• Magnificent views, and possible interesting encounters away from the buzzing centre

  • Whale watching spot
    Whale watching spot

    In season (Jun-Sep), you will spot whales, from just below the coast escarpments, all the way to the far distance where they usually breach.

Hermanus, another full day tour.

Posted by Yves in Ask the locals.

A great idea for a day visit to Hermanus and return. Even outside the Whale season, it's still an interesting place, with awesome sceneries both ways.

Going to Hermanus and back is definitely a full day tour, and it would be a pity to rush it, firstly because carpe diem should be your motto (you’re on holiday, remember?! 😉). Secondly because you don’t want to miss a great opportunity to view or experience something memorable.

Hermanus is known for its whales, not that there aren’t any elsewhere along our coastline, but it’s probably because it’s easier to watch them from the edge of the cliff bordering Hermanus. 

Over and above the endemic whales, such as the pigmy whale, you’ll spot migrating whales, such as the Humpback, or more commonly, the Southern right whale. They come yearly, between July & November all the way from Antarctica. This is for two reasons; to mate, and about one year later, for the mares to calve. Understand that during the time spent in our warmer waters (considering 14° is warm…) they can’t feed, because our waters doesn’t have their base feed, which is krill. Also, when mating, their mind being elsewhere, understandably, feeding becomes secondary. They are so concentrated on their task, that it’s not unusual to see a group of whales floating, rubbing (usually a mare surrounded by loving males) and they derive close to the shore.

After a long gestation, the mares will come back to our shores to calve. They have a few months to ensure their young ones will grow fast & strong to swim all the way back to Antarctica. During that time, you’ll probably see them teaching their young ones all the tricks, like swimming sideways. An awesome sight, with one large whale and it’s exact tiny replica, swimming in total sync’.

Now, let’s hit the road!

We usually recommend driving down via the N2, through the mountains, and then back up along the coast as, provided the weather is clear, you’ll enjoy the magnificent sunset on False Bay.

From Carmichael House, drive towards Sommerset West via the N2. It can be a bit busy on weekends, so drive safely. It’ll give you some time to look at the variety of gadgets sold along the strip of the N2 going through Sommerset.

Driving up to Sir Lowry’s pass, as you get to the top, take the sharp turn to the right, and you’ll have a beautiful view over the bay. Just beware of the baboons, as those ones, have long understood that visitors = food[1].

You’ll drive past the Upper Steenbras dam. Even though it’s the smallest of the five dams supplying water to Cape Town and surroundings, it plays a crucial role generating much needed electricity during load shedding. To do so, the City of Cape Town lets down cubic meters of water to the lower Steenbras dam, thus generating hydro-electrical power. Then back up for the next load shedding episode. A sustainable clever system.

Steenbrass dam during the 2018 drought

The rocky scenery is surrounded with fynbos[2]. The rock formations are rather interesting as it almost looks as if they’ve been planted, even leaning, due to the gale force winds.

After the pass, you’ll see hectares of orchards, mostly apples, but also of course vines, as you drive pass the Elgin Valley, famous for its good wines. 

On that token, you’d definitely want to stop at Beaumont Family Wines in Bot Rivier. Not only the wines are great, the scenery beautiful, but Zest offers a variety of delectable dishes. Not to be missed!...





There are a couple of farmstalls along the road as well, selling local products, such as homemade jams, preserves, biscuits, etc… You can also have a quick pit stop & coffee.

Look at the open fields as you might see some blue cranes in the search for insects. They’re usually in groups of 3 to 5 specimen, and easy to spot due to their size.

Blue cranes

Needless to warn you about the speed limits, as they are many speed traps along the way, but also traffic officers. The last thing you’d want, is to receive your portrait from the car rental company, together with a hefty fine (marked-up by the car rental for that matter!).

Entering Hermanus, aim for Marine Drive. You’ll find parking along the ocean, past the Windsor Hotel and beyond. Inevitably, you’ll be solicited by a parking marshaller[3], watching over your car and potentially offering his car valet services.

Take a stroll along the ocean, from Marine Drive, all the way to the small concrete foot path, starting from above the harbour. Once you get passed the crowds, you’ll probably see some overweight dassies, elusive sun birds, and even tortoises walking across.

Where to park in Hermanus

But since you’re here for the whales mostly, if you look towards the ocean, you’ll see whales performing any of their various skills:

Witnessing whales breaching is mind-blowing. Seeing this huge mammal jumping out with such ease & grace is unforgettable. Depending on how far they are, you first see them breaching, then only a few seconds later, do you hear the loud splash. Magical!

In peak season, the whale crier will blow the kelp horn when whales are in sight. It just adds to the folklore.

You can have a small (or not so small) bite at the Burgundy. Decent food and very well positioned. The service is rather fast. Or you can also stop at Zest on the way back, remember? 😉

I must also mention the lovely wine route, meandering along the Hemel-en-Aarde (or Heaven on Earth) Valley. Don’t forget to assign a driver that will skip any wine tasting. As much as it’s a great pity, this is highly recommended.

Hamilton Russel, Spookfontein, Creation, just to name a few. Most of them offer magnificent views, and strangely enough, the more you taste, the better it gets.


On the way back to the Mother City [4], I’d recommend you follow the coast, which is gorgeous from Rooi Els all the way to Gordon’s Bay. There are several viewpoints. Stop as often as you can and take a long hard look. Evidently, you’ll be looking towards the ocean in the search of any marine activity, or simply just for the ocean view, but sometime the show is right behind you, with some elusive klipspringers, birds of prey, or even caracals (but that’s when you’re in real luck, or you've had many wine tastings!).

At Gordon’s Bay, get back onto the N2 which is boring & busy, but a lot safer than thinking of going along Baden Powel Drive. Yes, you’d be along the ocean, but across the dunes lies Khayelitsha, one of the largest townships around CPT. So, not recommended.

Make no mistake, as this is a full day tour, so leave Carmichael no later than 09h AM. Enzoy! 😉

[1] Sadly, it’s mostly the very same tourists’ fault as they are the ones feeding the baboons in the first place, setting the wrong example. It soon becomes a bad and potentially harmful habit. Some wild animals in the Kruger are eventually euthanized as their misbehaviour might lead to life threatening accidents. Terrible since it’s not their fault,
[2] Fynbos (from the Afrikaans fine bush) is known for its exceptional degree of biodiversity, consisting of about 80% (8,500 fynbos) species of the Cape floral kingdom, where nearly 6,000 of them are endemic,
[3] Almost everywhere outside official parking meter areas, you’ll encounter such “marshallers”. It’s nothing more than a racket as they will most probably be looking the other way should anyone attempt to get to your car, but you can give a R5 coin provided she/he was here when you arrived. They’re totally harmless, just hoping to make a few Rands,
[4] Why is CPT called the Mother City? Because it takes up to nine months for anything to happen!... (LoL)