Hermanus has been a popular destination for holidays for over 100 years. In fact it exists because it is such a perfect holiday spot. The town was established 150 years ago by a shepherd, Hermanus Pieters, who found a fresh water spring and told others to bring their sheep and their families to enjoy summer grazing by the sea. Thus Hermanus became the holiday destination for the inland farmers of the Overberg region, and over the years more and more people, from farther and farther afield discovered this holiday haven.
Nestled between mountains and sea Hermanus IS the perfect place for a holiday. Since its inception it has become known as “The Riviera of the South”, “Whale Watching Capital of South Africa” and famous for its “Champagne Air”. Today you will find it’s natural beauty is still as inspiring as Hermanus Pieters found it, but now holiday makers can find far more adventure and activity to fill their days. There is something for everyone in Hermanus – paragliding, whale watching, abseiling, golfing, hiking, boating, sunbathing, shopping, bird watching, surfing and a multitude of other activities. Even if you feel like doing absolutely nothing you will find all the creature comforts you need for an absolutely relaxing and rejuvenating holiday – from massages to outstanding food and balmy days.
The lagoons, dams and rivers in the area, as well as the sea, provide for scenic boating excursions. Boats, canoes and windsurfers can be hired at De Mond lagoon in Hermanus – go to the Prawn Flats. The Hermanus Yacht Club on the Klein Rivier lagoon is a private club, but day visitors are welcome. The sailing season opens at the end of September and regattas and races are held every weekend until the end of May. There are many boating companies that will take you on your excursions – deep sea fishing or whale watching.
Hermanus, with its expansive coastline, the lagoon and rivers, is a fishermans dream. The Hemel & Aarde Valley has excellent fresh water fishing spots. The beaches, lagoons and cliffs along the coast provide excellent sea fishing opportunities and there are several companies that will take you deep sea fishing too. The waters abound with galjoen, cob, red roman, steenbras and many more fish. Fishing permits can be obtained from the magistrates office and the post office.
FLIGHT OF GIANTS
Take the Flight of Giants and see the whales from the air with African Wings. If the whales aren’t in the bay African Wings will whizz you off to see the big 5 – just a 30 minute flight away.
Hermanus is a golfers delight – not only does it boast one of the most beautiful golf courses in the country – The Hermanus Golf Club – but there are also 3 other golf courses in the surrounding area. The newest is the golf course at the Arabella-Sheraton Hotel on the banks of the Bot River. The course at Kleinbaai, 4 km from Gansbaai, has a sea-view and the Kleinmond course is at the foot of the Three Sisters mountain.
The Hermanus Cliff Path is one of Hermanus’ unique attractions. It is just over 12km long and stretches from the New Harbour in Westcliff all along the coastline to Grotto beach in Voelklip. The Cliff Path is accessible from many points along the route and benches at strategic points provide a place to sit and watch the whales or enjoy the sea. The Cliff Path has made Hermanus famous for providing the best land-based whale watching in the world but is also alive with wonderous floral and marine life.
There are several well-maintained and well-marked trails in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Following the contours as they do they are accessible even to those who might not otherwise put on boots and set of on an hour or two’s walk. There are three self-guided trails of which one leads to Aasvoëlskop. At 824m above sea level, it’s the highest point in the reserve and offers all-embracing views.
The Frans Senekal Nature Reserve in Vermont offers a delightful walk from Vermont along the sea’s edge past Hoek van den Berg to Hawston harbour. The walk takes about two hours.With a host of mountain ranges and nature reserves, and a coastline that is so diverse, there is no shortage of hiking trails – each uniquely breathtaking.
The Hemel-en-Aarde Riding School offers lessons and outrides through the valley on Arabian horses and Horse Trail Safaris will take you on ride along Grotto Beach.
The rural nature of the Hermanus region lends itself to safe cycling and the newly created cycling track along the main road in Eastcliff has made the town even more cycle-friendly. Fernkloof nature reserve has a special mountain biking trail and the Hermanus Cycling Club meets every Saturday (at least). There is also a fabulous off-road ‘trick’ track behind the Hermanus Cricket Club.
The weather and the mountains of the area make Hermanus a paragliders paradise. Summer skies are usually dotted with the reds and blues and yellows of paragliders as they soar over the Olifantsberg and land on the perfectly positioned high school fields.
Scuba diving can be done at Hermanus and nearby Gansbaai. There are several wrecks that can be explored and various reefs ranging in depth from 9m to 40m. Most reefs are only accessible by boat, but shore entries are possible at certain points. Table Top in Hermanus is considered to be one of the top 15 dive sites in Southern Africa and its walls are covered with sea creatures. It is advised that you contact the scuba diving school in the New Harbour to find out more about the conditions of each dive site before you delve into the underwater treasures of our shores.
Just off the coast at the nearby town of Gansbaai lie 2 islands – Dyer Island home to a breeding colony of Jackass Penguins and Geyser Island a seal breeding ground. The sea around these islands teems with sealife so much so that Great White sharks come in droves to feed. There are several shark diving tour operators that offer shark viewing from their boats or, if you’re brave enough, shark cage diving. Shark diving shuttles leave from Hermanus daily.
There are no major shopping malls in Hermanus but the village is overflowing with shops in every nook and cranny. There are a few national retailers represented, but in the main there are clusters of speciality stores and market stalls that sell everything from home-made cheeses to bikinis to remarkable works of art. Hermanus is a shoppers paradise.
Hermanus is a great place to surf and body board. Favourite spots are Onrus Beach and Kammabaai. Whilst the surf is fantastic visitors must remember that they are on the southernmost tip of Africa, very close to where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and the sea can be unpredictable.
With the sea, the lagoon, the rock pools long the cliff paths, two tidal pools and the Klein River there are obviously many places to swim. ‘On-shore’ bathing spots include the tidal pool below the Marine Hotel, Fick’s Pool opposite the Misty Beach Chateau and the lagoons at Grotto Beach and at Onrus Beach.
✔️ Grotto Beach
Grotto beach is a pristine Blue Flag beach that stretches for kilometers making it ideal for long walks. Dutchies restaurant, a play park and excellent ablution facilities make this a favourite beach amongst the holiday makers. There is ample parking and barbeque facilities at Grotto beach.
This is a small beach that also has excellent ablution facilities and is great for those who don’t like sand as there are large stretches of lawn above the beach. Voëlkip beach is popular with surfers and sunbathers.
This is, as the name suggests, a long beach in a secluded cove at the foot of the cliffs. Langbaai is considered to be the ‘secret’ beach of Hermanus. There are quite a few steps to get onto the beach which can make things difficult for those with small children or elderly people.
Also known as Nanny’s Beach, Kammabaai, is a family favourite. It has the best waves for surfing, picnic spots and braai sites under the Milkwoods and great rocks to climb.
The Sandbaai beach is dotted with rock pools full of marine creatures and is particularly popular at low tide when swimming is safe. It is also popular for snorkelling. There are changerooms and showers.
✔️ Onrus Beach
This is also a favourite for families because of the safe swimming the lagoon provides. Onrus beach is popular with local body boarders and surfers and there are shower facilities. The Milkwood restaurant overlooks the beach and provides take-aways and light meals.
✔️ Breakfast Bay
This little spot at Vermont provides a perfect setting for picknicking. Flanked by high dunes, the beach is sheltered and a nice place for the sunbather and popular with sandboarders.
The Southern Right Whale, Humpback Whale, common dolphin and bottlenose dolphin can be seen along the Hermanus coastline. The Southern Right Whales come to the shores in about June each year to mate and calve in the shallow waters.
Hermanus has gained the reputation of offering the best land-based whale watching in the world because of the excellent vantage points that the cliffs along Walker Bay provide. Areas designated for boat based whale watching have been carefully selected so as not to intefere with those watching from the land (and the whales of course).
The Hermanus Wine Wander starts at the Wine Village which boasts the largest and finest selections of South African wines. 200m further is Whalehaven where you can sample wines with a view of the mountains and the ocean. Further along is the resplendent Hamilton Russell estate where you realise why this valley is called Heaven and Earth.
Next on the route is Bouchard Finlayson where celebrated winemaker Peter Finlayson creates wines that are rated as the best of their kind in the world. Cape Bay wines is next on the route followed by the newest winery Sumaridge.
A trip throughout the Hemel-en-Aarde valley is a must – not just for wine lovers and deep in the valley you’ll find Sumaridge and Mogg’s Country Cookhouse provide excellent cuisine. All cellars are open daily for tasting.
The village holds a Passion Play in the Old Harbour every year; celebrates the arrival of the whales in the bay with the Hermanus Whale Festival (which is an art and environmental feast); offers some of the best local and national theatre productions (mainly in Afrikaans) at the Kalfiefees; serves the most glorious seafood at the Hawston Sea Festival (December); and chases away winter chills at the Hermanus Wine & Food Fair (July) with delicious cuisine and delectable wines from over 60 exhibitors.
Now this is the real beauty of Hermanus – it is the perfect place to do absolutely nothing but treat yourself. European doctors have sent patients to Hermanus to enjoy the restorative qualities of its ‘champagne air’ for over 100 years. You can indulge in deep body massages, reiki, aromatherapy, facials and reflexology. You can take a short(ish) walk and then sit and watch whales, birds, flowers, the ocean, the mountains and the heavens. You can eat like a king at the wide range of first class restaurants or stock up on fruit and veg and a range of other culinary delights at farm and market stalls. You can visit Hermanus to simply sit back and relax and absorb the serenity of the environment. It is the perfect place to do absolutely nothing.