Quick Facts: Hermanus
- Beaches: Grotto Beach, Langbaai Beach, Kammabaai Beach, Onrus Beach, Voelklip Beach
- Golf: Arabella Golf Course (Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa), Hermanus Golf Course
- Top 5 star Hotels: Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa, The Marine Hotel, The Birkenhead House
- Wine Estates & Vineyards / Walker Bay Wine Route: The Bouchard Finlayson Estate, Whalehaven Wines, Hamilton Russel Vineyards, Cape Bay Wine Estate, Sumaridge Wine Estate
- One of the best land based whale watching locations in the world
- Whale Crier
- The Old Harbour Museum
- The Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO)
- Walker Bay Nature Reserve
Distance to Airport: 108 km
Distance to City: 121
Hermanus, which was originally called Hermanuspietersfontein, is situated on the southern coast of the Western Cape province of South Africa. Hermanus has become famous for its great land based whale watching experience between the months August to November. The whales can be seen from the cliffs in the centre of the town. The Old Harbour Museum contains several exhibitions which explain the whaling history of Hermanus.
Hermanus lies along the Walker Bay on the south coast of the Western Cape. It is situated about 115km southeast of Cape Town and is connected to the Mother City by the R43 highway, the picturesque coastal scenic route R44 scenic route and the N2 motorway. The R43 continues to Cape Agulhas which is the most southerly point of the African continent. Hermanus is located 40km from Gansbaai which is a popular location for shark cage diving. Hermanus finds itself cradled in Walker Bay, a large inlet stretching from Danger Point (Gansbaai) in the east to Mudge Point (Betty’s Bay) in the west.
On a narrow coastal strip between mountain and sea lie the eight diverse communities of Greater Hermanus (Fisherhaven, Hawston, Vermont, Onrus, Sandbaai, Zwelihle, Hermanus and Voëlklip).
In addition to spectacular natural beauty and the best whale watching in the world, Hermanus and surrounds literally bristles with shops, restaurants and accommodation establishments. Its two harbours (historical & fishing), pristine beaches, cliff paths and nature reserve mean there is always ample to keep even the most demanding visitor busy.
Walking the cliff paths is idyllic and the chances of spotting whales from July – December adds its own magic. Hermarnus is blessed with a mellow Mediterranean climate. Hermanus has been referred to as “The Riviera Of The South” and is known for its “champagne air”.
Thing’s to do in Hermarnus:
- The Hemel –en-Aarde Valley wine route: There are many excellent wine estates down the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.
- A good start is the Wine Village, which has the largest selection of South African wines. Further down the road, you will find many wine estates including Whale haven, Hermanuspietersfontein, Hamilton Russell, Bouchard Finlayson, Newton Johnson, La Vierge, Sumaridge and Creation.
- During Whale Season (July – November) take a walk along the cliff paths which extend from the New Harbour, all the way to Grotto Beach, about 10km. There are many excellent viewing spots along the path, where one can get a close view at these magnificent creatures. On this walk it is easy to see how Hermanus earned its reputation as one of the world’s best land-based whale watching sites in the world.
- Take a boat based whale watching trip from the New Harbour.
- You can also view the whales by plane, on the ‘African Wings’.
- This is an amazing experience, and you can assist with the daily ‘whale count’.
- If you are feeling brave, why not try shark cage-diving off Gansbaai? You can either go down in the cage, or view from the boat.
- Sea kayaking is a great way to view the coast, and possibly get up close to a whale.
- If fishing is your thing, you have the choice of fly fishing, or chartering a boat for some sea fishing.
- Take a walk down at the new harbour, watch the fishing boats come in and eat some fish and chips. The Gecko Bar is a good place for sundowners.
- African Queen River cruises – a 3 hour cruise from Stanford, with braai (barbeque) facilities on board.
- Bird-watching – a guided tour can be arranged. The Overberg is rich with birdlife.
- Horse-riding: There are several companies that offer horse-riding ranging from beach rides, farm rides, and mountain and Fynbos trails.
- Hermanus has quite a selection of Art galleries and studios.
- Take a tour of an abalone (perlemoen) farm.
- Sample some local beer at the Birkenhead Brewery in Stanford, and then go down to the Klein river cheese farm (or maybe the other way round…)
- Spend a day at the Health & Beauty Spa at the Arabella Western Cape Hotel and Spa.
- There are excellent hiking trails in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. These range from easy to strenuous, and a map can be purchased from the kiosk at the entrance to the reserve.
- Greyton is only a 45minute drive away, and is very picturesque. It has excellent restaurants as well as the famous Von Gassau’s chocolates.
- Take a drive to Betty’s Bay to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, and to see the penguins at Stony Point.
- Stop at Kleinmond on the way to enjoy oysters at the Harbour, and browse through the shops.
- Enjoy a game of golf at the Hermanus Golf Course, or the Arabella Golf Course.
- There are many excellent beaches to enjoy and soak up the sun – from quiet and secluded to Grotto beach which has achieved blue flag status and goes on for miles.
- Onrus beach is lovely, and has a lagoon which is shallow for the kids to play.
- On Saturday mornings, Hermanus has 2 excellent farmers markets: The one is know as the boeremark, and is held at Hermanuspietersfontein Winery, just behind the wine village. The second is the Hermanus Country market, held at Montessori School. Follow the scarecrows, from just before the Voelklip circle, and turn up towards the mountain, to the Fernkloof nature reserve.
- This market comes highly recommended; enjoy a breakfast at the market, and then stock up on tasty goodies for the weekend.
The Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO), a research facility of the National Research Foundation, is part of the worldwide network which monitors variations of the Earth's magnetic field. The Hermanus Yacht Club is a popular Yacht club in the Western Cape amongst the yachting community. It hosted the Laser 4.7 worlds in 2007. Hermanus is also famous to locals for the legendary Windsor Hotel.
Grotto Beach is the largest beach in Hermanus and has also been proclaimed a "Blue Flag" beach which ensures its preservation as a world heritage site. Other beaches include Voelklip, Onrus, Kammabaai and Langbaai.
Hermanus has since August 1992 the world’s only Whale Crier (Pieter Classen 1992-1998, Wilson Salukazana 1998-2006, Zolile Baleni since April 2006 ) who sounds his kelp horn to announce where whales have been sighted. Zakes Mda wrote 2005 the novel The Whale Caller in which the Whale Crier of Hermanus is the main character, a man who gets enthralled by a Southern Right whale he names Sharisha.
Hermanus hosts an annual whale festival at the end of September, when the Southern Right whales come into the magnificent bay. Prior to this main whale festival a "Calf Festival" is held, to welcome the first whales which is usually in August. Both festivals are characterized by food and craft stalls. The hinterland beyond the town is largely wild and mountainous and there are many remote areas of hills and wild ravines. The rising thermals around the rugged heights of the beautiful Fernkloof Nature Reserve attract paragliders from all over the world.
So what is it that makes Hermanus so special?
- It’s in Hermanus where you can be woken by the whales blowing at night, where you can watch them while sipping coffee or enjoying a restaurant meal, or, best of all, while walking along the cliff paths which hug the town’s coastline for about 12 kilometres.
- If walking’s not your thing or you want get up close and personal with a Southern Right Whale, then a trip on one of the registered whale watching boats is the answer. They are permitted to approach whales as close as 50 metres. Problem is, the whales don’t know that, and they’re curious creatures …
- A town that has the world’s only Whale Crier (like a town crier!) just has that extra special touch during whale season.
- If the weather gets a bit “tempestuous” – and it certainly can! – Hermanus has so much else to offer our visitors. Apart from its natural beauty – a large bay ringed by mountains – the immediate area has plenty for you to do.
- How about more than 60 wine estates ….?
- And the wine’s top notch!
- There are marine reserves to protect fauna and flora, and during whale season no motorized vessels may enter the larger portion of the bay (June to end November). Which means you can take out a kayak …
- The town has a Blue Flag beach with a second beach at Hawston, part of the same municipal district, sporting the status and Its very own Whale Festival.
- Just across the bay is Gansbaai (Bay of Geese), arguably the best spot in the world for cage-diving among Great White Sharks.