A holiday to South Africa with Lekker Adventures always includes a trip to the iconic Simon’s Town, home of the South African naval base. It is located on the shores of False Bay, on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula.
For more than two centuries it has been an important naval base and harbour – first for the Royal Navy and now the South African Navy. This popular South African tourist destination is also the meeting point of the two great oceans, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. From Simon’s Town you make your way to the tip of the Cape Peninsula which is now a protected nature conservancy.
Tourist hotspot in South Africa
Simon’s Town sits at the water’s edge with the spectacular mountain range rising high above the village. The streets are lined with quaint shops and world-class restaurants. In summer, the sun only sets after 9pm and there is nothing more spectacular than dining at one of the coastal restaurants while the sun settles over the greater False Bay.
The train follows the southern line from the central business district of Cape Town, all the way to the Simon’s Town railway. The tracks hug the edge of the coastline and it’s a stunning way to see the other spectacular tourist towns along the coastal route.
Strategic naval point
Simon’s Town was a strategic naval point in the early trading days. Two good anchorages, Table Bay and Simon’s Bay, became havens for shipping. Sailing around the peninsula is world-renowned as a perilous journey in the winter months when the Cape storms rage.
Table Bay was a relatively safe bay to wait out a violent storm and the crew could treat themselves to the delights of the Cape habour town. Word spread and the number of ships to Table Bay increased but so did the incidence of shipwrecks off the treacherous Cape coastline.
False Bay is located a few hundred kilometres from the tip of the Cape Peninsula and was a perfectly safe alternative for ships sailing the Cape waters in those early days. However, often the ship captains took a risk pushing on to Table Bay so they could enjoy the superior amenities of Cape Town. Often this decision had devastating consequences for the unfortunate crew.
The False Bay side of the Cape Peninsula is sheltered from the violent northwest gales. The treacherous conditions that sailors experienced during the winter months earned the peninsular its nickname, the Cape of Storms. Slowly Simon’s Bay earned a reputation as a safe alternative, the town grew up around the harbour and more ships came into the bay to seek refuge from storms.
How it got its name
Simon van der Stel (1639-1712) was the last Commander and first Governor of the Cape Colony, the Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. He was the son of Adriaan van der Stel, an official of the Dutch East India Company.
Van der Stel explored the Cape peninsula and named the bay Simon’s Bay. Naturally, as the town grew up around the harbour activities, it became known as Simon’s Town.
The Historical Mile Walk
This iconic one-mile walk takes you along St George’s Street, the main road running from the railway station to the East Dockyard Gates. Beautiful old buildings and historical monuments capture the history of the town, from those early days in 1741 when the Dutch East India Company first set anchor in the bay to wait out the fierce winter storms.
Very little has changed in the last 100 years from when the trading boats came to town and through the period 1813 to 1957 when Simon’s Town was the home of the Royal Navy in the South Atlantic. Today, life revolves around the naval activities and catering for tourists who descend on the town to soak up its rich history and scenic wonders.
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