Tips to Discover Wild Penguins at Penguin Beach South Africa!
🖋️ By Deb | 🗓️ October 19, 2022 | 📁 Penguin Beach South Africa
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If you’re looking for an amazing penguin experience, Penguin Beach South Africa, aka Boulder’s Beach, is the place to go. Here you have the rare opportunity to see penguins in the wild
This area is home to one of the only land-based penguin colonies on the planet. These funny, captivating marine birds are native only to South Africa and Namibia, and are dearly loved by all.
Penguin Beach is a stone’s throw from the heart of Cape Town, and should definitely be on your itinerary. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about visiting Penguin Beach.
That includes how to get there, what it costs, where to stay, and more.
Let’s Go to Penguin Beach South Africa!
Technically named Boulders Beach, Pengun Beach is a beautiful spot in the Cape Town suburb of Simon’s Town. It actually forms a part of Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park.
Located just a short drive from central Cape Town, Boulders Beach is one of the most popular natural attractions around. If you’re looking for an up-close and personal experience with penguins, this beach is the place to go.
Boulders Beach offers visitors stunning views of the coastline and the opportunity to see these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. It’s one of my favourite places in the area!
How to Get to Penguin Beach South Africa
From Cape Town: By far, my preferred way of getting from Cape Town to Penguin Beach is to drive.
Simon’s Town is an enjoyable 65-minute drive from Central Cape Town.
It’s such a beautiful scenic route. When driving, you can stop whenever you like along the way to take photos, for snacks, or just soak up the sunshine.
Tip: I always use Discovery Cars in South Africa when I need to rent a car. They make it easy to watch my budget 💰.
If you’d rather let someone else do the driving, taking the train to Simon’s Town is another option.
Metrorail has a Southern Line Tourist Route that includes multiple interesting stops.
Tickets are inexpensive and can be purchased at the station just before you leave. The trip takes about one hour and 15 minutes. I recommend a 1st class ticket.
A third option is to hire a taxi to drive you to Penguin Beach. It’s less expensive than you might think, and you’ll have the car to yourself.
OR you could take an organized bus tour from Cape Town. See a few options below.
From your accommodation: Simon’s Town is a small town, and there are many places that are within walking distance of Penguin Beach.
The penguin beach is on Kleintuin Road and is hard to miss. Pull in the map below to get a visual. Taxi, Uber, and Lyft are all available, as well, if it sounds too far to walk.
Penguin Beach’s Best Spots to See the Penguins
Penguin Beach is actually 3 different places in one area. While Boulder’s Beach and Penguin Beach are often used interchangeably, as I am doing here, this spot is actually made up of 3 separate beaches.
Along the same big curve of sand, Boulder’s Beach is to the south, and across the little cove from it is Foxy Beach. The middle portion is fittingly called Middle Beach.
Middle Beach is the perfect spot to park your beach towel and have a swim. Penguins wander the entire area freely, and you might end up floating next to them in the water.
✷ Don’t touch the penguins! While they do look imminently squeezable and may come within arms reach, leave them be. You’re not allowed, for your protection as well as theirs.
They are wild animals, and those beaks can hurt!
The Foxy Beach main boardwalk is the best place to watch the penguins from. You’ll be able to see them hop around and interact, coming in and out of the water and nesting in the sand.
There’s a smaller boardwalk, too. Wander down them both and pick your favourite.
Other Places to See the Penguins From
If you’re down to your last Rand, you can see the penguins for free from a few other spots. You won’t have the same proximity or see as many penguins.
It’s still great, though, and is certainly better than not seeing them at all.
Seaforth Beach is small, and the area where the penguins hang out is roped off. But you will get to observe them and get some photos.
Burghers’ Walk is from Bellevue Road, where the small parking lot is. It’s along the sand to Windmill Beach – another good spot to see the penguins.
They have been known to close the walk during breeding season, though, so keep that in mind.
Waters Edge Beach is in the other direction, north of Foxy Beach, and is a bit of a local secret. The entrance makes it seem like a private beach, but it’s actually a beautiful little bay.
As well as penguin watching, Waters Edge is a great place to snorkel, lay in the sun, or take the kids.
The Best Time of Day to Avoid the Crowds
If you’d like to try for some alone time with the penguins, you’ll be out of luck. BUT if you arrive early in the morning, not only will you have a better chance at parking, but there are usually fewer people at the beach.
But there are fewer penguins, too.
Even better is to head to the beach later in the afternoon, and stay during the last few hours before closing. The sun is lower, and the penguins are heading home from their fishing expeditions.
Tip: The penguins tend to be most active in the early morning and late afternoon.
If the beach gets too crowded, it may be closed to additional people. Check out a tide chart, and try to hit the beach when the tide is lower. Lower tide = bigger beach.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Penguin Beach in South Africa
The best time to visit Boulders Beach to see the penguins is during their nesting/breeding season, which runs from February through August. Peek season tends to be between March and May.
During this time, you’ll have the best chance of seeing the most penguins up on the beach at one time. However, there are always penguins on Boulders Beach, so don’t let this deter you from experiencing it whenever you’re in the area.
The busiest time of year at Boulders beach is during the summer tourist season, which lasts from December to February. If you’re visiting Boulders Beach during this time, be sure to plan ahead and book your accommodations well in advance.
January is a dry and hot time of the year in Simon’s Town. But – if you want to see the youngsters moulting in preparation for their grown-up plumage – January is the time to see it.
The weather is also generally quite mild during this time of year, making Boulders Beach the perfect place to visit if you want some sunshine and a little bit of heat.
However, the weather in the winter in Boulders Beach is generally mild and sunny, too. It’s also a great time of year to visit Boulders Beach if you’re looking for some winter sun.
Penguin Beach Open Hours & Cost
The hours when the public is allowed to visit Penguin Beach, and Foxy Beach (below) depend on the time of year. These times apply to the shop and visitors centre, as well:
- December – January: 7 am – 7:30 pm (summer)
- February – March: 8 am – 6:30 pm
- April – September: 8 am – 5 pm (winter)
- October – November: 8 am – 6:30 pm
Because Boulders Beach is part of Table Mountain National Park, there is a conservation fee for its use, payable at the Visitors Centre:
- Local South Africans: with ID, R42 per day, or US$2.30
- South African Nationals: with passport, R85 per day, or US$4.65
- International Visitors: R170, or US$9.29 per day
Tip: If you’ll be spending several weeks in South Africa, and will be going to many SanPark attractions like this one, you should look into purchasing a park pass called the Wild Card.
The Wild Card offers free entry to all SanParks, from Boulders Beach to Kruger Park, and is a really great alternative to paying for entry each time.
You’ll have to determine if the price is worth it for you, but it can save you money if you’ll be visiting a lot of National Parks, Reserves, and Resorts while you’re in South Africa.
Check out Wild Card pricing here. Take note, international visitors are only eligible for the International All Parks Cluster.
Tips For Visiting Penguin Beach South Africa
- There are 2 parking lots that you can use when you go to the beach. The lot at Seaforth Square is larger and is always open.
The smaller lot at Bellevue Road does have a closing time.
Be on the safe side, and check with the lot attendant to be sure.
- Keep a little cash on hand to tip the attendant.
- To avoid the general hassle of parking, try walking from your hotel. Most places aren’t too far away.
If you do decide to walk, take the opportunity to look through the many excellent shops in town.
Also, try as many of the restaurants as you have time for.
Book a Tour to See Penguin Beach!
There are a variety of tours from Cape Town to choose from. Anything from a half-day excursion with just Penguin Beach to a full day with a few other stops on the itinerary.
➥ Try this Cape Peninsula Day Tour and see:
- Boulders Beach as well as Cape Fur, and Cape Point Nature Reserve.
- Do some hiking, and have a light snack as well as a picnic lunch.
⭐️ It gets 5/5 stars and has 555 reviews 🐧 !
➥ You can also decide to take a private sightseeing trip for just you and your group! Along with Boulders Beach, this Cape Peninsula Private Tour includes:
- door-to-door hotel transfers
- explore Cape Town sights like Bo Ka’ap and Table Mountain
- visits to Cape Point Nature Reserve and Chapman’s Peak Drive
⭐️ It has a 5/5 star rating with 75 reviews 🐧 !
Either way, you can just sit back and enjoy the view. Let someone else worry about where to park!
Insider Info About Penguins
- The Boulder’s Beach penguin colony began with 2 breeding pairs. There are now approximately 3000 African penguins in this area.
- African Penguins are also known as Cape Penguins, South African Penguins, and Jackass Penguins. This last is due to the baying sound they make they’re on land.
- They stand from 18 inches to 2 feet tall, and top out at about 11 lbs. These guys can live up to 20 years in the wild.
- African penguins will stay with one sweetheart for life, returning to the same site each year to protect and hatch 2 eggs. Parenting duties are shared between the two of them.
- There is a pink gland above the penguins’ eyebrows that help keep them cool. As the temperature increases, more blood will be sent to this gland.
This cools it as it passes through close to the skin’s surface. That’s why a penguin’s eyebrows will look pinker in hotter weather.
- These penguins are endangered, due to the usual culprits – pollution, overfishing, loss of habitat, and climate change.
- Like our fingerprints or a zebra’s stripes, a penguin’s black spots on the chest and belly are unique to each individual. Scientists can identify different penguins by these markings.
- The African penguin can swim up to 12 mph, can stay underwater for up to 2.5 minutes, and routinely dive as deep as 98 feet.
- Their ideal nesting material is guano – their own or that of other marine creatures.
- When penguin parents go out hunting for food, they leave their chick in a penguin daycare called a creche, under the supervision of another adult penguin.
- Instead of needing to seek out fresh water, penguins drip away the salt from the salt water they swallow. They have special glands behind their eyes that filter out the salt. It then drips down their beaks and into the sand.
- You can tell the difference between a male and female African penguin by comparing their beaks. The male’s beak is larger, as is the male penguin himself.
Other Activities Around Penguin Beach
Simon’s Town, one of South Africa’s oldest towns, is a pretty little place, and does have a few different ways to spend your time apart from penguin watching.
An audio tour of the town is a great place to start. The author Maureen Miller will guide you down the Historic Mile, and you’ll learn all about Simon’s Town’s past and present. Download it from Voicemap.
If you’re a museum lover, you’re in luck. There are a variety of museums in this Muslim community. The Warrior Toy Museum, the Simon’s Town Museum, the SA Naval Museum, and the Heritage Museum are all worth a stop.
Kayaking is a fantastic way to see a different side of Simon’s Bay – from the water! Boulder’s Beach is also a great dive site, and I encourage you to explore its depths. There’s a whole new world down there!
There is a great 3 night/ 4 day dive trip from Simon’s Town that will let you see all of the best dive spots around.
If you’re feeling super adventurous, shark cage diving is also a terrific option. Or if you’d rather stay above water, take a whale-watching trip! This is a seasonal option, from June to November.
Simon’s Town is definitely worth a day or two if you have the time. Don’t forget your sunscreen – ocean-friendly, of course!
Where to Stay in Penguin Beach
Simon’s Town is known for its boutique hotels and quirky inns. Here are a few highly-rated favourites:
⎋ Tintswalo at Boulders Boutique Villa has a full-service spa and laundry. As well as being in the perfect spot for penguin watching, Tintswalo has a pool and offers a Cape Town Airport shuttle, for a fee. Rated 9/10!
⎋ The beachside aha Simon’s Town Quayside Hotel is a popular spot, as well. The nautical-themed hotel is within walking distance of the beach and has exclusive shopping and dining for its guests. Rated 8.8/10!
⎋ A budget-conscious option is the very highly-rated Penguins View Guesthouse. You’ll have a pool and your own kitchenette – and be only 0.25 km from Boulders Beach! Rated 9.8/10.
Or click here to find a map where you can search for your perfect accommodation in your perfect location, and book it right there.
Penguin Beach South Africa: Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I see penguins in South Africa?
African penguins can be found all around the southern coast of Africa, from southern Namibia to Port Elizabeth However, Penguin Beach, aka. Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town is the best viewing point you’ll find.
Can you touch the penguins at Boulder’s Beach?
No! Visitors must keep a distance of 3 metres (10 feet) from the penguins. The penguins themselves might approach you, but no touching is allowed.
This is for your protection as well as theirs. They will protect themselves, and those beaks are razor-sharp.
How much does it cost to see the penguins at Cape Town?
There is a conservation fee if you choose to go to Penguin Beach (aka. Boulder’s Beach) to see the penguins, as it’s a part of Table Mountain National Park:
Local South Africans: with ID, R42 per day, or US$2.30
South African Nationals: with passport, R85 per day, or US$4.65
International Visitors: R170, or US$9.29 per day
However, there are a few free spots where you can see the penguins, though not in the same numbers. Click here to find them above.
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Summing It Up: 🐧 Penguin Beach South Africa!
At Boulders Beach, you can get up close and personal with one of the most fascinating and beloved animals in the world – African penguins.
Whether you’re visiting Boulders Beach for a day trip or staying nearby for a longer stay, this is truly THE place to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
With its beautiful coastal setting, amazing wildlife, and friendly locals, Boulders Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a truly unique travel experience.
So what are you waiting for? Get out to Boulders Beach today and see the penguins in all their glory!
Read more about South Africa:
➵ How Many Cities are in Beautiful South Africa
➵ 14 Reasons to Visit South Africa
➵ 30 Photos to Inspire You to Visit South Africa
➵ Find Your Dream Destination in Africa