Finding 5 things to see and do in Hermanus shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, as this South African fisherman’s village is surprisingly rich in fun attractions for tourists and thrill seekers alike for a seaside town with less than 11,000 residents. The seaside town, which was formerly known by the much longer name Hermanuspietersfontein until 1902, lies along the southern coast of the Western Cape province.
Its position along the coast, roughly 115 kilometers (or approximately 71.5 miles) from the major tourist destination of Cape Town, as well as its geography, make it a prime location for a wide variety of nature-related activities and unique and scenic adventures. These are the 5 things you have to see and do in Hermanus.
Town of Hermanus
Not only is the town of Hermanus rife with interesting sites and activities, it also serves as a fantastic home base for travelers looking to take day trips to other attractions in the area over the course of several days. One of the most popular locations in the town is the world-famous Cliff Path, a popular trail that winds its way along the picturesque cliffs overlooking the ocean between.
The path offers spectacular views of Walker Bay and the nearby Kleinrivier Mountains, and is also an ideal spot for whale watching during whale season. The trail begins in New Harbour and ends at the public Grotto Beach, which includes two picnic areas. The scenic hiking trails and landscaped gardens of Fernkloof Nature Reserve in the Kleinrivier Mountains above the city is another popular attraction, and a stop at the local market for souvenirs is also highly recommended.
Gaansbai Shark Cage Diving
A 42-kilometer drive south from Hermanus (roughly a 30-45 minute drive) along the R43 will take you to the town of Gaansbai, which lies just five miles from the stretch of ocean known as Shark Alley. The main attraction in Gaansbai is shark diving, and the vast majority of South Africa’s shark diving trips originate in the town.
If you’re feeling adventurous enough to share the water with great white sharks, visit Shark Watch SA Shark Tours (formerly known as Marine Dynamics), which is based out of the nearby town of Kleinbaai, to book a tour.
While many may think the idea of swimming in a metal cage with sharks nearby is foolhardy, it is important to point out that this activity is extremely safe when using a fully licensed and insured tour company due to South Africa’s strict regulations. Getting to see these majestic and often misunderstood animals up close and personal is a thrill ride and a life-changing moment you won’t soon forget.
If you’d rather view majestic marine life from a boat rather than an underwater cage, a whale watching tour may be more your speed. The same company we recommended for the shark diving tour, Shark Watch SA, also offers ten different whale watching tours through Dyer Island Cruises, including a spectacular “Marine Big 5” tour.
The tour, which begins in Kleinbaai Harbour near Gansbaai on the comfortable and spacious Dream Catcher boat, lasts between two and two and a half hours after you receive an introductory talk the tour’s route, safety measures and precautions, and what to look out for while you’re out on the water. Points of interest on the tour include Dyer Island, home of many seabirds including the African Penguin; Geyser Rock, which houses a colony of 60,000 Cape fur seals; Shark Alley; and whale-watching hotspots around the bay.
Led by a knowledgeable and experienced team of guides and marine biologists, you can rest assured that the tours are both safe and educational. Remember to wear warm clothing, as the temperature on the water is much cooler at sea than on land, and remember to take seasickness medication with you if you are prone to motion sickness.
Grootbos Nature Reserve
For travelers looking for a uniquely South African adventure that allows them to see stunning wildlife while enjoying luxurious accommodations, a stay at Grootbos Nature Reserve is a no-brainer. Featured in National Geographic as one of their unique lodges of the world, Grootbos Nature Reserve is billed as a luxury eco-reserve that lies near the southern tip of Africa and has close proximity to mountains, forests, and the sea.
Grootbos aims to conserve and preserve the surrounding 2,500 hectares of gorgeous wilderness through teaching, research, and innovation. The reserve includes 800 plant species, including several that are endangered or newly discovered, thousand-year-old milkwood forests, a wide variety of local wildlife, and more.
The unparalleled accommodations at Grootbos Nature Reserve include eleven freestanding Garden Lodge suites, sixteen modern and minimalistic Forest Lodge suites, and two spacious private villas that offer seclusion and top-of-the-line service from a private chef, a butler, and nature guides and aim to be your home away from home. At Grootbos, luxury and the wild aren’t mutually exclusive from one another; they go hand-in-hand and make for a truly inimitable and memorable stay.
Hermanus Wine Route
Finally, if you and your travel companions are wine connoisseurs, a trip along the famed Hermanus Wine Route is most definitely in order. Located roughly a ninety-minute drive south from Cape Town on the R320 are the fifteen wine vineyards that make this such a popular day trip from Hermanus.
One of the best wineries in this picturesque viticultural area is the family-owned Sumaridge Wine Estate, which offers dining and tastings of their wines, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Epotome, and Maritimos, from noon to 3 p.m.
Ataraxia Wines on the Skyfields Farm is noted for their Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and signature red blend, Serenity, while the award-winning Creation Wines, known for their excellent wine and food pairings, makes Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Noir, and a magnificent aging Syrah.
No trip to the beautiful country of South Africa is complete without a stay in Hermanus. From the incredible attractions in the town itself to the many day trips outside the village that will take you to luxurious, thrilling, and eye-opening locations you will never forget, Hermanus simply cannot be missed.