ESCAPE

Maverick Mapper: Day trip to Hermanus

By Karel van der Vyver 22 October 2020

Drone shot of Hermanus (Image Karl Voigt)

From July to sometimes late December, visitors to Hermanus are treated to a rare delight – the opportunity to see southern right whales frolicking just off South Africa’s coast. And what better reason for a day trip than to see these majestic creatures?

The road there

The N2 out of Cape Town will take you past the airport and through a few rather irritating traffic lights on the outskirts of Strand, and then up Sir Lowry’s Pass; from the viewpoint at the top of the pass, and on a clear day, you will have an unobstructed view over False Bay.

Did you leave town at the crack of dawn? Even though Hermanus is not too far from the Mother City, you will find plenty of places to buy snacks and drinks on the way.

Stop at: Peregrine Farm Stall

This iconic farm stall, which was established back in 1964, offers “artisanal goods and farm-fresh produce” – and from the freshly brewed coffee to their copious breakfast and scrumptious pies, it’s worth the stop and the time. At the time of writing this article, the restaurant was still closed, but you can order take-aways, which you can eat at tables outside. If you decide to stock up for a picnic later in the day, you can choose from freshly baked bread, cheeses, cold meats, preserves, confectionery and many other mouth-watering delicacies. Peregrine Farm Stall is open on weekdays from 8am to 5.30pm, and weekends from 8am to 6pm.

Arrive at destination: Hermanus

This quiet seaside town is also known as “the whale capital of the world”, and rightly so; from July to sometimes late December you can see these gentle giants passing our shores on their annual migration to the warm waters off the coast of Mozambique, where they give birth. Choose a spot on the many rocky outcrops along the coast, unpack your picnic and watch the graceful ballet of these massive creatures. Some of the best viewing spots are Sievers Point or De Gang.

Hermanus (Image by Grant Durr for Unsplash)
Hermanus (Image Paul Miley for Unsplash)
Southern Right whales frolicking in the sea at Hermanus. (Image Steve Bailey for Gallo Images)
Southern Right whales frolicking in the sea at Hermanus. (Image Steve Bailey for Gallo Images)

Also listen out for the whale crier, who notifies people of whale sightings by blowing his kelp horn.

The Hermanus cliff path that runs for 11km along the rugged coastline is the perfect place to walk off your picnic and stretch your legs. It runs between the New Harbour to the west and Piet se Bos, just beyond Grotto Bay, to the east. Views from this path are unbeatable, and wooden benches along the path give you the opportunity to sit down and marvel at the world around you.

Now that temperatures are creeping up, Hermanus has many beaches to explore. Grotto Beach is a Blue Flag beach that covers the entire seafront from Voëlklip until the lagoon.

If you crave more nature, pay a visit to the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Here 18% of the plants that make up the Cape Floral Kingdom can be seen in just 18 square kilometres. Nowhere else on Earth can so many different species be seen growing in such close proximity. There are picnic spots aplenty, while shorter and longer hiking trails plus a cycle trail criss-cross the reserve.

Drone shot of Hermanus (Image Karl Voigt)
Drone shot of Hermanus (Image Karl Voigt)

Where to eat: The Burgundy Restaurant in Harbour Road, overlooking the old harbour, offers one of the most spectacular views of Walker Bay. It serves a wide variety of seafood, platters to share, pasta and salads. It offers wines from a few estates in the area, such as Benguela Cove and Hermanuspietersfontein. The restaurant is open every day from 8.30am and the kitchen takes last orders at 9pm.

If you want to be even closer to the ocean, visit Bientang’s Cave. This restaurant, said to be “named after Bientang, the last known Khoi Strandloper to have lived in the cave”, is literally on the rocks of Walker Bay. Being so close to the sea you have to try the seafood, especially the seafood potjie and seafood curry, but the menu also makes provision for vegetarians and meat lovers. Wines from local wineries, including Bouchard Finlayson and Hamilton Russell, are on offer. Bientang’s Cave is open from 11am till 4pm every day, with dinner on Friday and Saturday nights (weather permitting). In season, it is open on more nights, but always phone to check.

The road back

Returning to Cape Town from Hermanus, take the longer R44 route, which passes through the towns of Kleinmond, Betty’s Bay and Rooi Els, and then round the mountain and goes through Gordon’s Bay; it is breathtakingly beautiful as the road serpentines alongside the ocean.

Don’t miss: Uncle Barry’s Ice Cream

Regardless of the weather, take the time to stop at Uncle Barry’s for ice cream scoops and soft serves. They serve a variety of flavours in cups or cones, with Flakes, dips and toppings available. The shop is informally open Monday to Friday from 10am till 6pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am till 7pm.

Soundtrack: Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. This catchy tune will get anyone ready for a seaside day trip and a day at the beach.

Passengers’ seat? Here is a book for you: My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This New York Times bestseller by the late US Supreme Court justice and her biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W Williams explores a host of issues such as gender equality, the court, her Jewish heritage and the opera.

Listen to: Natural Histories: Whales by BBC Sounds. In this episode of Natural Histories, Brett Westwood explores and explains the history of whales, the complex relationship we have with them and the fight to save them from extinction. DM/ML

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  • For a variety of unusual South African cheeses, as well as many homemade preserves and other goodies, try “The Cheese Stall” on the left going to Hermanus, on the R43, 550 metres from Bot River turn off, just after Anglo SA Sawmilling. YELLOW FLAG. Enjoy!!

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