Visiting South Africa’s Famous Penguins: A Stop At Foxy Beach & Boulders Beach

April 14, 2024
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Visiting the Penguin Beach from Cape Town | A visit to see the penguins at Foxy Beach & Boulders Beach is a must in South Africa, an easy day trip from Cape Town. See African penguins up close, with sparkling turquoise water & plan a beach day. What you need to know to plan your visit to Boulders Bay in Simon's Town, how to get there, tickets, time of day & more.

PENGUINS!!!  I honestly could not start this post any other way than shouting that, because this was basically what I shouted every time someone asked me what was on my itinerary.  One of the things I was most excited about when visiting South Africa was getting to see the African penguin colony that lives at Boulders Bay.

(Also, I can’t NOT think of this amazing clip montage of Benedict Cumberbatch flubbing the word “penguin” any time I think of penguins…YOU’RE WELCOME #pengweng)

The turquoise waters of Foxy Beach are unbelievable...and then there are the penguins!

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And while I could wait and do a reveal of the most awesome pics at the end, I had to start with some of my faves, just as a tease.

Boulders Bay (and the beaches included, such as Boulders Beach and Foxy Beach) is located within Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, on Cape Peninsula.  It boasts powdery white sand, sparkling turquoise waters, and—oh yeah—a vibrant colony of African penguins.  If you’re wanting to see penguins in Cape Town, this is where you’ll do it (in addition to Robbens Island).

Fun fact:  African penguins used to be known as jackass penguins because of their distinctive braying, and they’re the only penguins found on the continent.

How to get to Boulders Beach to see the penguins

There are a few public transportation options and I think that the Hop On, Hop Off bus in Cape Town may now include a stop here on their Cape Peninsula route (which I’ve heard is actually great).  Another really good option if you don’t want to hassle with renting a car and driving is a full-day tour of Cape Peninsula, which includes a stop here.

But by far the best way is to have a car yourself, so you can explore all of Cape Peninsula.  I rented a car in Cape Town and drove it all myself.  The biggest thing you have to watch out for is that there are a lot of rental car company scams, where they try to charge you for all sorts of made-up damage.

I always check both DiscoverCars and RentalCars.com.  In most cases I go with DiscoverCars, but in this case I wanted to rent with Bluu specifically (a company that locals told me they trust), and I was able to find them on RentalCars.com so booked there.  Do your research and make sure you have good insurance and tons of photo and video documentation, just in case.

two penguins contemplating a swim at Foxy Beach (or Boulders Beach?)

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What you need to know about visiting Boulders Bay

If you’re ONLY going to Boulders Beach from Cape Town, it’s close to an hour’s drive without any stops.  And even if you’re doing the Cape Peninsula drive as a day trip from Cape Town, I would recommend going that direction.  So maybe Muizenberg Beach is your first stop, then Boulders Beach next.

The beach is located in Simon’s Town, and the town was insanely busy.  I’d planned to stop somewhere for lunch, but decided to keep on moving to not have to hassle with parking and such.  Just getting through town took forever as you’re at a crawl.  To be fair though, it was Saturday afternoon and on Easter weekend.

Parking was NUTS at (what I now realize was) Foxy Beach.  There’s a small paved lot, which also then connects to a (slightly) larger dirt lot.  Be extremely careful with your tires in the dirt lot, as there are tons of sharp rocks and potholes could pop a tire easily.

There was someone trying to direct traffic parking-wise, but it was also a bit of a free-for-all.  I had to do two (extremely slow) drive throughs to find a spot that someone was about to back out of.  The good thing is that people should be cycling through pretty frequently.  You could also park up on the main road and walk down.

An African penguin up close at Boulders Bay, South Africa

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A few items you might need at Boulders Beach & Foxy Beach

While there’s a good chance you’ll see some of the penguins up close along the boardwalk, but when they’re near the water it’s further away so I recommend a camera with a telephoto lens if possible.  Your phone can zoom, certainly, but the quality won’t be there.

I had my Sony a6400 mirrorless camera and had purchased a new lens for the trip, mostly for safari purposes.  It’s a Tamron 18-300mm lens with amazing specs and this was its first real-life use, and I was super impressed with it my entire trip!  I always keep a UV filter on (it protects the lens as well), and in this case I had my polarizer filter on as well.

It was HOT.  I was visiting at the end of March, so as summer was headed into fall, but the temps were in the upper 80s and 90s for most of my trip.  The viewing platforms are entirely exposed so make sure you have sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, and maybe a hat.

I had my favorite non-toxic foundation, blush, powder, and lipgloss on, and it stood up to the heat and sweat amazingly (you can see more about the company and their products here).

If you’re planning to actually go to the non-penguin part of Boulders Beach you’ll want beach stuff too.  There are shops along the path to the visitor’s center (including ice cream spots, etc.) but I don’t think there are facilities at the beach itself so make sure to bring water, towels, and more.

penguin tracks in the sand

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It’s a fairly short walk from the parking lot to where you’ll buy or show you ticket…maybe 300 meters?  (LOL I say that like I know what meters are.)  The line to buy tickets was only a little long, but did not move quickly, so it took probably 15 minutes or possibly more to get to the front.  The cost for international visitors is 190 rand (around $11-12 USD).  Note that it is cash-free, so they only accept debit and credit cards.

There were a handful of people who seemed to already have tickets and so were able to jump the line.  It looks like you can maybe purchase ahead of time (see here) so I’d look into that if you know which day you’ll visit.  Or maybe they bought them at Boulders Beach, which apparently I’m dumb and missed (more on that in a few minutes).

Also, make sure to check low and high tides.  When it’s high tide, there is not much space to move around on the beach, especially the area where most penguins can be seen.

What I just learned:  The place I went to was *actually* Foxy Beach.  I forgot to take pics of the line, but it will queue up outside the Visitor Center and gift shop.  You’ll see a walkway that you could continue down as well, and I *think* that’s where the real Boulders Beach is (and maybe another ticket gate).

The viewing areas open at either 7:00 or 8:00am, depending on the season, and this is definitely the best time to visit.  It just gets more crowded from there, though toward the end of the day you’ll also have better luck with crowds and parking.  I also read that penguins are most active around sunrise and before sunset.

Once you get through the gate, it’s a very short walk on the boardwalk to the main viewing platform.  You could take an immediate right down another boardwalk to a different platform, which I’ll show at the end of this post.

the boardwalk down to the main viewing platform, I think at Foxy Beach?

a beautiful day at Boulders Bay in Simon's Town, South Africa

first glimpse of the penguin beach, I think at Foxy Beach

Here are my other posts to help plan your South Africa adventure:

How To Spend A Perfect 24 Hours In Cape Town

…and much more to come!

There were a couple penguins pretty close to the boardwalk as I headed toward the viewing platform, and this was definitely the closest I got to them (with a zoom lens, obvs).

Do not touch the penguins, it’s not good for them and they bite…

an African penguin at Boulders Beach

African penguin up close at Boulder's Beach and Foxy Beach, South Africa

African penguin up close at Boulders Beach South Africa

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And now we get to the real gloriousness!  First off, the waters at the beach are STUNNING.  Then obviously you have the colony of penguins and they are so cute!!

I took photos from the main viewing platform at different zoom lengths, including (first pic) not zoomed, (second pic) zoomed somewhat, and (third pic) mostly zoomed with my 300mm lens.

photo of penguins on the beach in South Africa - no zoom from viewing platform (Foxy Beach & Boulders Beach)

Amazing slightly zoomed view of the African penguins at Boulders Beach & Foxy Beach, a short drive from Cape Town

Zoomed in view of the penguins on Boulders Beach & Foxy Beach, South Africa

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The viewing platform is quite small and there is not a lot of space, particularly along the railing.  Just be patient, people will cycle in and out and you’ll eventually get to the front to get the more unobstructed views and photos.

girl in blue shirt selfie at penguin beach South Africa

colony of African penguins

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To the right of the platform (away from the water), were a bunch of nests.  I’m not positive why they all had their mouths open, some people said they were catching flies??

nesting colony of African penguins on Cape Peninsula

closeup of nesting African penguins in South Africa

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This view never got old, it was so amazing!

gorgeous view of penguins beach at Boulders Bay, South Africa - Boulders Beach & Foxy Beach

African penguins lounging on Boulders Beach & Foxy Beach in South Africa

how to visit the penguin beach from Cape Town | African penguins on the beach near Simon's Town

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Next, let me show you “two penguins, a tale of friendship (or romance??)”…

two African penguins kissing or conferring

two African penguins kissing or conferring

two African penguins on the beach ready to swim, South Africa (Boulders Beach)

two African penguins on the beach ready to swim, South Africa (Boulders Beach)

two African penguins South Africa (Boulders Beach)

South Africa was on my “10 Places I’m Dying to Visit” list for 2024!

As I mentioned above, there are viewing platforms on both sides of Foxy Beach, and the other one is way less crowded.  The turn-off to this boardwalk is right when you get inside the gate, you’ll see it on your right…or if you’re coming back up from the main platfrom it will be on your left before you hit the gift shop.

It’s just a short walk through the trees, and you may see some sleeping penguins along the way.  This platform didn’t have as good of a view of the penguins, but my guess is that changes somewhat based on the time of day and where the penguins choose to sit at any point in time.  It’s still worth a quick visit.

Again, I took a pic from baseline (1x) distance, then zoomed in.  You also really see how small the main viewing platform is.

There's a secondary viewing platform at Foxy Beach, you can see the main platform from there in Cape Peninsula, South Africa (Boulders Beach)

There's a secondary viewing platform at Foxy Beach, you can see the main platform from there in Cape Peninsula, South Africa (Boulders Beach)

There's a secondary viewing platform at Foxy Beach in Cape Peninsula, South Africa (Boulders Beach)

The beach views are still amazing from this side, even if there aren’t a ton of penguins!

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the sparkling blue waters of Boulders Beach & Foxy Beach South Africa

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Make sure you don’t miss the other beach!

I’m mad because I am now realizing I must have totally missed the second beach, which is ACTUALLY Boulder’s Beach (but I mistakenly thought it was Foxy Beach?).  Honestly I’m still a little confused about it even after lots of internet sleuthing.  I definitely knew it existed, but the Google directions weren’t clear.

So I *think* if you get to the first ticket gate for Boulders Beach and instead keep on going down that path (which turns into a boardwalk), you’ll reach the other beach (which is maybe the REAL Boulders Beach??) in about 10 minutes.

You’ll need to show your ticket again or buy one if you haven’t already, but the viewing is supposed to be better here and you can actually hang out on the beach, sunbathe, be nearer the penguins (again, don’t actually interact).  This post has some extra info on it.  If you figure it out clearly, please drop me a note in the comments!

Here are some other amazing water-and-wildlife views that you’ll love:

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Visiting the Penguin Beach from Cape Town | A visit to see the penguins at Foxy Beach & Boulders Beach is a must in South Africa, an easy day trip from Cape Town. See African penguins up close, with sparkling turquoise water & plan a beach day. What you need to know to plan your visit to Boulders Bay in Simon's Town, how to get there, tickets, time of day & more. What to do in South Africa, how to see penguins in South Africa, Cape Peninsula road trip. #southafrica #penguins

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