When you think of South Africa the first thing you probably think of is the heat, the mountain ranges and safaris. Penguins probably aren’t something that would ever even spring to mind. Yet in a little seaside town just outside of Cape Town is Boulders Beach, a beach that is home to a colony of over 2000 wild and endangered African penguins.
After hearing that you could both view and swim with penguins, we couldn’t resist paying it a visit on our recent trip to Cape Town. I was lucky enough to visit Cape Town with my partner who grew up in this beautiful part of the world. To make our day extra special, he made sure to take us on the most scenic drive to Boulders Beach, a drive that I more than recommend you take too.
We drove to Boulders Beach along the world famous Chapman’s Peak. If you’ve seen any car adverts where a beautiful, expensive car is driving around a mountain, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen Chapman’s Peak before.
The views are breathtaking, especially on a sunny, cloud free day. To drive around Chapman’s Peak, you do need to pay a small toll, but it’s more than worth it for the picturesque views. Along the road there are several pull over spots carved out especially for picture taking.
We happened to drive around the peak while a huge fire raged on the mountains in Hout Bay. It was incredible to see how high and far the plumage of smoke reached and how much of the mountain vegetation had been destroyed in the fire so far. The drive around the mountain range was beyond spectacular and I couldn’t help but say ‘wow’ on every corner.
It took about 45 minutes to get to Boulders Beach from Cape Town, via Chapman’s Peak. Boulders Beach sits on the outskirts of picturesque Simons Town, a popular fishing harbour that felt very similar to a British seaside town with plenty of cafes that offer fish and chips and shops designed especially for tourists.
Outside of Simons Town, there are two turnings to get to Boulders Beach, as there are a three pristine beaches you can visit the penguins on. The first turning takes you down to the visitor centre and to the first two beaches. The first two beaches don’t allow you access to the sand, but are great viewing spots and are perfect for picture opportunities. Instead of heading onto the sand you experience the penguins via a beautiful raised boardwalk.
This boardwalk leads to the second beach where you can stand on a viewing platform and watch the penguins nesting. During our visit, we only took the second exit so that we could visit just the third beach, the only one with full access.
The third beach is absolutely wonderful for children and is a perfectly safe swimming spot as its large, ancient boulders protect the cove from winds, currents and waves. Unlike Cape Town where the Atlantic ocean waters are freezing, Boulders Beach sits on the side of the Indian Ocean where the waters are much warmer and better for swimmers.
The third beach is also a great spot to spend quality time with the penguins and you can even swim with them.
There are only a few rules for entering Boulders Beach. Water sports are understandably not allowed and also you shouldn’t ever touch or feed the penguins.
Although they look super adorable and cuddly, their beaks are very sharp and when they feel threatened they wouldn’t hesitate to give you a nip!
As Boulders Beach falls under the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, the beach is always clean and safe. The warm soft white sand and striking blue waters makes you feel like you are spending a day in paradise.
There is a small conservation fee of R65 for entering the third beach, but this price is more than worth it for getting to spend a day with the penguins.
Evie absolutely loved Boulders Beach and even had the chance to swim in the waters with them. It was so lovely to see the penguins so relaxed and used to human company. It made a great story for Evie to tell her friends when she got home.
When To Arrive
Boulders Beach is the perfect place to spend the whole day. Make sure to take a picnic, plenty of water and your swimwear. Your children will love climbing over the rocks, meeting the penguins and playing in the rock pools.
We recommend arriving early in the morning to get a prime parking spot. Arriving throughout the day might mean a little wait for parking. We also recommend that you check tide times. The beach almost completely disappears at high tide, so is best enjoyed at low tide. We ended up having to leave early due to the tide coming in and leaving us no spot to sit.
Regardless of this, it was such a wonderful experience and I can’t recommend visiting enough. It’s definitely an attraction to add to your to do list in Cape Town!
What do you think of Boulders Beach in South Africa? Would you love to visit? Let me know in the comments below.