Hermanus on the Garden Route
One of the things we love most about Cape Town is all of the great small towns in the surrounding areas. Hermanus is a quick 1.5 (or 2 hours via the scenic route) drive from Cape Town, but could be a world away. Technically the start (or end) of the Garden Route, Hermanus is nestled between the Cape Fold mountains and the Indian Ocean. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town, Hermanus is the perfect weekend trip.
How to get to Hermanus, South Africa
The best way to get to Hermanus is to take the scenic route, via the R44. This road branches from the N2 in Strand, travelling towards the coast, riding a narrow path between cliff faces and the ocean. Take your time and enjoy the scenery, stopping for pictures along the way. Chapman’s Peak Drive in Cape Town may get all of the fame, but this route rivals any costal highway.
Once around the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, you’ll find yourself in the quaint little town of Betty’s Bay. Again, although Boulders Beach get’s all the attention, Betty’s Bay is also home to a Penguin Colony. Enjoy the pristine and often empty beaches while you make your way to Hermanus.
Bringing you back in inland, the R44 joins the R43, where you’ll catch the first glimpses of the Overberg farm lands. I was surprised on our most recent trip to Hermanus at the number of Vineyards in the area. We have really only explored Stellenbosch, but the Overberg wine route has definitely been added to our list.
Arriving in Hermanus
Hermanus itself is a picturesque & sleepy seaside town. There are countless activities you can do in Hermanus, including whale watching, kayaking, sailing, shark cage diving, mountain biking, and hiking. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to just get away and relax. Hermanus is easily walked, so park centrally and shop around town. Be sure to pay a visit to Hemingway’s Book Shop, a great local offering with collector’s books.
Some of the restaurants in Hermanus tend to be a bit touristy (and therefore overpriced), but for a great view and decent food stop by Bientang’s Cave. Situated down on the rocky shoreline with the bar tucked back in a cave, Bientang’s is the perfect spot to enjoy some local craft beer (Birkenhead is good!) while you endlessly scan the horizon for a breaching whale.
Sea Kayaking with Southern Right Whales
That brings us to the most famous resident of Hermanus: the Southern Right Whale. Hermanus is one of the best places for viewing whales from shore, as the depth of the ocean quickly drops off. Nursing mothers stick close to shore with their calves, making for excellent whale viewing. Additionally, the spawning whales frequently breach close to shore, making for quite the spectacle.
My first trip to Hermanus in 2013 was filled with whale sightings, including whales breaching and a close encounter on our Kayak tour. Unfortunately, our recent visit in 2016 where Leeann hoped to see whales for the first time was less successful. Apparently 2016 has been a poor year for the Southern Right, with less calves than recent years, and the whales choosing to breed elsewhere. Let’s hope it’s just an off year and the whales will be back in 2017, and that this isn’t a warning sign for the future of the whales.