Update October 2016: The train between Cape Town and Simons Town looks to be back in order after a lengthy shutdown for line repair. The Metrorail website has information, but it may not always be up to date. For service information, including interruptions, check Metrorail’s posts in real time on their Twitter account.
An essential part of any trip to Cape Town is a trip down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. The trip is full of historical significance – and charming African penguins. For most people, this trip also constitutes going to the end of the world or the southermost point in Africa, but that’s not exactly accurate (that would be Cape Agulhas), it is, however, the southwesternmost point on the African continent, and is a noteworthy destination on its own.
Cape Town to Simons Town by train
There are plenty of ways from Cape Town to Simons Town to Cape Point through organized day tours departing Cape Town. Generally, I favour independent travel using public transportation over bus tours, which can be challenging since Cape Town’s public transit is very different, and somewhat limited, compared to other cities as prominent and enthusiastically-visited as Cape Town.
Around Cape Town, commuter rail service is provided by Metrorail Western Cape, and it covers an extensive area of suburbs and townships. There are two classes of travel, and it is generally recommended for tourists to use the “Metro Plus” cars for safer journeys. Despite the warnings, I found the train service to be very, very safe, and my car was full of tourists both ways. All the same, heed safety warnings: travel with others if possible, don’t carry a lot of cash and valuables, and don’t take the train after dark. Also, don’t wear headphones or earbuds. This probably merits a post of its own, but I quickly discovered no one in Cape Town wears headphones when walking around. It’s an easy way to remain alert and aware of what’s going on around you, and an extra bit of attention doesn’t hurt.
The main Metrorail station is found on the edge of the Central Business District (or CBD), at the corner of Adderley and Strand streets. Inside the terminal, look around for ticketing machines, or ask someone at the information desk. It was a fairly easy transaction and before long, my friend and I were on our train in a Metroplus car and on our way south.
For budget travelers, the train is a steal of a deal. My return ticket to Simons Town was R28 (2012 prices, approximately CAD$3). As of October 2016, a single, return journey to Simons Town and back is R31 (still about CAD$3).
Train journey by the bay
I’ve taken trains in lots of countries, and this one is near top of the list for beauty. The journey is approximately 1h20 and the ride is simply unforgettable. The route leaves Cape Town through its southern suburbs, then travels along the coast of False Bay. Literally. It’s the train, some sand and the bay.
Part of my interest in taking this train was fueled by other accounts where people saw whales and the train got splashed by waves. Unfortunately, neither happened to me, it was just a no-nonsense, beautiful ride featuring swimmers, surfers, people hard at work, fishing or just strolling along. Most of the journey was spent hanging near (or out) the window to see what was coming around the bend. We managed to spot a few surfers and lots of folks working, but it was mostly a glorious trip full of crashing waves and dramatic coastline.
Figuring out the rest of the trip from Simons Town on can be a big of a logistical challenge, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat to see this:
Coming up in Part 2, I get ripped off (probably), but get to hang out with penguins anyway. All aboard!