Aloe Guest House in Hermanus

A host with the most...charming accommodation

As home to the best land-based whale watching in the world, the small Overberg town of Hermanus has no shortage of places to stay, but amidst this throng of accommodation options, there are few – if any - that can rival the generous hospitality found at John Terras’s Aloe Guest House.

Just a seven-minute walk from the town centre and oceanfront, his bed and breakfast conveniently stretches out alongside the former fishing village’s Main Road, its little-house-on-the-Karoo facade charming, but feeble advertising for the comfort and cordiality that rest within. 

While a stay in some guest houses – an accommodation category billed as a more affordable and personal overnight option – may yield a visit void of even a glimpse of the property’s owner, at Aloe, guests are guaranteed a warm welcome by the man who pays the bills himself.

“It’s like an awakening,” says impassioned owner John, in reference to the contrast between the exterior and interior of the bed and breakfast, his hands motioning up to the lodge’s high, peaked ceiling and expansive skylights. Afternoon sunshine filters into the central kitchen and dining area, illuminating the guest house’s surprising spaciousness and casting an enchanting golden halo over the wooden breakfast furniture and colourful wall art.  

Outside, the babble of the solar-heated rim-flow pool mingles with the sound of the sea breeze weaving its way through hedges of lavender and sweeping tendrils of ivy. Loungers bask in the heat of the early spring day, and a large braai area looks expectedly on, both amenities available for visitors’ use. 

“This business is about people; you have to be involved,” John asserts, the viewing done and the focus now on a cappuccino and Aloe’s home-baked shortbread. As proud owner of the four-star Hermanus accommodation, he’s a tour de force of personality. 

The former professional goalkeeper – he protected the Moroka Swallows’ net 20 years before Mandela assumed presidency – purchased the darling bed and breakfast in April 2012, and since, he’s been referred to by patrons as both “the second coming” and “the face of Aloe”; he playfully calls his girlfriend, Leslie, the “ghost of Aloe”, given her comparatively scant presence. 

“I just behave like I behave at home, and so far, it doesn’t seem to be the wrong thing,” he admits unabashedly. “People seem to think there’s a good energy here.”

A claim that’s as aptly reinforced by the guest house’s charismatic but mischievous concierge, Harry the basset hound, as it is by the well-appointed, airy rooms. The three standard suites boast sumptuous beds, arcing ceilings and sliding french doors that open onto an indoor alcove with another sleeper couch, and the family suite (sleeps eight) flaunts ample living space, two large bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and a private courtyard area. 

All of the rooms are clean, comfortable and equipped with DSTV, a small bar fridge, electric blankets to help wage war against Hermanus’s chilly winter nights and a liberal portion of the rich and buttery home-baked shortbread cookies – the latter just one of the many personal touches meant to root Aloe Guest House firmly in the minds of its visitors.

In addition to offering the delicious biscuits, John sends birthday cards to those who’ve graced the lodge’s guest registry, and he also has a member of his staff wash guests’ cars – at no charge – from Monday to Friday. 

What’s more, the couple, while strangers to the coastal town initially, are now Hermanus experts and enthusiasts. Both harbour a wealth of knowledge, and they’ll just as soon make those staying the night a restaurant reservation or recommend a hiking route in the nearby Fernkloof Nature Reserve as they will book a whale watching tour or write down directions to the famous Grotto beach (it has blue beach status). 

“Hermanus is probably the most phenomenal place in South Africa to come for a weekend,” raves John, his sea-blue eyes sparkling with the thrill of introducing yet another visitor to his home. “There’s no other place in the nation where in a 6.5-km radius you can do what you can do here.”

So, while it’s certainly tempting to lounge by Aloe’s pool after a sound sleep and a cooked-to-order breakfast, a world waiting to be discovered is – quite literally – just steps away from the guest house’s quaint cottage stoep. 

Tip: Ask John about the special rate for CapeTownMagazine.com readers! Also, if coming for the two-week Hermanus Whale Festival (end of September/beginning of October), be sure to book well in advance. 

The Bill: Incredibly reasonable, given the guest house’s convenient location, modern furnishings and warm hospitality. 

  • R1214 for a Standard Suite (2 people) in 2013
  • R2300 for a Family Suite (8 people) in 2013

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Wondering what to do during a weekend in this small Overberg village? Read our guide to Hermanus.

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