Hermanus the seaside village

The Greater Hermanus area is situated between two large lagoons namely the Botrivier Lagoon on the western side and the Kleinrivier Lagoon to the eastern side, with the small Onrus Lagoon in the middle. It consists of various settlements namely, Fisherhaven, Hawston, Vermont, Onrus, Sandbaai, Hemel en Aarde Valley, Mount Pleasant, Zwelihle and Hermanus. A diversity of peoples live harmoniously in this exquisitely beautiful heart of the Cape Whale Coast.

The town of Hermanus “proper” meanders along the western cove of Walker Bay between magnificent sea cliffs and the foot of the Olifantsberg Mountains. Hermanus Pieters, an itinerant teacher of Caledon farmers’ children, was the first permanent resident in the early 1800s. Having come across a fresh spring and greener pastures he settled on the shore of this enchanting bay. The spring came to be known as Hermanuspietersfontein but was shortened to Hermanus when municipal status was given to the town in 1904.

Hermanus has a station that has no trains or railway lines, thanks to Sir William Hoy, Commissioner of the South African Railways, who in the early 1900’s stopped any rail development making certain that Hermanus retains its clear, crisp, clean ‘champagne air’ to this day. The Hermanus Tourism Bureau is housed in the Old Station Building in Mitchell Street. Click here to read more about the history of the once quaint fishing village.

Hermanus, also referred to as the Riviera of the South, is attractive to travelers not only because of its wondrous setting, quaint fisherman’s cottages and unspoilt natural beauty, but also because it offers a myriad of Activities all year round. The sun and pristine beaches (Grotto Beach has Blue Flag status) in summer and land-based whale watching in the green months; fishing, diving, hiking, cycling, fly-fishing, boating, bird-watching, paragliding, golf, bowls, quad biking, mountain biking riding, and great white shark cage diving close by at Gansbaai…there is always something to do. The beautiful Hermanus Golf Course sports 27 holes and meanders along the base of the Raed-na-Gael mountain range, below up market area called Hermanus Heights towards the Fernkloof Nature Reserve.

Fernkloof, one of the Nature Reserves in the Greater Hermanus area, is saddled between Lemoenkop and Olifantsberg and hosts one of the richest of the six floral kingdoms in the world. `It has 50 km of hiking trails and a mountain biking track..

The walk along the 14 km cliff path is spectacular, especially in “whale season” and has earned the village the reputation of offering the best land-based whale watching in the world. Hermanus has the world’s only Whale Crier who sounds his kelp horn to announce where whales have been sighted.

The Old Harbour Museum gives visitors an insight into the history of the village. There is a telescope above the Old Harbour for visitors to see the giant visitors when they are far out in the bay. De Wet’s Huis Photo Museum provides a fantastic photographic documentation of the history and development of the town. The Whale House presents daily slide shows throughout the year explaining the life cycle of our fascinating annual visitors, the Southern Right Whales.

The beauty and magic of Hermanus has attracted many famous artists. The town has thus become home to a number of Galleries that house both local and international works.

The village holds several Festivals and Events every year, including a Passion Play in the Old Harbour; celebrates the arrival of the whales in the bay with the Whale Festival (which is an art and environmental feast); offers some of the best local and national theatre productions (mainly in Afrikaans) at the Kalfiefees; serves the most glorious seafood at the Hawston Sea Festival (December); and chases away winter chills at the Food & Wine Fair (July) with delicious cuisine and delectable wines from over 60 exhibitors.

The easternmost part of Hermanus, at the foot of the Kleinriviersberg which stretches to Stanford, is the residential area of Voelklip. This is where Beaches are dotted in coves along the shoreline culminating in the long Grotto beach, which stretches out to meet the magnificent lagoon at the mouth of the Klein Rivier. On the opposite bank of the lagoon lies Die Plaat, part of the Walker Bay Nature Reserve, 12 km of unspoilt beach that goes all the way to De Kelders.

Tourism is the cornerstone of Hermanus’ economy. Visitors have an excellent selection of accommodation and restaurants to choose from. In addition to the hotels there are many guesthouses, self-catering cottages, backpackers’ lodges and campsites, offering visitors excellent hospitality.

Fisherhaven, the most westerly settlement on the R43, is a quiet little place and has one shop and many holiday homes. Originally a holiday resort, Fisherhaven is now home to many locals who prefer the peace of the hamlet to the quiet bustle of Hermanus. Situated on the beautiful Bot Rivier lagoon with amazing views and sunsets, it offers fishing, sailing and boating facilities and accommodation.

Close by is Hawston, which nestles in a cove at Mudge Point. It is one of the oldest settlements in Greater Hermanus and was designated a “coloured” area by the former government. Hawston has some of the best sea views in the area and has many buildings of historical interest. It has a long stretch of beautiful beach, Sandown Bay, where the wild horses can be spotted in the area surrounding the lagoon… The eastern side of the beach, near Hawston Harbour, is a popular surfing spot. The recently developed Abalone Village Tours of Hawston can be arranged through the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.

Vermont and Onrus River are situated on the coast where the Onrus River runs into the sea through the small Onrus lagoon. Though the Onrus River, which rises in the Babilonstoring mountains, is little more than 10 km long, it was regarded by the Dutch settlers who first saw it as restless and they named it Onrust. together with the fact that along its banks higher up in the valley a leper colony was established who used the water for washing until 1845. The spelling of Onrust has been modernised to Onrus in spite of opposition from traditionalists. Particularly vocal defence of the ‘t’ came from a group of distinguished artists who have homes at Onrus and the adjacent resort of Vermont. Many artists have settled here over the years including Uys Krige, Jan Rabie, Jack Cope, Elsa Joubert, Bill Davis, Gregoire Boonzaaier, Marjorie Wallace and Cecil Higgs. Vermont and Onrus consisted mainly of holiday homes and their owners arrive in droves during the holidays to bathe on Onrus Beach. Today there are many permanent and retired residents who have settled in these beautiful surroundings.

The Onrus lagoon and beach offers showers, cloakrooms and a restaurant right on the beach make this a very friendly spot for holidaymakers; it is also a favourite surfing and body boarding spot. The Jewish Habonim Holiday Camp borders on the beach preserving the green belt behind the beach from development. Brekvis Bay at Vermont lies on the boundary of the Vermont Nature Reserve and is one of the most undisturbed beaches in the area. Shielded by high dunes, Brekvis Bay is the perfect place to picnic and paddle. Vermont and Onrus have excellent accommodation from camping sites to luxury 5 star guest houses.

Sandbaai lies on the coast at the entrance to the Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley. It is the most recently developed and fastest growing residential area of Greater Hermanus with an eclectic range of homes. There is a pretty even mix of holiday homes and permanent residences with permanent residents being, in the main, families with young children. The Sandbaai beach is dotted with rock pools and coves and provides safe swimming at low tide. It is a popular snorkeling spot and there are cloakrooms and showers. Sandbaai has a few art galleries, one specialising in aviation. A wonderful seaside meander has been built along the Sandbaai shore where whale viewing is a pleasure. Sandbaai also sports a variety of accommodation establishments from budget self catering and B&B to 5 star guest houses.

The Hemel-en-Aarde Village is situated behind Sandbaai and has a variety of shops – farm stalls with delectable home-made items, restaurants, ceramic studios, galleries, jewelers, wineries, nurseries and more. It is the first stop on the Hermanus Wine Wander up the serene Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. This valley, heaven and earth, between the Babilonstoring Mountains and the Kleinriviersberg was not always the propitious place it is today. In 1817 Moravian missionaries established South Africa’s first leper colony in the valley. It was also the country’s first specialised public health institution and operated until 1845 when all the lepers were sent to Robben Island.

The valley truly is the epitome of its name making the Hermanus Wine Wander an extremely pleasurable experience as guest may visit numerous wine farms to sample the wines and partake of the fare at wonderful restaurants. Accommodation is also available in this heavenly valley.

Zwelihle, designated a “black” area by the former government, is a residential area that consists of shacks in the main. Slowly, proper housing is being built to accommodate the residents who are empowering themselves by starting their own small businesses. Zwelihle even has its first B & B and restaurant and tours of the “township” can be arranged through the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.

Mount Pleasant, another area formerly classified “coloured”, lies at the western entrance to Hermanus. It is the smallest subsection of Hermanus and is infused with bright colours of pink, turquoise, blue and green by Operation Preen, a community collaboration to clean and paint the houses in the area.

courtesy of www.overberginfo.co.za