Nine craft beers, small-batch Thursdays + a guide for beginners
Because whale watching, mountain biking, art, top wine farms + food mecca..
If towns were people, Hermanus would be the gifted all-rounder, with talents that span the range of travel attractions. That it’s South Africa’s number 1 whale-watching destination is fact (it even has a festival dedicated to the event). Then there are the Blue Flag beaches, the hiking and mountain-biking trails, the 20+ art galleries, the restaurants, the Hemel-en-Aarde valley’s incredible wine farms, the champagne air…
Read more below about this gem of a seaside restaurant set into the cliffs. Image: Hermanus Tourism
It’s where to go if you want to satisfy almost every desire of everyone in your group or family. “Almost” because you won’t find wild nightlife there, but exceptional boutique wine farms and one of the most charming seaside bars in the country surpasses any club (want to know where the bar is? Read on…).
IT’S THE NO 1 WHALE-WATCHING SPOT
This coastal area has hit the jackpot of sea life. Walker Bay is a Hope Spot conservancy, and this is where Humpback, Southern Right and even Bryde’s Whales come to calve between June and November. The whales get really close to shore, and you can watch – and hear – amazing displays of breaching from almost any point along the shore.
This is considered the main attraction, but the sea life is rich here. Image:Hermanus Tourism
Big pods of dolphins often pass through, and the rich coastal waters also attract seals and sharks – adrenaline junkies can cage dive with them at Gansbaai. Closer to shore there’s plenty of safe swimming and snorkelers will love the kelp forests rich with life. Don’t forget about kayaking; you’ll be surprised at how much comes your way, from seals to sea birds.
ART IS A BIG DEAL HERE
Did you know that there are 22 galleries in this (almost anyone would agree) small town? To say it is art obsessed is not an exaggeration. There’ is art everywhere, from galleries to the market. One of the nicest events the town holds is First Fridays. When all the galleries open their doors until eight in the evening, and patrons and enthusiasts and artists spill out onto the streets to meet and talk culture, you get to see why Hermanus is the province’s untapped art destination.
First Fridays is one of the loveliest ways to get to meet some of the town’s citizens and invest in art. Image courtesy of Roussouw Modern Art
The Hermanus FynArts Festival is also held annually in June. If contemplative art is more your style, you’ll love the Sculptures On The Cliff at Gearings Point. Here, larger-than-life pieces become part of the landscape of crashing waves beyond. Many of the sculptures make powerful and thought-provoking statements about nature and it’s a beautiful experience spending time with them.
Image courtesy of Hermanus Tourism
IT’S AFRICA’S 1st UNESCO CITY OF GASTRONOMY
Hermanus has been recognised as Africa’s first UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, which is part of a global Creative Cities initiative. This shows how central food is to the town’s culture. The famous Hemel-en-Aarde wine-producing region is core to the Hermanus Wine Route and where there is good wine, excellent food follows
Image courtesy of Hermanus Tourism
From town to the surrounding areas, there are so many eating out options for visitors. La Pentola is one of its award-winning restaurants. Just off the town’s main square, its views of Walker Bay are gorgeous. Plus the menu is original and exceptional, as one would expect of award-winning fusion chef, TV chef and author Shane Sauvage.
Another gem is The Gallery Café. Owner Emilia Knight makes vegetarian sexy (and delicious) and also bakes out-of-this-world pastries – don’t leave without trying the Turkish delight croissants. Hermanus is also where you can try the rare local delicacy, abalone (try Burgundy Restaurant).
Burgundy Restaurant’s speciality dish is abalone, shown here with a wine from the award-winning winery in the Hemel en Aarde Valley. Image courtesy of Burgundy
THERE'S PLENTY OF CHOICES, EVEN FOR VEGANS
Speaking of food... Hermanus isn't your regular small town. It has a variety of restaurants that'll suit any diet or taste. Bringing a vegan or veggie with you? Make sure to visit Pear Tree Bistro. Situated on the Village Square, this healthy eatery overlooks the sea. Sit under the trees and try a tofu tostada, pink falafal taco or charcoal aquafaba brownie (there's options for meat eaters too, like sushi calamari or crispy pork belly ribs).
Enjoy a refreshing kombucha cocktail and admire the view. Image courtesy of Pear Tree Bistro
HIKE OR MOUNTAIN BIKE OR BIRDWATCH
The area is part of the Kogelberg Biosphere and there are many conservancies, including Fernkloof Nature Reserve and Walker Bay Nature Reserve and Hope Spot. This rich biosphere means the bird and plant life is exceptional, and it offers some of the prettiest hikes and slackpacking trails in the province, with mountains on one side descending steeply to a beautifully varied coastline, with sometimes rocky shores, sometimes long sandy stretches.
The coastline is beautiful and varied, and much of it unspoilt. Image courtesy of Hermanus Tourism
It’s famous for its “Champagne air”, so much so that in earlier decades it is where people were sent to convalesce. According to health experts, the ion-saturated oxygen holds health benefits. Hermanus insiders still swear by this.
NO SHORTAGE OF ADRENALINE
Thanks to its varied topography, this area attracts lots of outdoor competitive action. The famous Absa Cape Epic, the gruelling eight-day mountain-bike race, has put Hermanus on its route, and the Hi-Tec Walker-Bay Outdoor’s six categories are a testament to the variety of activities the area offers: swimming, hiking, trail-running, triathlon, running, even cliff-jumping.
The Cape Epic, one of the most gruelling races, has put Hermanus on its route. Image courtesy of Hermanus Tourism
AND STILL MORE FOR FUN-ADVENTURE JUNKIES
Another advantage of the area being full of highs and lows, topographically speaking, is that there are so many fun activities this enables, like tubing in the Kogelberg, kitesurfing or paragliding or horseback riding, or whizzing through the mountainscape on a zip-line.
Grotto Beach stretches for miles and has Blue Flag status. Image courtesy of Hermanus Tourism
There are good roads around Hermanus, with lovely long stretches of straight and some curves thrown in (and those views!), so a trip on a Harley Davidson is great fun, or opt for dirt tracks and quad biking. E-biking around the town is a lovely way to see it, and makes it easy for the kids. Everything that’s fun exists here: there’s a skatepark, there are horse-riding trails, you can scuba dive and on windy days there’s kitesurfing.
Ficks Pinchos & Wine brings the Riviera to the Western Cape. Image courtesy of Hermanus Tourism
And once you’ve done it all, there’s the secret we promised you in the first paragraph: the cutest (and sexiest) little restaurant and bar cut into the cliffs over a tidal pool is Ficks. It serves fantastic cocktails and food and this will be where the party is at.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY IN HERMANUS
Dine on the ocean-front with curious cocktails and sushi at Milk on the Beach.
Or pop down to the family-fun Waffle Shack below Milk on the Beach.
For rare and tender steaks and exceptional burgers (vegan options, too), try Char’d Grill.
The Hermanus Wine Route is full of prime wine brands, including Gabriëlskloof.
Experience little Italy in Hermanus with Rossi's Italian Restaurant.