Boulders Beach and Simon’s Town

Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is one of many beautiful beaches around Cape Town. I did an all-round beach tour while visiting the city and this is the first in a series articles about those amazing beaches. Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town is special for two reasons. Check out why!

Boulders Beach is a beautiful sandy beach with lots of – you guessed it – boulders. But it is not just known for its boulders. It is even more famous for its inhabitants. Boulders Beach is the only place in the world where you can get close to African Penguins. Between 2,000 and 3,000 African Penguins live here. Sadly, they are an endangered species due to over-fishing, habitat destruction, pollution and irresponsible tourism. But here, they are protected and thriving.

Jan Willem Plug walking along Boulders Beach
Walking along the beach

What to Expect at Boulders Beach

The environment and habitat at Boulders Beach are protected and rangers take good care of the area. Even though tourism is allowed, it is under supervision and at a safe distance from the penguins. In previous years, you could have a picnic, climb over the boulders, swim in the crystal clear water or explore the rock pools. Nowadays, however, tourists are restricted to the dedicated walkways in order to protect the penguins and their life. There are still several bays where you can go onto the beach though and enjoy the warm sand and cold water without disturbing the penguin colonies.

One of the pathways alone Boulders Beach
One of the pathways alone the beach

What to Know About Boulders Beach

There is an entrance fee applicable when visiting Boulders Beach. The money is used for conservation and also prevents overcrowding. Adults, children and tourists pay different fees. Click here to find out the current rates. Boulders Beach has fixed opening hours depending on the season. You can find them here. There is a visitors centre near the car park at the beach where experts are on hand to share plenty of information about the penguins and the local area.

Even though the entire beach is usually called Boulders Beach, it actually consists of several small bays and beaches with different names. The most popular recreational spot is the actual Boulders Beach. But the best place to watch the penguins is Foxy Beach, where boardwalks take visitors to the birds (you need to have a ticket for this). The weather at Boulders Beach is quite temperate – never freezing cold and never boiling hot. And the best time to visit is during a weekday, when it is less busy.

penguins taking a break
Penguins taking a break

Interesting to Know About Boulders Beach

In 1910, there were about 1,5 million African penguins. At the end of the 20th century, only 10% remained. The uncontrolled harvesting of penguin eggs as a source of food nearly drove the species to extinction. Luckily, action was taken before it was too late. From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony at Boulders Beach has grown to about 2,200 in recent years. This is partly due to the reduction in commercial fishing, which has increased the supply of pilchards and anchovies for the penguins to eat. Natural borders protect the colony. There is indigenous bush above the high-water mark on one side and the are clear waters of False Bay on the other. Granite boulders make up the borders on the sides. And these are 540 million years old!

Simon's Town harbour
Simon’s Town harbour

Simon’s Town

The nearest town to Boulders Beach is Simon’s Town. If you want to be as close as possible to the beach and the penguins, then Simon’s Town is a really nice place to stay for a few days. It is very cosy and has beautiful wooden buildings along the main road. But the place is very close to Cape Town. So it is no problem to stay in Cape Town and visit this beach for just a day. A car journey from Cape Town to Boulders Beach takes just one hour. It is an easy drive and if you are not in a hurry make sure to choose the scenic route through Chapman’s Peak for beautiful views all along the way.

Simon's Town
Simon’s Town

What to Do in Simon’s Town

Simon’s Town has some interesting historic museums, including one that features the Dutch East India Company, which established the town long ago. Click here for information about Simon’s Town Museum and here for the South African Naval Museum.

One popular thing to do here is to go whale watching. Simon’s Town is one of the places to go to see whales between June and November. Simon’s Town Boat Company offers everything from whale watching and exploring ocean caves, to stunning cliff faces and the most spectacular view of Cape Point from offshore.

Last but not least, there is a really nice place to have lunch or dinner in Simon’s Town:  the Lighthouse Cafe. Locals recommended me to go there and I did not regret it. It is a very cosy place with delicious food and a nice view of the town and harbour. After a walk along Boulders Beach and the penguin colonies and some sightseeing in Simon’s Town this is definitely the place to go for food.

Your next stop after Simon’s Town could be the Cape of Good Hope. Check our my article here to find out all you need to know about this place.

the Lighthouse Cafe in Simon's Town
the Lighthouse Cafe in Simon's Town
the Lighthouse Cafe in Simon's Town

Swimming Penguins

The sea at Boulders Beach has crystal clear water, which allows visitors to watch the penguins swim. The penguins obviously enjoy swimming, which is fun to see. They let themselves get splashed to cool down and tumble with the waves. Others swim together rapidly and then suddenly pop up and waggle onto the shore.

Mates for Life

Penguins have life-long mates and the couples on the beach often separate themselves from the crowd for some alone-time. The pairs of penguins in Simon’s Town are often found standing close together and preening each other. It is very cute to watch. But beware and don’t disturb the. They will not be happy!

penguin couple
Swimming penguin
Penguins in the water