A Guide to Exploring the SS Thomas T. Tucker Shipwreck Near Cape Town

As you know, I am a huge fan of both ships and strange or abandoned places. I feel that shipwrecks fall in the middle of that Venn diagram.

If you are looking for shipwrecks to explore close to Cape Town, the SS Thomas T. Tucker at Cape Point 
(sometimes also referred to as The Cape of Good Hope and part of the Table Mountain National Park) is a must-see. 

The wreckage is not accessible by road and requires a bit of a walk but this only makes it all the more appealing to adventure travellers. Read on to find out more about the shipwreck and how to find it.

The SS Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck

The History of the SS Thomas T. Tucker  

It's amazing what the ocean will tolerate and what she chooses to expel but Cape Point seems to be the location of her gag reflex. There are a lot of interesting things washed up on this shore (or run aground on it) but the SS Thomas T. Tucker is on the top of this list.

The American troops and weapons carrier was on its maiden voyage from 
New Orleans to Suez, when it ran aground here in 1942. Just three months after its launch, the World War II vessel was hugging the coastline in heavy fog and trying to avoid German U-boats in the region when it landed on the rocks. It was later discovered that the ship's compass was out by 37 degrees. How she made it this far from New Orleans seems like more of a mystery than her demise! 

The shipwreck now rests as a historical monument on the Olifantsbos Beach. 
She has become a unique attraction, inviting curious souls to explore her historical significance while enjoying the scenic coastal landscape.  Exploring the SS Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck offers a memorable experience to history buffs and hiking enthusiasts ...as well as relatively unfit but adventurous souls like myself!

Oliphantbos Beach on stormy day - Cape Point

How to find the Shipwreck

The Table Mountain National Park is a very big national park in and around Cape Town. In addition to the part of the park that covers Table Mountain itself, it takes up a big part of the peninsula and is fragmented by settlement areas.  The section that includes the mountain itself is the northernmost section and Cape Point is the southernmost section, roughly an hour to the south. 

First, you drive to the main entrance of the park for Cape Point:

You should get a map at the entrance along with your ticket. Alternatively, this video explains how to find it: 

Hiking the Shipwreck Trail

The Shipwreck Trail is a great beginner-level hike (it's more of a walk than a hike) that is not too challenging and delivers a great reward at the end. 

As the sign states, the direct route along the beach, return, is 1.5 hours.
Alternatively, there is a 2.5-hour circular route. 
We opted for the shorter one.

The SS Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck trail

Fitness levels required for the Shipwreck Trail:

There are no massive inclines and it has a relatively level gradient. Having said that, the terrain is quite rocky for the first bit, with the majority of the trail taking you along the beach itself.

Finding the SS Thomas T. Tucker:

When you get to the end of the pathway, then follow the beach in the southerly direction i.e. to the left. 

Hiking the SS Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck trail

Other things you may find on the Shipwreck Trail:

  • Litter washed up on the beach from the Cape's intense converging currents and volatile winds. Be a decent human and pick some of it up.

Here's a game you can play to make it more fun. If you complete the card, you get a free ticket for your next visit! ...Okay, no you don't. But if anyone from Cape Point is reading this, it's not a bad idea, right? 

Beach cleanup bingo

Bonus points for the weirdest thing collected!

Apart from the litter, we also spotted:

  • Someone's water tank. 
Water tank on beach at Cape Point

These were very popular during Cape Town's severe drought a few years back. I'm sure someone's wondering where it ended up. 

  • A boat or two (or the remnants of one)
Boat wreckage at Cape Point

  • This dinosaur skull! ... Just kidding it's a whale, but that got your attention!
Whale skull at Cape Point

And just beyond that is this:

The SS Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck

SS Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck - Cape Point

Cape Point shipwreck

woman with shipwreck - Cape Point

woman poses with Cape Town shipwreck

 A 1942 World War II wreck (the SS Thomas T Tucker) with a 2023 Waugh wreck

A final word of advice: Beware of baboons. 

You know those people who can't appreciate wildlife without trying to touch it? Don't be those people! They sometimes make the news and the embarrassment stings worse than any antitetanus shots required. 

Keep your distance, keep your food out of sight. Stand still and remain calm, back away slowly if you encounter them. 

Try to get a dassie selfie instead - Now THAT will impress your friends! ...maybe. Well, it should. 

Oliphantbos Beach - Cape Point

Cape Point Nature Reserve Opening Times:

Summer (Oct-March): 6:00am - 6:00pm (last entrance - exit by sunset)
Winter (April - September): 7:00am - 5:00pm (last entrance - exit by sunset)
Correct at the time of posting - subject to change.

Cape Point Nature Reserve Ticket Prices can be found here: 

Remember that if you're from a SADC country (Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia) you qualify for a discount but be sure to bring along a government-issued ID (like a passport, driver's licence or ID).

What to bring:

  • Comfortable walking shoes - factor in both the rocky terrain and the beach. 
  • A hat - that won't blow off 
  • A jacket - in any and all seasons
  • Sunscreen - in any and all seasons
  • A bag to collect litter (if you want to be nice)
  • A more convincing shipwrecked-person costume than the one I wore
Tree washed up on Oliphantbos Beach - Cape Point

While you're in the area:

Be sure to swing past the Boulders Beach Penguin Sanctuary (a different section of the Table Mountain National Park) in Simon's Town on your way to or from the Cape Point Nature Reserve to see the penguins. 

Looking for other strange and (f)unusual things to do? 

We have some suggestions:

Pin it for later:

Pin - Exploring the shipwrecks of Cape Point

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