As lovely as summer in Hermanus is – sun-drenched days, long swims in the sea, cliff-path walks and bounteous seafood platters – it also means mobs of tourists, sweltering heat and queueing for restaurants! Unless, of course, you’re staying at The Marine, whose enviable (yet discreet) cliff-hugging location, welcoming restaurants, and wonderful facilities make it a relaxing all-round destination – no matter what time of year you visit.
Owned by the late hotelier Liz McGrath, The Marine is one of three hotels in The McGrath Collection, which has become synonymous with culinary excellence, low-key sophistication and warm, professional service. (The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town and The Plettenberg on the Garden Route are the other properties in the Collection)
Set along the famed 10-kilometre-long cliff path, this 40-room property, dating back to 1902, has had many revamps and renovations along the way, which are understatedly modern and upmarket – in an old-world kind of way. Some of its wonderful facilities include a sheltered courtyard with a heated salt-water pool, two restaurants, a chic, stylishly appointed sea-facing lounge and bar area, and a spa – making it a destination in itself, where ocean views, sea breezes and fresh-caught cuisine converge.
The hotel’s eclipsing feature is undoubtedly its prime position – a metre or so from the heady fynbos-infested cliff path that winds its way along the Walker Bay coast, offering some of the best whale-watching vistas in the world.
Whale-watching from your bed
Taking its cue from its breathtaking setting, the decor in the hotel’s 40 rooms is serene, restrained and upmarket. Rooms range from spacious premier suites with private terraces that open onto the cliff path, to smallish double rooms overlooking the courtyard. Dressed in subtle shades of blues and greens, our first-floor sea-facing luxury room has a separate lounge area, dressing room, and two LED TVs. But with all the frolicking, lob-tailing and breaching happening just outside our window, there is no need for television! We spend the afternoon luxuriating on our king-sized bed, transfixed by the magnificence of the gentle giants below us.
Perhaps it’s because we live in such a high-speed, high-volume world that my most abiding memories of The Marine are centred around the old-fashioned hospitality, and charming old-world touches that inhabit the hotel. A vase of lillies on the dresser in our bedroom, the creak of wooden floorboards in the upstairs corridors, the hound’s tooth carpets in the passages, a quaint internet lounge with piles of Time magazines, the handwritten note from house-keeping to tell me they’d run out of my preferred morning coffee, and the warmth and genuine enthusiasm of the staff.
It’s these quaint touches that give The Marine it’s character and charm. No matter what time of year you visit, it’s the kind of place where you can slow down, and let the stunning surrounds wash over you.