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Located approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes from Cape Town, Hermanus is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Western Cape. It is best known as a whale-watching destination, and for its beautiful beaches and leisure opportunities.
Hermanus is renowned for being the best land-based whale-watching spot on the globe. Each year in spring (October), when the whales are at their most profuse, there is a Whale Festival in town, with numerous stalls selling a variety of goods, and a ‘whale-crier’ who informs the town where the whales have been sighted.
The old harbour has been converted into a museum featuring exhibits in old fishermen’s cottages and is well worth visiting. The museum focuses on the marine environment and the whales in particular, and there is a telescope that allows a closer look at the whales in the bay, and even a sonar buoy that emits whale sounds.
In recent years this up-market town has seen rapid development, however zealous town planning has helped retain its charm and there are few high-rises or tacky hotels, with most accommodation reserved for private homes and guesthouses. The fact that the town is sandwhiched between ocean and mountains means it has an exclusive feel to it. One of the best ways to appreciate the towns beauty is to follow the cliff path from the town centre, out to the suburb of voelklip, which helps you discover the many small private beaches hidden along the cliff’s edge.
The Walker Bay Nature Reserve, stretching along the coast for 12kms, is another of Hermanus’ highlights. It features ‘Die Plaat’, a 10-mile beach where walking, horseback riding and fishing are popular pursuits, and the attractive beaches of Voelklip and Grotto, where locals and visitors gather to enjoy the sea, sun and surf. Fernkloof Nature Reserve, located in the mountains that form the town’s backdrop, is home to abundant wildlife and indigenous ‘fynbos’ flora, and features a network of scenic hiking trails. In fact it has one of the world’s highest densities of plant species in one single area.
Nearby Onrus is smaller and more intimate than Hermanus, and features a lagoon and an attractive beach. Farther south, Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and Gordon’s Bay are picturesque villages with pristine beaches and bays where swimming, fishing and diving can be enjoyed.
To reach Hermanus by car, take the N2 highway from Cape Town and the R43 from Bot River. Buses are available from Cape Town. The nearest international airport is at Cape Town, a 90 minute drive away over the stunning Houw Hoek Pass.