marlin restaurant at Millers point. Delicious views and fantastic seafood abound, as do the tourists, but this makes for some fantastic people watching! The grilled Calamari in orange, chilli and coriander sauce is very much worth it (R49 for a starter and R99 for a main)!
The secret season:
Simon’s towns’ other big secret lies in its moderate winter months. While the rest of the Cape peninsula is cold, wet and windy, Simon’s town lies in a sheltered bay, one of 3 or 4 north facing seaside towns in South Africa. An added bonus to this is that it is sheltered from the strong north-west winter winds. Governor Simon van der Stel noticed this back in 1687 and recommended the VOC use it as an alternative winter harbor. It took them 57 years and several wrecked ships to implement this suggestion! This is also the reason why the Royal navy moved their headquarters here in 1814.