There are a myriad things to see and do in Hermanus and surrounds, but here are 12 that I’d like to personally recommend. There’s plenty more than whale watching in this beautiful seaside town.
Also read: Getaway’s guide to Hermanus
In the early 1900s doctors in London prescribed Hermanus, with its ‘champagne air’, as an ideal location for rest and recuperation. Today, Hermanus is still a much-loved seaside town attracting thousands of visitors looking for a break from the city, especially during the Whale Festival when southern right whales take up residence in the bay from June to November.
1. Wine and platters at Wine-It
Shortly after the turn-off to Bot River on the R43 you’ll find Wine-It, a family-run bistro, farm stall and wine-tasting venue where you can taste wines from the region (R35 for up to 10 wines). It’s great for novice wine-tasters as John will happily share his knowledge with you, from how to tell if a wine is wooded or not to learning to swirl your glass like a pro. They also have cheese and charcuterie platters (R150 for two) and light meals in the bistro, while the farm stall offers country wares and tasty pies. Look out for the Melunah sign on a yellow wall as you drive towards Hermanus.
2. Homemade food at Hermanuspietersfontein Market
The secret to this market is to get there early! It’s open every Saturday from 9:00 to 13:00 and by 11:00 it’s generally packed. There’s plenty of seating at benches under umbrellas and they use real knives, forks and plates – no snapping of plastic forks or soggy paper plates here! There’s an overwhelming amount of beautiful food to choose from, including cheeses, olives, cured meats, breads, pies, roosterkoek, vetkoek, salads, mussels, oysters and even abalone. You’ll find coffee and fruit juices, free wine tasting and nothing beats a Bloody Mary oyster shooter for breakfast!
3. Meet and eat on the Heart of Abalone Tour
Did you know that it takes an abalone eight years to reach maturity and that they only weigh 1 gram at a year old? On the Heart of Abalone Tour at Abagold you’ll don a pair of gumboots and be taken on a walk through the hatcheries, led by a guide who will tell you many interesting abalone facts, while you witness the feeding, sorting and cleaning of the nearly 40000 baskets which house Abagold’s 10 million abalone. Afterwards you can have an abalone tasting and buy abalone products, including tinned abalone, recipe books, jewellery and polished shells.
4. Browse art with the locals at the First Friday Art Walk
On the first Friday of each month, fifteen art galleries in the centre of Hermanus stay open until 20:00, showcasing a range of fine art, crafts and ceramics. Take a stroll through the village (maps are provided) and mingle with the locals while sipping on a glass of wine and enjoying a snack or two. You’ll find art displays everywhere, even at a laundromat, and perhaps a magic show or two.
Contact: find First Fridays Artwalk on Facebook
5. Get lost in a book at Hemingways
Bookworms will love the labyrinth of rare books at Hemingways, where you can get lost for hours in between all the bookcases, vintage items and bric-à-brac. There are plenty of spots to curl up on a chair with a classic novel, so don’t expect to leave in a hurry. They are also known for stocking rare and out-of-print books so you never know what you may find.
Contact: find Hemingways on Facebook
6. Family fun at Hermanus Country Market
This market, held at the Hermanus Cricket Club is also worth visiting on a Saturday morning. It’s quite different from the Hermanuspietersfontein Market in that it’s held under trees, has live music and plenty of places for the kids to play – making it the more family-friendly market. In addition to a wide array of food offerings, wine and craft beer, you can also stock up on arts and crafts. This market is also extremely popular, so best to get there soon after it opens (8:00 in summer, 9:00 in winter) so you can grab a shady spot to sit.
7. Watch vintage movies at Romantiques
You could spend hours at Romantiques antique store in Aberdeen Street, with its 13 themed rooms filled to the brim with an overwhelming collection of vintage paraphernalia, retro goods and antiques. But the best part is that it also has a small cinema where vintage movies are screened – think Casablanca, Gone with the Wind and Rebel Without a Cause. Movies are shown on Saturday afternoons and cost R10.
Contact: Tel 0283124226
Also read: Antiques of the Overberg: 23 spots for bargain-hunters
8. Go on a wine safari with Hermanus Wine Hoppers
Launched in November 2015, this is definitely a safari worth taking! Hermanus Wine Hoppers have a fleet of safari-style vehicles that can take you to all the wineries in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, which means you don’t have to drink and drive (they also give you a bottle of water to take with you to ensure you keep hydrated). Tickets cost R200 per person and are valid all day. You can take as long as you want at each venue and if you buy wine, they’ll look after it for you.
9. Walk along the cliff path
This scenic stroll along the Hermanus coastline takes you from New Harbour, through a Biodiversity Walk and to the mouth of the Kleinrivier Lagoon. Along this path are a number of indigenous plants and various sculptures by local artists. You are likely to spot a dassie or two along the way and southern right whales during whale season (June to November).
Note: At the time of writing, the boardwalk at Windsor Bay was closed to the public and was undergoing repair.
10. Take a hike
There is no shortage of hiking trails in the area. The Fernkloof Nature Reserve has over 50km of hiking trails offering panoramic views of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Walker Bay. Hoy’s Koppie has views of the town and is the burial place of Sir William Hoy and his wife Gertrude – a pathway leads you around the koppie to the summit where you can see their graves. The Frans Senekal Nature Reserve in Vermont offers a walk along the coastline past Hoek van den Berg to Hawston harbour, while the Three Reservoirs, Rotary Way and Vogelgat in the Klein River mountains also offer magnificent hiking opportunities.
11. Shower under the stars at the Hermanus Guesthouse
This B&B guesthouse is right on the seafront and is a good spot to stay if you are looking for affordable luxury. It’s also centrally located and a good base from which to explore the Cliff Path, Hermanus Village and the nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. There’s a huge swimming pool with deck chairs, various lounges and sitting on the glass-enclosed stoep overlooking the ocean in the afternoon with a cup of tea is a great way to end the day. The best part for me was the outdoor shower – ask for a room with one!
12. Stop for Sunday roast at Priella Farmstall
If you are travelling back to Cape Town on the R43 on a Sunday, stop in at Priella Farmstall next door to the Shell garage for their Sunday roast. The restaurant section is rather quaint with old vinyls as place-mats, various arty pieces on the walls, and comfy couches to curl up on (good for a quick nap before hitting the road again). The roast menu varies from week to week, but you can expect a soup, roast lamb or roast beef, sweet potato pie, rice, roast potatoes, vegetables and perhaps a malva pudding or ice cream and chocolate sauce. Three courses for R85. Their pies are pretty good too!
Contact: find Priella Farmstall on Facebook
Note: This is by no means an exhaustive guide to things to do in Hermanus. They are things that I have done and can recommend. If you have anything that you have done in Hermanus that you think our readers should know about, please let us know in the comments section.