What do you get when you combine some of the world’s best whale-watching opportunities, South African warmth and hospitality, and an endless array of charming shops and restaurants to explore? The answer is Hermanus, a once fisherman’s village turned into an internationally acclaimed seaside vacation destination that you’re going to want on your itinerary, ASAP.
Only an hour and a half by car from Cape Town, Hermanus makes for the perfect weekend getaway—or a whole week—it tends to make you want to stay much longer than planned. We’ll let the sights and experiences convince you on their own. Here are 4 reasons to visit:
1. The world’s best whale watching
Seaside Hermanus is considered the heart of the whale route, which spans 900 kilometers from Strandfontein to Plettenberg Bay in South Africa. If you’re looking to greet these gentle giants offshore, the best time to visit is from June to December. These magnificent mammals are an incredible sight to behold, making you feel as though you’ve stepped foot into a National Geographic magazine.
In fact, the town even hosts the annual Hermanus Whale Festival near the end of each September, celebrating the return of the whales after their migration brings them back to the coastal waters of South Africa. The town comes alive even more than its usual day-to-day buzz, with both locals and travelers taking part in the festivities. Eco and marine exhibits are abundant, along with parades, music, performances, and local crafts. If there was ever one weekend to visit, this is it!
2. Blissful walks on pristine beaches
Stroll, swim, or sunbathe—you can take your pick from the three at any of Hermanus’ fabulous local beaches. Clear waters met by soft white sand are a baseline in this town, with a laid-back atmosphere to boot. Some argue that Voelklip Beach is one of the best shores in South Africa, with its prime waves for surfing and sprawling green lawns above that are just asking to host your next picnic lunch. Rock coves are accessible via foot, making a fun side exploration for the whole family. With a nearby deli and coffee shop, a quick snack or refreshments can be found steps away.
When we said you could stroll, swim, or sunbathe—we forgot one important beach activity that’s unique to Hermanus: horseback riding! Pearly Beach is a seemingly endless stretch of beauty, with the opportunity to take it in all while riding a horse right on the sand. It’s everything you could possibly dream in an afternoon at the beach, and somehow, more.
3. Local vineyards and delectable wines
Wine, of course, is something we simply couldn’t leave off of the list. Hermanus is in South Africa after all, one of the world’s top producers of grapes galore and award-winning blends. This small town is anything but tiny when it comes to wine tasting, and travelers have the opportunity to pick from a handful of gorgeous estates and vineyards.
For starters, Bouchard Finlayson is one of South Africa’s most awarded boutique wine estates—the tastes and setting will reveal why. With mountain backdrops and an ocean-facing view, it’s much more than just wine, it’s an experience for every sense. Another noteworthy stop is Creation Wines, a self-described “little piece of paradise” in the Walker Bay Wine Region. We agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. The vineyard sits on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, bringing awe-inspiring views of the rolling hills below.
4. Small town charm, the South African way
Upmarket shops, local crafts, and art galleries are available in droves in Hermanus, each offering a unique peek at South African culture and lifestyle. Truly, we’re convinced you could spend the whole weekend browsing up and down the avenues of town.
Hermanus may have become a popular destination in the last decade, but that doesn’t take anything away from its relaxing charm. The South African hospitality that we know and love is abundant, making it much more than your average weekend getaway.