We all want our family vacations to be unforgettable. We want our kids to say, “Remember that time when…” and talk about an incredible moment they had during a holiday with their parents. Beyond the memories, we also want to expose our children to eye-opening experiences that encourage them to see their world in a different light. The Hermanus Whale Festival is one of those experiences.
South Africa is known for many things, chief among them, wildlife. While most tourists rightfully associate South Africa with safaris, it is a lesser-known fact that South Africa and, specifically, the city of Hermanus offer the best whale watching in the world.
Hermanus: The Best Whale Watching in the World
Hermanus is internationally recognized as being the best land-based whale watching destination in the world. Each year the Southern Right Whale population migrates from the icy waters of Antarctica up to the warm coasts of South Africa to feed and birth their calves. A vast majority of these whales choose to make their home in the waters of Walker Bay, where onlookers on the shores of Voëlklip Beach and Grotto Beach can enjoy the majestic sight.
Other whale watching destinations will have you boarding a boat and heading out to potentially choppy seas to catch a glimpse of a whale tale. While you can still board a boat in Hermanus, one of the reasons we love the Hermanus Whale Festival is that it allows visitors of all sizes and abilities to see legions of breaching whales from the comfort of the shore. Everyone can easily witness this phenomena from the tiniest tots to aging grandparents which is what makes Hermanus an ideal family destination.
What You Can Expect at the Hermanus Whale Festival
The Hermanus Whale Festival is the only eco-marine festival in South Africa. The festival is held annually at the end of September or beginning of October (check for this year’s dates) during South Africa’s spring. This time of year the whales, and possibly their calves, will be most active and your family will be able to view multiple whales breaching throughout your stay — truly a sight no one will forget.
A firsthand marine education.
Apart from being able to see the whales in their natural environment, your family can expand their education with a visit to the Old Harbor Museum where you can get a glimpse into Walker Bay’s fishing harbor circa 1855. Your children will also have the chance to experience the size of a Southern Right Whale by walking underneath its massive skeleton in the museum’s most popular exhibit.
More than whale watching.
This is an all-out celebration of the whales of Hermanus. With that celebration comes music, food, and drink. The festival itself offers up live bands, open air markets featuring food and crafts, and activities for kids such as treasure hunts.
Beyond the festival itself, Hermanus is home to beautiful Voëlklip Beach and Grotto Beach. Your family can also take in the stunning scenery of South Africa’s coastline at the Fernkloof Nature Reserve.
All the hustle, bustle, rich history and beauty of Cape Town is only two hours away. If you’re on an extended beach vacation in Hermanus and would like to experience what Cape Town has to offer, consider a day trip to explore.
Dining in Hermanus
Hermanus is a stone’s throw from South Africa’s world famous wine country. Nearby vineyards such as Sumaridge, Hamilton Russell, and Bouchard Finlayson feature tours, tastings, and fresh, local, fare. Creation Wines, Pear Tree, and Fisherman’s Cottage are all popular restaurant options for stunning views, local wine, and fresh seafood.
Where to Stay in Hermanus
There are a number of hotel and vacation rental options for travelers looking to participate in the Hermanus Whale Festival that meet a variety of budgets. Our top picks for oceanfront (or whale-front) accommodations with excellent service are Misty Waves Boutique Hotel, Whale Coast All Suite Hotel, and The Marine Hermanus.
For a 5-star vacation experience your family will love, just outside of Hermanus is the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, featured as one of National Geographic’s picks for unique lodges around the world. From your picturesque homebase in Grootbos you can schedule marine safaris, guided hikes, 4×4 tours, and horseback riding. The best part? There’s a secluded spa for mom and dad to enjoy while the kids are splashing around in the pool.
For more South Africa family holiday ideas visit us at vacationtosouthafrica.com or check out our tour of the peninsula’s coast and family packages for affordable once-in-lifetime adventures for your kids.