Hermanus is the southern-right whale capital of the world and every September hundreds of visitors head to its shores for the annual whale festival.
This bustling town, previously a fisherman’s village, is where you can sip locally-made Sauvignon Blanc and listen to live music, while overlooking a spectacular bay dotted with breaching whales. It is situated an hour and a half from Cape Town and over the years it’s grown in popularity and in size. Frankly, it’s easy to see why.
In the 1970’s, my grandparents made the wise decision of buying a house in Hermanus when the town was still a wee little “dorpie” and since I was born, I’ve had the privilege of holidaying in Voëlklip. Here is my selection of top things to do in Herms.
1. Walk from the New Harbour to Voelklip
Dubbed by my family as the “big walk”, this 10km amble is well worth the effort. A paved coastal path stretches all the way along the coast and it offers top views of sea and mountain. During the whale season there’s no better place to be than on the coastal path. If you’re lucky, you’ll see schools of dolphin, otters, dassies and – not to be sniffed at! – Dung beetles. Be sure to stop along the way for a pancake or a beer.
2. Go for a drink at Barneys
Barneys is a Hermanus institution. This pool bar has been around forever and as a child, I remember being green with envy as my older brother and friends made their way to Barneys. This somewhat seedy bar is a true reflection of the local social scene. Expect old-school and rock music, locals with names like Monkey and a barman who will happily play your song requests. If you’re looking for something a little bit more sophisticated, there’s always the Shimmi Bar.
3. Visit the Fern Kloof Nature Reserve and Swim in the Resevoir
Most holidaymakers in Hermanus make a point of visiting the Fern Kloof Nature Reserve at least once during a visit. A hike up the mountain reveals breath-taking views of the town and sea. Scramble up a steep path for a further 30 minutes to reach the reservoir; the refreshing water at the top is enticement enough. For the more adventurous, there’s a cliff face from which you can jump into the water. Cyclists will enjoy the cycling routes against the mountain-side.
4. Hit the Beach
Hermanus is blessed with white, sandy beaches and cool water that make for the perfect setting on a summer’s day. There are many fabulous beaches to choose from. If body surfing is your thing, look no further than Langbaai, if you like the option of tanning on grass and being surrounded by trendy people, head to Voëlklip. For a family-focused beach experience Grotto or Nanny’s Beach is your best bet. A walk from Grotto Beach to the lagoon and back is the ideal way to enjoy Hermanus’ pink sunsets. Out of town, the beaches at Onrus and Betty’s Bay are excellent options for surfers.
5. Eat Good Food and Drink Wine
Braaiing is probably one of the most popular pastimes in Hermanus and as you soak up the evening air, you’ll quickly get a whiff of sizzling boerewors. If, however, you opt for a night on the town, head to the New Harbour and dine at the Quayside Cabin. This waterside eatery is all about fresh seafood, candlelight and rustic, maritime décor -a definite must. In the town centre you will find a selection of sophisticated restaurants like the Burgundy, Rossi’s and the Tapas Food and Wine Bar. And finally … don’t forget to go wine-tasting in the Hemel en Aarde Valley just outside town.