History of Simon’s Town
Simon’s Bay owes its name and original importance to Governor Simon van der Stel, who personally surveyed False Bay in 1687. He recommended Simon’s Bay as a sheltered safe winter anchorage – but it was only in 1741, after many shipwrecks in Table Bay, that the Dutch East India Company decreed that their vessels anchor in Simon’s Bay from May to August.The development of the small settlement, Simon’s Vlek, was slow due to the almost impossible access overland to Cape Town. However stores were built, ships repaired and fresh provisions supplied. A three-gabled hospital was built as well as a few more substantial houses.
Simon’s Town, as we know it today, grew more rapidly with the establishment of the Royal Naval Base there soon after the second British occupation in 1806. Admiralty House, previously a private dwelling, dates from 1814.
During the 19th century the Simon’s Town Naval Base was responsible for the care of Napoleon Bonaparte, exiled to St Helena Island, until his death in 1821. The Royal Navy was actively involved in combating the slave trade from African ports.
The railway line eventually reached Simon’s Town in 1890 and furthered the development of the town and harbour. The Royal Navy was responsible for the care of the Boer prisoners-of-war in Bellevue Camp – now a golf course – . during the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902). During the First World War a Japanese Cruiser guarded Town. The Simon’s Town harbour and the Selborne dry-dock were completed in 1910 and more than 300 ships underwent repairs in Simon’s Town during the Second World War.
In April 1957 the Naval Base was handed over to the South African Government. The harbour was extended and several new ships, including three submarines, were purchased.
Meanwhile the small town had expanded along the shoreline and up the hillside. Many businesses and a few hotels were built along St George’s Street, and many of these historic buildings still exist today, constituting the Historic Mile with Jubilee Square, overlooking the yacht basin, as its central point. Simon’s Town with its naval harbour had a diverse cosmopolitan community with many races and nationalities. Tragically in 1967 the Group Area Act declared Simon’s Town a “White Group Area”, and a large and important section of the community was displaced – leaving large parts of the town derelict.
Over the past two decades Simon’s Town has attracted many new residents with a subsequent building boom, which has fortunately not destroyed the historical and cultural appeal of the old town. The advent of democracy in 1994 and the recent expansion of the, fully integrated, South African Navy has given a further impetus to the growth of Simon’s Town, which now attracts thousands of visitors every year. While most come to see the penguins and the whales, many tarry to appreciate the unique historical ambience of Simon’s Town.
Simons Town Beaches
False Bay is the largest true bay in South Africa; the coastline is approximately 30 kilometres in extent with many sheltered inlets and glorious beaches. The False Bay coastline is generally quieter and more laid-back than the trendy Atlantic beaches, but in peak-season these beaches too are very busy with holidaymakers. There are loads of beaches to choose from and you’ll need a bit of inside info to end up on the right one.
Boulders Beach: Is the most serene swimming beach in Cape Town. The huge boulders create shelter from the wind, and swimmers often share the water with the resident penguins. There has been a colony of African Penguins at Boulders Beach since 1985.
Windmill Beach: Windmill beach is located past Boulders beach. This beach is another gloriously sheltered flat beach, which gently slopes. The shallow water is ideal for families, and offers an excellent diving and snorkelling spot. The beach is also used for a launching place for powerboats.
Foxy Beach: Foxy Beach has one of only two land-based penguin colonies in the world. The non- swimming beach offers a special walkway and visitor boardwalk for close-range viewing of the African penguin in its natural habitat.
Seaforth Beach: The gorgeous secluded beach of Seaforth is located just around the corner from the famed penguin colony at Boulders beach. Seaforth Beach is a family beach with a natural bay for swimming and grassy slopes for picnicking.
Glencairn Beach: The white, sandy beach of Glencairn Beach is great for swimming. The water is usually a pleasant swimming temperature and the waves are quite small which ideal for leisurely swimming. The beach is ideal for body boarding and kite surfing. Popular amongst divers, there is a wreck located about 450 metres off the Glencairn quarry.
Places to visit and things to do:
Cape Point Nature Reserve
Simon’s Yacht Club
Shark Cage Diving
Mineral World Scratch Patch
SA Navy Days