Looking for a place that promises a memorable holiday? Have you heard of Hermanus – that quintessential holiday town located just a mere hour and a half from Cape Town, South Africa? It’s impossible to talk about Hermanus without mentioning its whales. The reason is simple; imagine yourself getting close to a creature longer and wider than a boat, with a tail that spans roughly 5 metres, and a body weight of 40 tonnes! Now, imagine that creature fling itself into the air beside you. I’m sorry, imagination really doesn’t capture the feeling, it is an experience that places life on another horizon. However, what makes Hermanus more attractive is not merely the whales. Get there and you’ll be thrilled by the tons of fun activities available to make your holiday a lifelong memorable event.
Hermanus, which started off as a retirement town, has grown into a spectacular holiday seaside neighbourhood thanks to its serene atmosphere, winding cliff paths, sloping green mountains, and deep blue waters. A single experience confirms all these, and something more… It’s the perfect place to catch a glimpse of some enchanting marine life while inhaling the fresh sea air. Here at Afro Tourism, we’ve compiled a list of the fun things to do in Hermanus, we believe these things will get you on your way back to the city again and again:
Hermanus is most famous for its whale watching because visitors are usually thrilled when they walk on the cliff path during whale season and spot these giant mammals. The path stretches 10km from the New Harbour to Klein River, so visitors don’t run out of view as whales can be seen frolicking from the winding coastline. However, during the offseason, a boat is a necessity if one wants to catch a glimpse of the giant sea creatures. All boat whale watching is done setting out from the Hermanus New Harbour leading to the Walker Bay area where mainly Southern Right Whales are seen, although Killer Whales have occasionally been spotted. The best time to visit is between October and November, but one can also see them in May during mating season as well as in the rest of the winter months of June and July.
2. Boat Rides
Which one of these catches your fancy? Enjoying sightseeing cruises, power boating, or fishing by boat; Hermanus has all these and lots more. Whichever suits your fantasy, make sure you take out a day to enjoy life on the water. Particularly, look out for dolphins and other fishes such as Cape Fur seals, penguins, sharks, whales, and a variety of birdlife. This could be the most amazing experience you’ll have on your trip.
3. Learn to play Golf
The Hermanus Golf and Club is a non-negotiable must-visit spot for a bit of fun sport in the town. Located not very far from the city centre, whether you like the game of golf or not, the smooth greenery of the golf grounds promises to soothe and relax you of stress. Buggy rides on golf carts are also available as one is able to take in the views of the surrounding mountains.
4. Climb and Explore Hoy’s Koppie
A part of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, Hoy’s Koppi is as a result of a wave action cutting away softer material around a core of harder sandstone. As the shoreline receded over time the core of hard sandstone was left standing. Named after Sir William Hoy the famous Hermanus resident who stopped the town from being commercialised by halting the further construction of a rail line. With its sturdy pathways around the hill, it’s a fun place to take in the views of the surrounding city centre, the Fernkloof Mountains and Walker Bay from various points along the paths, as well as harbours. Though the best view still remains from the top of the Koppie. So endeavour to climb to the top of the hill which also doubles as the gravesites of both Sir William Hoy and his wife.
5. Visit the Scenic Drive/View
An enthralling site to visit. The drive up to the viewpoint is as captivating as the entire town itself. This place is by far the very best place to be in Hermanus. From the tip of the mountaintop, you’ll be blessed with the views of the entire town far into the sea on the other side of the coast. It is indeed a stunning site that will leave you breathless from sheer joy.
6. Vineyards Visit & Wine-Tasting
Time to sip wine; let’s hit the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route where we can enjoy wine samplings at different stunning locations. Some of these locations include the Hamilton Russel Vineyard, which is the oldest winery in the valley. Its tasting room is open to the public daily. Whale Haven Wines offers stunning views of the sea and mountains, and tasting is between 9:30am and 5pm on weekdays. There is also Sumaridge, which produces wines from the farm’s own vineyards, it opens on weekdays from 9am to 5pm. In the centre of Hermanus is Batho Eksteen, it opens daily during business hours. Bottles of various wines can be purchased either at the Wine Village where all the valley-produced wines and are available’. However, vintage wines are not available to the general public but can be purchased directly from the vineyard of the particular winemaker. Jars of various sizes are also available and can be purchased on site.
I love beaches and I am sure you do too. It’s where you go to cool off and ease out life’s stress. There are many stunning beaches in Hermanus each with its own uniqueness. Kammabaai, also known as ‘Lover’s Cove’, has great waves for surfing, with picnic and braai areas. Langbaai is Hermanus’ ‘secret beach’ and offers a private bathing area beneath the cliffs. Sandbaai beach has a variety of rock pools with fascinating marine life. It is popular at low tide for swimming and snorkelling. The most popular and favourite though is the Grotto beach which has the prestigious blue flag status. It is perfect for games, sun-tanning, swimming, and romantic walks. The list is long, find one that matches your taste and have a blast!
8. Tour the Historical Hermanus Railway Station
Ever heard of a train station without a rail line or one which has never had a train on it? Yes, there’s one in Hermanus. Notably the country’s only railway station without a train. Sir William Hoy, the then head of the Cape and South African Railways, was determined to keep Hermanus ‘villagey’ that he halted well-advanced plans to build a train station. His stance was that the proposed plan will open up Hermanus to commercial activities that would rob it of its picturesque holiday feel. Having been there myself I’d have to agree with Sir Hoy on this one. Hermanus works well as simply a holiday town, period.
9. Visit the Craft Market
For gift items, hit the Craft Market where handmade bead and artwork, tie-dyed clothing, and other special gifts are available for purchase. It opens every weekend, from 8:30am to 3pm at Lemms Corner in Old harbour road.
At the Hermanus Country Market, you can get the best local products such as organic fruit and vegetables, home baked goods, cheeses, herbs, jars of honey, chocolates, and biltong. You can also find indigenous plants and succulents. Opening hours are Saturday from 8am to 12pm at the Hermanus cricket grounds.
The Fernkloof Farmer’s Market at the Montessori school offers organic produce, fresh herbs, flowers, homemade baked goods, and biltong. It, however, opens only on Saturday morning from 7:30am to 11:30am.
10. Take a Tour of the Village Square
The Hermanus Village Square is the best place to be if you want to savour delicious delicacies. Littered with several intercontinental, exquisite seafood, steakhouses and local restaurants, take a seat in any of these restaurants to fill up your tummy. If you’re one for fast food though there are also many fast food joints, offering burgers, pizzas, fish and chips and a host of others.
11. Visit Hermanus’ Beautiful Hotels
As a holiday town, Hermanus wouldn’t be complete without hotels. The hotels in this beautiful town are stunning, many stationed just mere footsteps from the sea. Standing in any of the balconies of these hotels will help you appreciate the beauty of the town further as you take in the views of the harbours as well as breathe in the fresh air coming from the cool breezy winds.
12. Visit the Fisherman Village
I love to learn something about everywhere I go, so should you. Visit the Fisherman’s Village Photo Cottage to see a photographic exhibition that portrays the history of the village. At the Old Harbour Museum, you will learn the detailed history of fishing and whaling in Hermanus. From examining marine tanks with sea creatures, attending talks on the intertidal zone, seeing a whale skeleton, and the remains of fishing boats used between 1855 and 1961, you’d leave the site almost a professor of history! The museum opens Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
13. Go Diving with Sharks!
If fascinated by the whales is not enough, try out underwater cage diving! There are several shark cage diving trips available in Gansbaai, near Hermanus. At Dyer Island, you’ll find large numbers of sharks where you can climb into a cage attached to the boat to see them in their natural environment. If you want to see a shark breaching, that is, jumping out of the water sometimes with prey in its mouth, it’s best to go between May and September. The adventurous do it all, exploring the numerous reefs underwater to the shipwrecks scattered along the ocean floor. With a permit, you can dive for perlemoen and crayfish. However fun, this activity is not for the fainthearted.
When I said tons of activities, I meant it! Leave the waters, let’s go for horse riding. At the Grootbos Nature Reserve, you’ll find fantastic trails and wide-open spaces that are simply perfect for riding. Only 2 hours from Cape Town and 30 minutes from Hermanus on the way to the world-renowned Garden Route, Grootbos is perfectly situated between the classic attractions of the Cape and is most certainly a highlight on any itinerary. The reserve has its own stables and 20 well-trained horses and small ponies for children. What makes it catchy is the chance to enjoy riding at all levels. Take a Beach ride through Fynbos fields to enjoy galloping alongside the waves. Did your heart beat faster? Don’t panic, you have your safety fully taken care of with the experienced horse-riders around. Simply relax and enjoy the ride and the vibrant surroundings.
The Hermanus’ climate is perfect for paragliding and allows visitors an exhilarating birds-eye view of the town, before landing on the grassy fields of the high school. In spring, you may see whales in the bay from above.
So much to do in this small but special town, ensure you plan your trip correctly so you won’t miss out on Hermanus’ fun, and when you are there, don’t stop when you are tired, stop when you are done!
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Additional experiences were added by our former Sub Editor, Chinenye Emezie-Egwuonwu, who recently visited Hermanus.