Reviews and Visitors' Perspectives / Western Cape

Hermanus – The Riviera of the South

Updated Monday, 18 April 2022

My first memories of Hermanus are from high school holidays, my school friends and I taking the bus up the East coast for a week of getting ejected unceremoniously from bars for being underage, scorned by the local girls for not being cool enough and raiding the liquor cabinets of parents that were gullible and unfortunate to allow us to stay in their Hermanus holiday homes.

At around 115kms South East of Cape Town, or around an hours drive from the city centre, Hermanus, also known as the Riviera of the South, can be found. Once a sleepy little fishing village, this bustling town is now a popular holiday destination, with high school students still making that self-same pilgrimage every year.

New Harbour, Hermanus

Originally named Hermanuspietersfontein, after Hermanus Pieters, who made this idyllic seafront spot his summer camping area in the early 1800’s, the town only sprung up in the late 1800’s. The development boom, however, is a much more recent development.

With several well-known luxury hotels, guesthouses, self catering houses and cottages, and camping grounds, Hermanus has become one of the primary holiday destinations for Capetonians, and an attractive option for for tourists wanting to see a little more of the Western Cape.

Hermanus is often referred to with reference to its most famous community activity – whale watching. With the annual Hermanus whale festival dedicated to this yearly breeding pilgrimage by the gentle giants of the deep, and the sporting the only whale crier in the world; a man dedicated to alerting watchers to the whereabouts of whales, Hermanus is synonymous with this unique activity.

Hermanus Whale Festival

For the more adventurous, who seek a close encounter with that other denizen of the deep, the Great White shark, cage diving tours are another popular activity. A visit to the old harbour and museum should satisfy history buffs, while boating enthusiasts can take advantage of the yacht club’s facilities.

For nature lovers, there are a wide variety of choices, from the simplicity of the unspoiled beaches, to hikes or walks through the Fernkloof nature reserve, or along the unique cliff path that circumnavigates the town offers an opportunity to enjoy the Fynbos typical of and particular to the area.

The town also has a magnificent golf course, located on the slopes of the surrounding mountains, and encircled by the nature reserve, or for a unique educational experience, a visit to the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory, part of the network of similar observatories dotted around the globe can be arranged.

The town has a variety of shopping options, from small craft shops, and several outlets selling goods crafted from shells harvested off local beaches, to a bustling market selling handicrafts, overlooking the ocean.

Whale watching from the Cliff Path

Although there are many dining options in the town, from top class restaurants to family oriented eateries, a good choice may be to visit one of the restaurants located in the new harbour, where one can enjoy traditional fish and chips (or the not so traditional sushi) while watching the fishing trawlers in the harbour and around the Walker bay area.

With good food goes good wine, and the region is fast developing a reputation as a wine producer to watch. The Hermanus wine route includes the Hemel en Aarde Valley, where wine producers nestle alongside upmarket residential developments. If fishing, and not wine, is a passion, the visitor will find the surrounding waters well stocked with local fish, including galjoen and steenbras.

All in all, Hermanus is a small town that packs in a multitude of attractions, whether for the family, outdoor adventurer (or high school student) and is well worth a visit.

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