Hermanus travel guide
Hermanus, a beach-side village in the Overberg, is the best land-based whale watching site in the world. From July to December the clifftops of Hermanus give visitors close sightings of whales coming from Antarctica in their breeding season. Hermanus is picturesque in two ways: its clifftops with sea views and its charming village centre. Take your time browsing the little cafes, bookshops, boutiques and a big Saturday morning craft market on the square. The bays have stunning beaches, a number of them having been awarded Blue Flag status. One of the best things to do here is to take the coastal walk along the rocks above the ocean.
The town takes whale watching so seriously that it has the world’s only Whale Crier, who sounds his kelp horn when a whale has been sighted. You can also attend loads of festivals throughout the year, including two whale festivals in August and September, with live music, craft markets, entertainment, wine and food. Hermanus Golf Club has an excellent course plus you can go scuba diving, paragliding and kayaking. The Hemel-en-Arde Road just out of town makes up a delightful Wine Route, with some very well-known wine farms. Hermanus is a popular for a weekend away at any time of year, but especially in whale season. So if you want to come at that time it’s a good idea to book early.
Top of the list for Hermanus:
- Whale watching – Best months are July to November. You can see these phenomenal creatures clearly from the cliffs but you can also book a boat tour that takes you even closer.
- Beaches - Grotto Beach is fantastic for families, as the sea is usually gentle and the soft flat sands are perfect for spreading out and playing. Voelklip and Kammabaai are great for surfing and picnicking. Sandbaai is full of rock pools and popular with snorkellers. Hawston Beach has an amazing dune system and wonderful safe swimming. Onrus Beach is also excellent for families because it has a lagoon as well as good waves for bodyboarding.
- Fernkloof Nature Reserve – Over 50km of hiking trails for all fitness levels let you notice the awesome diversity of the coastal fynbos with its huge variety of tiny delicate flowers. You’ll also get great views of Walker Bay and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. In the Fernkloof Botanical Gardens there are wheelchair-friendly paths.
- Hermanus Wine Route – this is a beautiful drive through the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley that takes you to wine farms such as Hamilton Russell, Southern Right, Ataraxia, La Vierge and plenty more in a short but fulfilling stretch. Each farm has something unique to offer. Your choice could include a fabulous restaurant, a game of boules, a playground for kids, biltong and cheese platters to go with your wine tasting, or an art display.
- Hermanuspietersfontein – At the beginning of Hemel-en-Aarde, near the Wine Village, is this stylish winery with an artisan food market every Saturday morning. You’ll find olives, bread, mussels, oysters, cheeses, meats, dim sum, artisan pies, coffee. Bonus: they offer free wine tasting and their wines are delicious.
- Hermanus Cliff Path – This is the famous coastal walk right along the cliffs starting in Westcliff and winding all the way to Grotto Beach. Along the way are places to stop and watch the whales and admire the spectacular horizontal lines of the rocks.
- Davies Pool – a lovely tidal pool tucked away in Onrus, next door to Hermanus. Those in the know gather here for a heavenly evening dip.
- Stanford – only half an hour’s drive from Hermanus, Stanford was traditionally the sleepier little sister of the whale centre. However, with its reputation for antique and decor treasures, quaint coffee shops and vineyards, as well as its proximity to all the outdoor adventures of Hermanus, it has become a very rewarding destination. Don’t miss Birkenhead Brewery, well known for its craft beer and a great place to spend an afternoon with the family.
- Gansbaai – synonymous with the Great White Shark, this small seaside town is one of the best shark cage diving sites in the world. It’s also known for whale watching and for its great range of guided hikes and horseriding trails.