False Bay, Western Cape
Did you know?
False Bay was so named more than 300 years ago because sailors confused it with Table Bay.
False Bay takes in a long, swooping curve of the southern Cape coastline from Cape Point to Hangklip, and is generally regarded as one of the great bays of the world.
Although your drive around False Bay will take you through many little seaside villages, each with its own special main street, the natural beauty of this bay is still intact.
It’s a world of looming crags and cliffs, mountain passes, lots of beaches (some secluded, others wide and panoramic), and an ocean full of great white sharks, visiting southern right whale pods, seals and fish, including snoek, which is popular to eat. On the mountain slopes, sometimes within spitting distance from homes, troops of wily Peninsula baboons roam, while kestrels, hawks and buzzards fly in the skies above.
Possibly the most iconic wildlife picture anyone has of False Bay, however, is the series of African penguin clusters on Boulders Beach at Simon's Town. These dauntless little ‘waddling tuxedos’ have become unofficial ambassadors for this part of the Cape and welcome hundreds of visitors along their special boardwalk each day.
Mention False Bay and the traveller’s mind’s eye will immediately conjure up images of the multi-coloured bathing boxes of Muizenberg, the after-dark delights of Kalk Bay’s restaurants and bars, and the unsurpassed view of Simon’s Town Harbour from the heights above.
Many visitors choose to come to False Bay via the train from Cape Town, alighting at Simon’s Town and spending the day along its Historical Mile. This is where one gets the true naval spirit of the Cape, in the guise of museums, crusty old pubs and droves of navy uniforms in the streets.
In the ‘old days’ of sail, Simon’s Town was where you would go to pick up tales of the sea, news of pirate shenanigans or British Navy arrivals. An hour spent in the Simon’s Town Museum will convince you that life here 200 years ago was colourful, dramatic and often quite short – especially if you were a buccaneer.
Hikers and overlanders gather at Cape Point and walk up to the old lighthouse before lunching at a nearby restaurant or having a braai (barbecue) at one of the designated spots along the way.
One can travel the short distance between Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town by water taxi, or try one of the many adventure companies’ trips out to Seal Island. This is known as the best place in the world to see a great white shark breaching in mid-air.
Gentler souls might prefer the literary delights of Kalk Bay Books or a drink down the road at the Brass Bell.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Cape Point Route
Tel: +27 (0)21 782 9356
Cape Town Tourism
Phone: +27 (0)861 322 223
How to get here
You can get to various points on False Bay from Somerset West on the N2, beginning at the Strand, from Pringle Bay on the R44, or from Cape Town on Chapman’s Peak Drive, cutting in at Kommetjie, or come from Cape Town via Tokai and Muizenberg along the M3 and Boyes Drive.
Best time to visit
Although the old British Navy ships liked to berth in False Bay in winter (June/July), the warmer months of September to April are best for travellers.
Around the area
Visit Cape Point, part of the Table Mountain National Park.
Tours to do
From township tours to cycle tours to nature tours, False Bay has much to offer. Check the listed websites for tour operators.
There’s a regular train service from Cape Town to Simon’s Town, or you can hire a car and be free to drive along the entire length of False Bay at your leisure.
What will it cost
There is lots to see and do in False Bay that is free, such as a visit to the photogenic Kalk Bay Harbour, or to the beautiful beaches of Muizenberg and Fish Hoek. You will need to pay to get into the Cape Point reserve, which is part of the Table Mountain National Park (R90 per adult and R40 per child aged 2 to 11; children under 2 are free).
Length of stay
False Bay will keep you busy for anything from a day to several days.
What to pack
Pack as if you’re going boating, walking or partying at a friend’s place – informally, and for the outdoors. It can get windy here and is cold in winter (May to August).
Where to stay
False Bay has wide and varied accommodation options – check the listed Cape Point Route and Cape Town Tourism websites.
What to eat
From fresh snoek at a harbour to fine dining at a world-class restaurant, the villages of False Bay will feed you well. The specialty here is seafood.
False Bay keeps busy with festivals and celebrations – check the listed Cape Point Route and Cape Town Tourism websites for details.
Check out the ‘penguin paraphernalia’ at Boulders Beach.