Did you know?
Simon’s Town Naval Base was responsible for the care of Napoleon Bonaparte after he was exiled to St Helena island.
The history of Simon’s Town reads like a naval adventure.
Ships of all shapes and sizes – frigates, corvettes, sloops, pirate brigantines and, lately, hi-tech submarines – have docked at Simon’s Town somewhere between 1741 and today. And with them came the legends: battles at sea, pirate booty, encounters in strange lands and sad news of another shipwreck somewhere along the 3 000-odd kilometres of South Africa’s coastline.
As you wander down St George’s Street – also called the Historic Mile – you will pass ancient filigreed buildings from another era. The Historic Mile extends from the railway station to the East Dockyard gates, with intriguing little alleyways leading off it.
Although Simon’s Town was established by the Dutch – and named after governor Simon van der Stel – it was really with the establishment of the Royal Navy Base there in 1806 that the little settlement became such a legendary port of call.
Slip back in time and you could find yourself in the company of a rather dashing young British Naval lieutenant called Horatio Nelson, on shore leave from the HMS Badger, stalking this very street in search of a rowdy pub that served a decent repast.
There are four museums in Simon’s Town, all worth a look.
The Warrior Toy Museum near Jubilee Square (where the statue of beer-drinking Great Dane Able Seaman Just Nuisance stands) displays cars, trains, dolls and lead soldiers fashioned long ago.
The South African Naval Museum has interesting displays about both the Royal Navy and the South African Navy, including a submarine diorama.
The Heritage Museum chronicles Simon’s Town’s rich Muslim past, while a visit to the Simon’s Town Museum is the best way to lift the historic veil from this fascinating seaside town.