V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

About Jetty 1 Museum

Used today as the departure point for visitors leaving for Robben Island, Jetty 1 also has a little museum that used to be a prison. The nondescript white brick building is easily missed by the thousands who board the ferry at the end of Jetty 1.

This building was, in fact, the start and end point of the journeys taken by all travellers - prisoners, wardens or staff - heading to and from Robben Island. Take a closer look and you will notice a little board just outside the entrance that denotes its historical importance. Inside is a full account of Robben Island, before and after apartheid.

Jetty 1 Museum is a national monument separate from the Exhibition and Information Centre. If you don't have half a day to devote to the Robben Island tour, or if the weather lends itself to remaining on dry land rather than heading across to the island, this is the next best thing.

The holding cells are very similar to the cells on the island, with hard beds and empty benches in the waiting room, the walls covered in copies of applications for visitors' permits. If visitors were given permission they had to leave the docks at 1.30pm, returning again by 4pm, and no children under sixteen were allowed across.

Jetty 1 was initially known as the east jetty, the first jetty built in the Victoria Basin and closely associated with Robben Island way before apartheid, at a time when the island was used by the British as a convict station and hospital.

In 1961, when the island became a maximum-security prison the jetty was used only for the prison services, becoming the only way to leave for Robben Island. The original building was little more than a shack made from corrugated iron sheeting. The current building went up in the 1970s.

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WhereV&A Waterfront, Cape Town

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Telephone+27 (0)21 413-4200

OvernightStay nearby in V&A Waterfront, in Cape Town

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