Sir William Hoy, who became the first General Manager of South African Rail in 1910, knew exactly what he was doing when he vetoed the decision to extend the Cape Railway to Hermanus: he had a fierce desire to preserve the sanctity of this secluded seaside village.
And even as Hermanus has grown to become one of the world’s most well-trodden tourist destinations, the rustic charm and natural beauty that Sir William Hoy – and many others after him – loved so much remains intact.
Whale-watching, wine tasting, beaches, restaurants, art galleries… the town has it all. Here’s our guide to the wonders of Walker Bay.
1. Fernkloof Nature Reserve
Covering about 1 800 hectares in the Kleinrivier Mountains, Fernkloof’s unique topography (a combination of mountain and sea) has given rise to flourishing and diverse plant life, including some unique species of fynbos. A network of colour-coded hiking trails runs throughout the reserve, offering spectacular views of Walker Bay and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.
Interesting fact The Fernkloof Nature Reserve comprises 0.002% of the Cape Floral Kingdom but contains 18% of its plants in just 18 square kilometres. There are few places in the world where you can see so many different species in such close proximity.
Good to know The Blue and Yellow hiking trails are dog-friendly, although dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.
Opening times 6am – 7pm (summer)
7am – 7pm (winter)
Cost Entrance is free
Donations at Visitor’s Centre are welcome.
Contact 028 313 0819 (Hermanus Botanical Society Office)
028 313 8111 (Emergency number)
Location Fernkloof Nature Reserve, Fir Avenue, R43, Hermanus
2. Hermanus Country Market
All the things we love about Hermanus are rolled into one at this laidback country market, making it a fitting start to Saturday (that’s assuming you’re in Hermanus over the weekend). Sausages, pies, hand-made cheeses, fresh juices, craft beer and ciders, wines, gin, excellent coffee, and loads more, can be found at the various stalls. Live music and a variety of arts and crafts contribute to the vibrant atmosphere.
Good to know The market is pet-friendly.
Don’t leave without trying a heavenly mini melktert (or five), washed down with a good cup of coffee from Tulip Roasters.
Opening times Saturday, 9am – 1pm
Contact 072 883 3894, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Corner of Fairways Avenue & Jose Burman Drive, Hermanus
3. Voelklip Beach
Arguably one of the best beaches in South Africa, for its clean, clear water, fine white sand, and beautiful setting, this secluded spot will grant you some respite from the crowds who tend to flock to Onrus and Grotto. An especially popular spot for surfers, it’s also a great location for picnics, thanks to the surrounding lawns. The sandy portion of the beach is surrounded by rocky outcroppings, which makes for sheltered swimming.
Contact 028 312 2629, email@example.com
Location 7th Avenue, Hermanus
4. Origins at The Marine
The elegant Marine Hotel lives up to its name, with nautical-inspired decor (that’s chic not kitsch), and a menu that highlights everyday favourites prepared with an Asian twist. Previously known as Seafood at the Marine, Origins now offers a variety of small plates and mains, from a crafted menu that’s overseen by executive chef Peter Tempelhoff, who presides over all the restaurants in The Collection by Liz McGrath McGrath. Items such as “Shoots, Stems & Leaves” and “Hunted and Gathered” reflect its oceanic surrounds. The dining room allows guests to observe the chefs at work in the open kitchen, and there’s also a separate restaurant section with ocean views (ideal for small group bookings).
Why you’ll love it Whether you prefer tapas, natural wines and craft beer or a full sit-down dining experience, you will find it at Origins. Service is warm, professional and informed.
Opening times Daily, 12pm – 2:30pm, 7pm – 9:30pm
Contact 028 313 1000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Marine Hotel, Main Road, Hermanus
5. Cliff Path Walk
Hermanus has no shortage of fine restaurants, which means dining out is probably going to feature highly during your stay. Build up an appetite with a brisk(ish) saunter along the world-popular cliff path, and witness the entire coastline of Walker Bay in all her majesty. As the path takes you through the Old Harbour (declared a national monument in 1970), you’ll get a glimpse of the town’s colourful history, dating back to the mid-19th century and its origins as a small fishing village. Naturally, the trail has some prime spots for whale watching (they’ve been sighted as close as five meters from shore).
Contact 028 312 2629, email@example.com
6. Newton Johnson Wines
This feted restaurant offers cutting-edge cuisine with traditional South African flavours, as well as spectacular views of the Hemel-en-Aarde vineyards as they stretch out towards the Atlantic Ocean. The seasonally evolving menu, overseen by chef Ricky Broekhoven, consists of artfully prepared dishes composed of fresh ingredients sourced straight from the farm itself. Situated off the R43 around 20 minutes drive from Hermanus, it’s worth a detour on your way back to Cape Town.
Opening times Lunch: Wednesday – Sunday, 12pm – 3pm
Dinner (2 course or 3 course set menu, with MCC and canapé): Friday & Saturday, from November 2017 to February 2018
Contact 021 200 2148, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Restaurant at Newton-Johnson, R320 Hemel-en-Aarde Road, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Hermanus
7. Klipgat Cave
A mere three kilometres from the idyllic De Kelders fishing village is the Walker Bay Nature Reserve, home to Klipgat Cave and its limestone windows looking out onto stunning ocean views. The cave has reached cultural, historical and world heritage significance due to the 1992 excavation, which revealed stone tools and human bones dating back some 70 000 years.
Good to know Bring good hiking shoes, as the cave can be slippery, and a warm jacket as it can get windy.
Getting there Head along the N2 towards Gansbaai. The 7km long trail towards Klipgat Cave starts at Gansbaai Harbour and boasts lovely views of the ocean and the occasional fynbos. But if you don’t feel like the walk, simply drive to Walker Bay Nature Reserve via Hermanus and take the boardwalk down to the cave. There will still be a bit of climbing as you get to the cave.
Reviewer Alicia Chamaille
8. Hermanus Wine Hoppers
Similar to the Franschhoek Wine Tram, these safari-style vehicles allow travellers to experience the picturesque and wine-rich Hemel-en-Aarde Valley at their own pace. The vehicles follow a set route, stopping at various acclaimed wineries along the way, including Spookfontein, Creation Wines and Newton Johnson. Passengers are free to hop off at destinations of their choice, and then back on again when the next vehicle comes around.
Departure times Weekdays: 9am – 12pm (every 30 minutes)
Weekends: 9.40am, then 10am – 12.30pm (every 30 minutes)
Safari vehicles drop off and pick up passengers at wineries along the route every 30 minutes.
Business hours Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
Saturday, 9.30am – 5pm
Sunday (1 Oct – 30 Apr), 9.30am – 5pm
Closed on Sundays from 1 May to 30 Sept
Cost R250 per person (excluding wine tasting and meals)
Contact 076 991 2498, email@example.com
Location Starting point: Stall 18, Village Market Stall, Market Square Street, Hermanus
9. Klein River Farmstead
Fancy some farm-fresh artisanal cheese? Or a picnic by the river? The idyllic Klein River Farmstead is the perfect spot for a family outing, with its delightful outside play area, and nearby pig, donkey and goat pens. Create your own picnic from the assortment of local fresh produce, cheese, wine and beer available at their deli-style Picnic Shed, and enjoy it amid the lush green meadows of the farm.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 9am – 4pm
Closed on Christmas Day & New Year’s Day
Contact 028 341 0693, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location R326, Stanford, Overberg
10. Manor House Restaurant
A trip to the Stanford Valley is a must for visitors to the Overberg, and while the village boasts a number of noteworthy restaurants, the Manor House at Stanford Valley Guest House captures the spirit of this countryside getaway beautifully. Consultant chef Madré Malan’s contemporary country cuisine is honest, utterly delicious and full of goodness. And the owners’ warmth and passion for what they do will make you want to pack up your life and relocate to Stanford…
Read our full review of Manor House.
Opening times Thursday – Saturday, breakfast, lunch and dinner
Sunday, breakfast and lunch
Contact 072 198 0862, email@example.com
Location Stanford Valley Guest Farm, R326
11. Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary
A 30-minute drive from Hermanus, this sanctuary was founded by Lizaene Cornwall and Cathrine S. Nyquist, and acts as a haven for big cats rescued from breeding grounds where they were kept for the purpose of canned hunting (and other such nefarious practices). Inhabitants include lions, leopards, Bengal tigers, jackals and caracels (and, of course, the dedicated staff and volunteers who help care for them).
Opening times 90-minute guided tours, 9am and 4pm (October to March)
10am and 3pm (April to September)
Closed on Tuesdays
Cost R240 (adults)
R150 (children under 13)
10% discount for families of 4+
Booking is required
Contact 071 182 8368, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary, Farm 922, Portion 2, Stanford 7210
12. Hoy’s Koppie
In the midst of a flat plain, a lone hill rises up above Hermanus, offering unrivalled views of the seaside village and the vast ocean beyond. Oft referred to as the crown of Hermanus, Hoy’s Koppie is a fascinating geological landmark, believed to have been formed around 450 million years ago by wave erosion. Sea shells scattered along the lower path indicate that it was once below sea level, and there’s even a cave near the bottom, in which tools and artefacts dating back to the Middle Stone Age have been discovered. Hike to the summit (around 75 meters above sea level) via a stone stairway that looks more like something you’d expect to see at Machu Picchu, and gaze out upon the coast in wonder.
Contact 028 313 8111 (for emergencies)
Location Central Hermanus
13. Whale Watching Tours
No guide to Hermanus would be complete without mentioning the gentle giants. In fact, if you’re in the Overberg between June and November, they’re probably the main reason you’re here. One of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) 12 Best Whale-Watching Destinations in the World, Hermanus is a breeding ground for southern right whales. So why not book an awesome whale-watching tour that will get you up close and personal (without disturbing the beautiful creatures)? You could even plan your trip to coincide with the annual Hermanus Whale Festival.
Departure times Daily, 9am, 12pm and 3pm (June – December)
Cost R900 (adults)
R800 (students and seniors)
R450 (children under 14)
Free (children under 5)
Contact 082 353 0550, email@example.com
Location Southern Right Charters: The Whale Shack, New Harbour, Hermanus
14. Raka Tasting Room
Raka’s wines are famed throughout the Cape, and its tasting room offers an opportunity to sample some of its fine vintages, which include rosé, sauvignon blanc, pinotage and sangiovese. In addition to the variety of flavours on offer, the mesmerising scenery, warm hospitality and professional service makes for a memorable experience.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
Saturdays & Public Holidays, 10am – 2.30pm
Closed on Sundays, Good Friday, Christmas Day
Phone ahead to confirm availability, if visiting out of season
Contact 028 341 0676, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location R326 towards Stanford
15. Lembu Gallery
A myriad of African stories are contained in this art gallery – in the form of paintings, fabrics, ceramics and jewellery. Situated in a 100-year-old fisherman’s cottage – which is now the home and studio of artist Ed Bredenkamp – Lembu Gallery has been described as a treasure trove of gifts and unique art pieces (which includes some of Ed’s oil paintings of red elephants). If you’re looking for authentic souvenirs from the African continent, this is the place to buy them.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm; Saturday & Sunday, 9am – 3pm
Contact 028 312 1187 / 028 313 2741, email@example.com
Location 10 Harbour Road, Hermanus
Insider info If you feel like splurging, book a night at Birkenhead House. And, for other exciting places to eat in the Overberg, check out our Best Hermanus Restaurants. Subscribe to our newsletter and never miss a trick.