The beautiful seaside town Hermanus, located southeast of Cape Town in South Africa, is world renowned as a fantastic whale-watching destination. Formerly a little fishing village, but now a premier holiday location, there are a huge range of things to do in Hermanus.
Home to several pristine white sandy beaches like Voëlklip Beach and Grotto Beach, it is easy to see why this is such a popular beach destination. ‘The Hemel and Aarde Valley’, where Hermanus is located, is well known for producing some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines in the country. Don’t miss out on excellent wine tasting when visiting Hermanus. At the Old Harbour Museum you get the feeling of the original fishermen’s village and its whaling history. Hermanus has some excellent restaurants, whether you are looking for quality fine dining or a variety of seafood with the best ocean view imaginable, you will find it here. If you are an adrenaline junkie, Walker Bay has a lot to offer, with Scuba diving, kayaking, quad biking and a lot more. Just want to get pampered? This seaside town is home to some top rated beauty and wellness spas.
How to get to Hermanus
You can visit Hermanus as a day trip from Cape Town. Driving to Hermanus on Clarence Drive on the coast is one of the most spectacular scenic drives from Cape Town.
There are two ways to drive from Cape Town to Hermanus, along the N2 is about 30 minutes faster, or the beautiful coastal road along Clarence Drive.
Driving on the N2 via Sir Lowry’s Pass you will have great views back over False Bay all the way to the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. Driving this way is 122 km and takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The Clarence Drive coastal route follows a stunning 48km coastal road from Gordon’s Bay to Kleinmond with beautiful views of False Bay on one side and the Hottentots Holland Mountains on the other. Stop at one of many lookout points on the way, you might spot whales in False Bay. Keep an eye out for Kogel Bay, a great surf spot, and popular place to stop for the views. The Clarence Drive route is one of the most scenic drives from Cape Town. Rooi Els, a small town on the way, is a nice place to stop for something to eat. Bettys Bay has a massive penguin colony and is worth it to go and explore on the way. From Hermanus you can also continue with the Garden Route road trip, the most famous road trip in South Africa.
Renting a car is the easiest and most flexible way to get around in South Africa. Rentalcars from Cape Town is a great way to find the best rental prices. Pick up your vehicle in town or at the airport.
Beaches of Hermanus
There are amazing beaches for swimming, surfing and sunbathing on the Walker Bay coastline in the town Hermanus and nearby neighboring villages.
Grotto Beach is the longest beach in Hermanus, this beautiful sandy beach with mountains in the background has blue flag status. It is one of 45 beaches in South Africa receiving this high rating for water quality, services and safety. Grotto is a fantastic beach for walking, playing, swimming, sunbathing or taking your dog for a walk.
Voëlklip Beach, Kamma Baai and Langbaai are located close together in Hermanus town and have sandy beaches with surrounding rocky outcrops, they are popular spots for sunbathing, playing with beach toys and surfing in Hermanus with lifesavers on duty in summer. These beaches are connected by a cliff path that runs alongside it.
Voëlklip Beach has grassy lawn terraces, which is great if it is windy or if you are just not a big fan of lying on the sand. There are several benches providing great spots for whale watching. Surfing and bodyboarding is possible here.
Kammabaai is a popular beach for families, it has excellent facilities, including picnic and braai spots in the shade under the Milkwood trees. The beach has some rock pools filled with interesting marine life. It is a good spot for swimming, body boarding and surfing.
Whale Watching in Hermanus
Whale watching in Hermanus is world renowned; Southern Right whales, Brydes whales and Humpback whales can be seen on whale watching excursions here. About 150 000 tourists come to Walker Bay to see the Southern right whales when they congregate here for mating around October every year. Hermanus is not only great for whale watching from a boat, you can actually see these beautiful giants from the shore. In season the whale cryer walks through town, blowing on his horn to sign whales are close to shore. People run from the streets and shops to the edge of the cliffs to see the whales. Southern right whales are the main attraction in Hermanus and can be seen for 6 months every year, from early June to late November. The peak of the whale season is in late September/early October. Marine Big 5 Excursion are very popular from the nearby Kleinbaai, during which you can see; whales, sharks, seals, dolphins, and penguins (pick up in Cape Town is optional).
See our Complete Guide on Whale Watching in Hermanus. Hermanus Whale Cruise is a highly rated 2-hour whale watching tour meeting starting at the Hermanus New Harbor.
Wine Tasting in Hermanus
The Hemel and Aarde Valley surrounding Hermanus is a spectacular wine growing area close to the ocean. Wine tasting in Stellenbosch is the most well known in South Africa, but the cool sea breeze and unique soil profile of the valley results in vineyards producing the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in the country. Shortly before Hermanus when coming from Cape Town turn left, away from the ocean, onto the R320 and for about 20km the winding road takes you past some of the best known wine farms in South Africa, also known as the Hermanus wine route, with 16 wine farms on this beautiful route. The Hermanus Wine Village before your turn onto the Hermanus wine route offers a large selection of South African wines and regular tastings. Bouchard Finlayson and Hamilton Russel are two farms producing world renowned wines not to miss and wine tasting here is a real treat at the beautiful venues. Some other favorites to search for are Summaridge Estate Wines, Newton Johnson Vineyards, Spookfontein, Storm Wines, Ataraxia and Creation Wines.
- Cape Town to Hermanus Full Day tour – Cape Town pick up, Full day tour to Hermanus whale watching, and wine tasting at Bouchard Finlayson Wine Estate. Go to Stony Point penguin colony on Sundays – duration 9.5 hours
Restaurants in Hermanus
Hermanus is no longer a little sleepy fisherman’s village, it is a popular tourist destination with some fantastic culinary hot spots. Whether you want to go fine dining, eat great seafood with fantastic views of the ocean or visit a restaurant located on the scenic landscapes of the Hemel and Aarde valley surrounded by vineyards and mountains. If you are a foodie exploring the Cape, do not miss out on the culinary capital of South Africa, Franschhoek.
Seafood in Hermanus
The beautiful traditional Fisherman’s Cottage built in the late 1800’s turned into a restaurant known for dishes from the ocean. Nice spot to go for great beer battered fish and chips, prawns and calamari combos or share their awesome seafood platters, enjoy with a variety of artisan beers. Very nice vibe to sit outside on the wooden benches.
One of the best locations for a restaurant I have ever experienced. Bientang’s Cave restaurant is located on the rocks, meters from the water. The restaurant was created out of a traditional cave previously inhabited by a Koi Strandloper named Bientang. Appropriately the menu is filled with a range of dishes from the ocean, fresh oysters to crayfish. Well known for delicious bouillabaisse and seafood potjie, packed with prawns and mussels. In whale season you might be lucky and spot whales not far from the restaurant!
Harbour Rock restaurant
The Harbour Rock restaurant also known as The Rock is situated on the top of the cliff overlooking the bustling Hermanus new harbour. A beautiful upmarket restaurant with delicious, fresh food and an awesome location with stunning sea views across the bay. If you are a sushi fan, this is a great spot with a fantastic sushi bar. Known for a variety of great fish and seafood dishes, but they also make a great steak.
Fine dining in the Hemel and Aarde valley Hermanus
Creation Wines Restaurant
Amazing venue on the Hermanus wine route, fantastic gardens filled with fynbos at this winery dedicated to conservation and sustainability. Fantastic fine dining with creative and innovative dishes. Nice cheese platters and very popular chocolate and wine pairing.
Newton Johnson Restaurant
A beautiful restaurant with spectacular views on the Newton Johnson wine estate. Award winning restaurant with innovative and excellent rated dishes. Some of the best views in the Hemel and Aarde valley.
Mogg’s Country Cookhouse
A beautiful family run restaurant surrounded by vines,mountains and fields in the magnificent Hemel and Aarde valley. Here they only use fresh farm produce and everything is homemade. If you are looking for fantastic food in an amazing setting in the countryside you will not be disappointed. Great venue for the whole family with big lawns, jungle gym and sand pit for the kids.
Adventure Activities to do in Hermanus
The amazing location of Hermanus, surrounded by ocean and mountains create a huge range of opportunities for adventure activities.
I have done some fantastic scuba diving from Hermanus, you will find dive operators in the New Harbor, check out some more awesome scuba diving in Cape Town!
Kleinmond is just a short drive away and the massive dunes here is great for sandboarding, almost like snowboarding! We went on a sandboarding excursion from Hermanus including gear.
Sea kayaking is an amazing thing to do Hermanus, in whale season spotting these amazing creatures while paddling along the coast is possible.
With plenty of single tracks, the Hemel and Aarde Valley is a fantastic location for mountain biking with routes for all skill levels and spectacular scenery.
Exploring the Hemel and Aarde valley on a quad bike is great fun, we loved exploring the backroads and going off road, following our guide through the vineyards, hills and valleys.
The Walker Bay coastline is an amazing place for crayfish diving or catching. In season (December to Easter) get your permit at any post office and go snorkeling from the shore at many spots in Onrus, Sandbaai and Hermanus to catch these delicious shellfish. I have spent many days in our summer holidays diving crayfish along the coast and cooking them on the fire with a couple of beers at night!
Hiking in Hermanus
As can be expected the location of Hermanus surrounded by amazing ocean and mountain scenery results in hiking beijing one of the best things to do in Hermanus. Follow spectacular trails wrapping around the coastline, even do some whale watching while hiking in season. Walk some of the more challenging trails in the mountains surrounded by endemic fynbos with nice ocean views. If you are a hiking fan, see our favorite hiking trails around Cape Town.
Walk the Hermanus Cliff path
The Cliff Path is the most popular trail in Hermanus stretching for 12 kilometers from the New Harbour all the way next to the coast to Grotto beach from where you can keep on walking on the sand for kilometers. Some of the best land based whale watching in the world is possible from this trail and spectacular sea and mountain views are guaranteed on route. If you walk to the cliffs anywhere in town you will see the cliff path wrapping around the coast. Guided walks are also available and parts of the trail marked with the Disabled Friendly logo is suitable for disabled hikers.
Hike in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve
The Fernkloof Nature Reserve is an 18 square kilometres reserve in the Kleinrivier Mountains around Hermanus. There is a network of 60 kilometers of trails climbing to an altitude of 824m starting at sea level. The main vegetation type of this region is fynbos. The trails are well marked. Maps and brochures of the reserve are available at the Visitors’ Centre. Nice route to hike is the trail to Aasvoelkop, the highest point in the reserve or to the waterfall following a stream through the forest. Dogs are allowed on certain routes in the reserve if kept on a leash.
Spas and Wellness Centers to Visit in Hermanus
The beautiful town of Hermanus is a fantastic place to escape city life and relax in this peaceful beach and mountain setting. To completely relax in this tranquil environment book a treatment or two at one of the many excellent spas or wellness centres offering massages and beauty treatments. Some of the top spas are located in some of the best high end hotels Hermanus has to offer.
Birkenhead House – boutique hotel
The spectacular Birkenhead boutique hotel located at the sea at the beautiful voelklip beach hosts a premium spa offering a variety of massage, aromatherapy and reflexology treatments
Arabella Hotel and Spa
Arabella Hotel & Spa located about 30 km outside Hermanus in the heart of the Kogelberg Biosphere is a premium 5-star Luxury hotel under the Protea Hotels by Marriott brand. We had a fantastic weekend here enjoying the luxurious facilities. The professional team of therapists at the award winning spa are dedicated to pampering the body and cleansing the mind. The beautiful spa facility offers complementary use for guests of a heated indoor hydro-pool, outdoor lap pool, sauna, steam room and a equipped fitness center. There is a unique selection of treatments on offer, from classic beauty treatments such as pedicures and facials through to the unique African Rainforest Experience or enjoy a soothing couples massage on a getaway weekend at Arabella Hotel and Spa.
Arabella Hotel is home to a world-class course, surrounded by the magnificent Kogelberg mountain range and Bot River Lagoon is consistently ranked top 10 in South Africa and we could see why! Many celebrities have played here from Samuel L Jackson to Gary Player.
For rates, info and bookings on the Arabella Golf Course.
If you want to learn how to play or want some pro lessons phone the hotel in advance to make a booking with a pro.
Visit a Museum in Hermanus
Hermanus developed as a fishing village around what is now known as the old harbour. This harbour and several buildings have been changed into very interesting museums depicting the history of the town.
The Old Harbor Open-Air Museum
The Old Harbor is fairly unique, it is an intact fishing harbor, hosting historic fishing boats and coastal fynbos along the cliffs. In 1970 the old harbour was declared a national monument, currently it is a Provincial Heritage Site.
De Wet’s Huis Photo Museum
This is a small museum with only 3 rooms displaying an interesting collection of photos that showcase the history of Hermanus with some info. Small donation is asked. Nice to see old photos of when Hermanus was just a small fishing village, see what the town, the harbor and some of the hotels looked like and have a laugh at some of the swimming fashions of the time.
The Whale House Museum
The Whale House Museum in Hermanus is entirely dedicated to whale exhibits, with many displays on different cetaceans, but focussing on what Hermanus is best known for, the Southern Right whale. Learn about different whales, interesting displays comparing their sizes. The highlight of the museum is the full-size southern right whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling.
Accommodation in Hermanus
Hermanus has a huge selection of accommodation to suit all budgets. These facilities are all well rated. In season booking ahead is recommended.
- Misty Waves Boutique Hotel
- Windsor Self Catering Apartments
- Hermanus Boutique Guest House
- Arabella Hotel and Spa
- Birkenhead House
About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.