Way more than just Whales
We recently spent a weekend in Hermanus, and fell in love with the town all over again. Hermanus is happening – art, restaurants, the beach, and of course the area’s most famous visitors, Southern Right Whales. At only an hour and a half away from Cape Town, we asked ourselves why we don’t visit Hermanus more often. The area is a pleasure to explore year-round, not only during whale season.
On Route (from Cape Town)
The drive to the Whale Coast is lovely, with so much to see, do and taste along the way. There are several ways of driving to Hermanus, with the most direct being over the historic Sir Lowry’s Pass through the cool-climate Elgin Valley. A stop for a coffee and a snack at one of our favourite farmstalls Peregrine or Houw Hoek is a must. If you are feeling adventurous, explore the beautiful Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve with Cape Canopy Tours.
If you would like to pick up some exceptional cool-climate wine to enjoy on your weekend away, we can recommend a stop in the Elgin Wine Valley – but let’s save that for another weekend (and blog) and get to Hermanus.
Another popular route is along the scenic coastal road, Clarence Drive, along the False Bay Coast. Perhaps try this route on your way back, with plenty of photo-perfect stops along the coast. Also, visit the African Penguin colony at Stony Point Nature Reserve or go for a hike in the beautiful fynbos of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve.
What to do on a weekend in Hermanus
Walk & explore: You can walk in any direction. Hermanus is safe, pedestrian friendly, scenic and interesting. I like walking along the cliff path and enjoying the beautiful views across Walker Bay, while my wife loves to explore the many small shops, coffee shops and art galleries. Set aside half a day and just walk & enjoy.
Wine: The Hemel and Aarde Wine Valley (meaning “Heaven-and-Earth’) is one of our favourite wine regions. Famous for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but many excellent wines from all varietals are also available. Not only are the wines great, but the scenery and the food are excellent in the Hemel-and-Aarde Valley. A few of our favourite wineries are Bosman Wines, Creation Wines, Ataraxia, Sumaridge, Hamilton Russel and Bouchard Finlayson.
It would be rude to visit these wineries without staying for lunch! We love the picnics and cheese & charcuterie platters at Bosman wines, and the food & wine pairing menus at Creation Wines are out-of-this-world.
Whales: When you visit Hermanus during the whale season (July – November) look out for the visiting Southern Right Whales. The town of Hermanus is located on the cliffs overlooking Walker Bay, and whales come in very close to shore, perfect for shore-based whale watching. Also try boat-based whale watching with a Fairtrade company, Southern Right Charters in Hermanus or Dyer Island Cruises in Kleinbaai.
Beaches: A visit to Hermanus is not complete without a long walk/run or a swim on Grotto beach. This must be one of the most beautiful beaches in South Africa. I love the mountain covered in indigenous fynbos that towers over the beach, not many places that you get such great mountain views when walking on a beach. Make a morning of it and look out for whales or a school of bottlenose dolphins. If you find yourself in the area on a windy day, head to nearby Voelklip beach rather, which is more protected from the wind.
Visit a Market: If you visit Hermanus on a Saturday, spend some time at Hermanus Country Market. Support the local artisans and meet the locals. Excellent food, coffee, local crafts and of course local craft beer and wine. Such a colourful market with a great vibe.
Where to Eat & Drink
All round restaurant: Our favourite is Pear Tree restaurant. We have been known to eat both lunch and dinner there on a weekend! Excellent food, great location, great view and service with a smile. The chef is a genius, so many well-thought-out elements adding unique flavours and textures to every meal. It’s not just your typical restaurant meal, but a food experience that we cannot stop talking about. This is NOT pretentious fine dining; it is delicious, interesting food in a fun and casual atmosphere. We like that they serve reasonably-sized and affordable plates of food you can enjoy and share with friends or family.
Steak: For the best steak, try the trendy Char’d on Village Square. Excellent, local, free-range matured steaks cooked to perfection. Some of the best steaks I’ve ever had. Great vibe and service. We love the steam punk décor.
Seafood*: We also love the great seafood options at Pear Tree restaurant, especially the creamy garlic mussels and fresh oysters & relish, but sitting almost on the sea at Bientang’s Cave restaurant and enjoying fresh locally caught seafood is our favourite seafood experience on a beautiful day.
Sometimes we love to get fish & chips and sit on the beach instead of a restaurant. For takeaway fish, chips and calamari, head to Quayside Cabin in the new harbour.
* Please enjoy seafood responsibly. Always ask for line-caught, local fish and items that is green listed by Sassi.
Coffee shops & bakeries: There are many great little coffee shops, bakeries and roasters in Hermanus, especially if you wonder up High Street. A firm favourite for me remains Oskars Bakery. I’m a bit biased as I spent many hours as a tour guide and business owner in Oskars while on tour. Excellent coffee, pastries, breakfast and sandwiches.
Wine: Pear Tree, Char’d and Bientang’s Cave mentioned above offer great wine lists, but The Wine Glass restaurant in town offers a great selection of local Hermanus wines with a great vibe. This is the perfect place for a before-dinner drink. I was there on a Saturday and enjoyed a wine tasting whilst listening to a local band.
Where to Stay on a weekend in Hermanus
There are hundreds of options ranging from self-catering houses and apartments, camping and many great guest houses and hotels. We love Harbour House Boutique Hotel & apartments, which is centrally located and walking distance to most of the restaurants and shops. They offer a variety of hotel rooms & self-catering apartments, with excellent views over Hermanus, Old Harbour and the ocean.
For a 5-star experience we love The Marine Hotel, also walking distance from town center and with stunning views over the ocean.
Earthstompers visits Hermanus during most of our group and private tours on the way to the Garden Route, and we also offer a day tour to Hermanus if you have limited time. Please contact us if you would like to add Hermanus to your South Africa tour itinerary.
Safe Travels, Hendrik & Chrissy Human