The seaside town of Hermanus is said to offer the best land-based whale watching in the country and thousands of visitors pass through the town between August and October each year when the giant Southern Right Whales calve in the bay.
Besides long stretches of white sandy beaches Hermanus is also ideal for hiking in the beautiful Fernkloof Nature Reserve that boasts a variety of fynbos. The popular cliff-top path that follows the coastline offers perfect vantage points for whale watching or merely taking in the fresh sea air and the scenery. In and around town a wide variety of restaurants and coffee shops, art galleries and boutiques are ideal for shopping and browsing.
We take a look at spending 24 hours in Hermanus when it isn't whale season. There is plenty of outdoor adventuring to be enjoyed around this picturesque town.
Go for breakfast at a French bistro simply called 'The Bistro', which is located in the hub of Hermanus with views of the bay. The restaurant is a return to basics and old-fashioned values with its wholesome, organic food and reclaimed furniture. 'The Bistro' is known for its wonderful homemade breads, cakes and pastries. The aim is to keep the food simple, but delicious with the motto of 'simply delicious food, simply served every day'.
Hermanus Cliff Path
Take a walk along the Hermanus Cliff Path, a paved pathway that runs along the coastal shore line from one end of town to the other. Starting at the New Harbour in the west and ending at the Klein River mouth in the east, the pathway covers a total of 10 kilometres, although the trail can be picked up at various points along the way. Lush and green in parts and rocky in others, the cliff path is sometimes flanked by large trees and shrubs and can be an exciting wonderland in its own right - small children will be enthralled by the birdlife, bugs, insects and other creatures, such as dassies, along the way.
When it's whale season the cliff path offers an excellent vantage point from which to view the whales. One can easily see them putting on a display, rolling and breaching in the shallow waters - almost as if they are aware of their audience.
A stone's throw from the Cliff Path is Hemingway's Bookshop. Take some time out and head into this timeless treasure trove. Here you can browse the many collectable and used books on their shelves, and enjoy some time reading in the atmospheric bookstore. With a number of antique chairs and an assortment of bric a brac, it feels like a real old-time bookshop. It was started in 1995 by Noel and Beth Hunt and has become a popular stop for those looking to escape into a book for a while.
Lunch at Fusion Cafe
Situated on the edge of the cliffs overlooking The Old Harbour and Walker Bay, Fusion Cafe offers a number of great menu options for an easy and laid-back lunch. The name reflects the attitude of the cafe with its flair and combinations of different tastes, flavours, colour, and presentation. Relax while you soak in the sun and enjoy the scenery whilst tasting some local food and wine.
Fernkloof Nature Reserve
After lunch, head into the Kleinrivier Mountains above Hermanus, where you will find the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. The reserve covers 1800 hectares with much of it covered in fynbos, and ranges in altitude from sea level to 842 metres. Fernkloof has recently been extended to include certain areas of the sensitive lagoon and coastal fynbos. Baboons, dassies and buck; such as the klipspringer, can often be spotted, as well as a variety of birdlife such as the Cape Sugarbird and sunbirds.
Hemel en Aarde Wine Route
Some excellent wine tasting can be enjoyed in the beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde valley just outside of Hermanus. The valley is known for its breath-taking mountains and views, as well as a number of award-winning wine farms. Two of the most popular wines grown in the area are the uniquely South African Pinot Noir as well Chardonnay. The area has a unique terroir with clay soil and a cool sea breeze.
Most of the tastings run from 9:00 until 17:00 on weekdays and 09:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays.
After a day exploring the Hermanus outdoors, head to Lemon Butta for some wonderful, fresh seafood. If you don't enjoy seafood, there are other options available. The restaurant is located upstairs on Marine Drive with breath-taking views spanning the entire coastline and across to Gansbaai. When its whale season, Lemon Butta offers a great place to sit and watch the whales. One of the in-house specialities is sushi made by the charismatic Master Sushi Chef Jaylor Bonayon, a trained specialist in Japanese cuisine.
The aim at Lemon Butta is to fuse the highest quality sushi with more traditional menu items to provide a superb dining experience.