Hermanus, South Africa. Known for its breaching whales, birds (including flamingos), long beaches, wineries, and cosy accommodation and authentic restaurants. There is something very special about this part of the South African coastline. At times the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean can be rough, yet at other times very smooth and peaceful. Rich in plancton and other small critters, the ocean makes this a haven for wildlife, including many whales that at times swim right up to the shoreline. Janet-Lynn Vorster tells us all about the good life!
By Janet-Lynn Vorster, Cape Town, South Africa.
Hermanus, a mere 105 km and 90 minutes from Cape Town Airport, is perched above the rocky cliffs in Walkers Bay. The Kleinrivier Mountains form a scenic backdrop to the town. You are always close to the sea in Hermanus, as it is a long, narrow town, confined by the ocean to the south and the mountains on the north side.
Hermanus has a Mediterranean climate, with mild wet winters and hot dry summers. There is always a coastal wind, so take something warm with you, even in summer.
Hermanus is a modern town, stocking most of what you will need while you are there.
If you love walking, running or cycling, you will love Hermanus, as the mountains behind Hermanus are interlaced with walking- and mountain bike trails, and there is a 12 km cliff path along the shoreline.
For the adrenalin junkies, look no further! Hermanus has ziplining, shark cage diving, kayaking, kite surfing, quad biking, horse riding, sandboarding, paragliding, paintball, archery, abseiling and more!
For those who prefer a more leisurely game of golf, the Hermanus Golf Club has a spectacular 27-hole course, within the town.
In whale watching season, best between July and November, when the Southern Right whales come into the bay from Antarctica to give birth to their calves, boat trips are available to view the whales from closer. You may see seals, penguins, dolphins and Bryde’s whales or Humpback whales and numerous seabirds, like the African black oystercatcher.
Some come to Hermanus for the wine, some for the local beer, some for the cheese and olive culture that compliments the wine, some for the seafood…
Whatever your taste, there is something for you! If you have no idea where to start, I suggest you visit Burgundy Restaurant in Marine Drive and take it from there.
On any Saturday, head straight for The Hermanus Country Market at the Hermanus Cricket Grounds, between 09:00 and 13:00. There you will discover the most interesting array of foods and drinks, guaranteed to satisfy the most discerning palate. Fresh organic products, local wines and beer, cheese, olives, pestos, sweet treats, artisan breads, biltong, preservative-free salami, fresh juices, excellent coffee (by a roaster and barista) and gourmet foods!
Treat the kids to a ride on a train made from big 44 gallon drums and pulled by a tractor, or let them enjoy the play area while you eat, drink and chat to the locals.
With live music (Des Bosch from Money for Jam was playing and singing the day I was there), the vibe is festive. Shop for organic soaps, jewellery, art, crafts, gifts, plants and various items for the home. You will be spoilt for choice!
If you are heading for the beach, these are my impressions:
Grotto Beach, a Blue Flag (award of excellence) beach, is the furthest beach before driving out of Hermanus towards Stanford and Gansbaai. It has a licenced restaurant (I recommend their home-made “Bitterballen”). This beach is suitable for both children and the elderly. The beach has gentle slopes, so the sea is shallow for a long way out. It has a playground too. If you are wanting to walk, the beach is 18 km long, and you could walk to your heart’s content!
Voëlklip Beach is not recommended for the elderly, as there are many steps down to the beach. Along the terraces are many wooden benches on which to sit, so pack a picnic basket, as the terraces are lawn and not beach sand! The beach has a gentle slope into the surf, swirls around the rocks, and attracts surfers too.
Langbaai Beach is a long walk down from the parking area through the Milkwood Trees on uneven steps, so definitely not suitable for the elderly. This beach seemed to me to be quite dangerous for swimming, as the water was surging and unpredictable, and this on a lovely, clear day.
Onrus Beach has a restaurant overlooking the beach. It is a steep walk to and from the parking area, so not the best option for the elderly. A river runs into the sea, ideal for kids to swim in. This beach slopes far too steeply for my liking, and the result is that the sea gets deep quickly at high tide.
Kammabaai Beach has something for everyone. People fish, surf and swim. The overhanging cliffs are ideal if you need a shady spot during the day. For the elderly, parking is close to the beach and it is a short walk directly onto the beach, a big plus point for carrying arms full of beach umbrellas, towels and bags.
All the beaches have toilets, except for Langbaai Beach which has no toilets at all.
Hermanus has lovely, comfortable accommodation. Book well in advance as Hermanus is a popular destination. Most places in Hermanus are close to the sea, due to the nature of the position of the town. I stayed at Hermanus Boutique Guest House where Annatjie saw to my every need, and had lunch at Burgundy Restaurant where Pieter and his friendly waiters made the meal unforgettable.
The mountains behind Hermanus are home to the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, which has around 1,474 species of Fynbos, Proteas and Ericas. Around Hermanus a few species of small antelope can be found, as well as porcupines, mongooses, baboons, the Cape clawless otter, caraculs and the occasional leopard.
For birding enthusiasts, include a few hours at Vermont Salt Pan. This is a wetland, mildly saline, in the green belt conservation area. It is home to around 600 flamingos for up to six months of the year, and many other species of ducks and birds.
In summary, Hermanus has something for everyone, and will not disappoint, but may in fact surprise you. Whether you like mountains or sea, farm life or city life, resting or adrenalin sports, marine life, flora and fauna or birding, Hermanus has it all! So, for a whale of a time, include Hermanus in your next holiday trip.
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