Clear your schedule – the best weekend ever awaits on the Cape Whale Coast, and the Hermanus Boutique Guest House puts you at the heart of it. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in this coastal charmer of a town. By Magriet Kruger
You could be forgiven for thinking you’re on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. On decks tucked into the cliff face, patrons sip cocktails under white canvas umbrellas. Below lies a tidal pool in an embrace of rock. But when a whale’s fluke appears in the sea beyond, it’s clear you could only be in Hermanus. This is Fick’s Pool and I had wandered across from where we were staying at the Hermanus Boutique Guest House.
This singular location, with an address just metres from the stunning tidal pool and popular hangout, is part of the guest house’s appeal. The setting in Westcliff is as close as you can get to the centre of Hermanus without having to deal with the hustle and bustle. And with no building between the guest house and the cliff path, you enjoy unimpeded sea views from the front.
We had arrived mid-afternoon, the weather clearing for what promised to be a perfect weekend. A friendly Dominique in reception efficiently checked us in, giving me but a moment to admire the central lounge. Light poured into the atrium through a large skylight, warming the wooden floors and stately staircase. This we followed to reach our room on the top floor, the honeymoon suite.
Settling into our suite
The Hermanus Boutique Guest House has 19 rooms, all of them spacious and appointed with sought-after comforts. It’s clear why newlyweds love to stay in the honeymoon suite. With its spa-like open plan bathroom, king size bed and comfy chairs evoking a lover’s seat, the room is made for intimate moments. Stackable sliding doors lead onto the balcony and let you bring that magnificent view in. One of the highlights for me was enjoying the rain shower while looking at the vista through the diaphanous curtains.
The decor in the suite is contemporary with a nod to the coastal setting, the aquamarine headboard the same shade as Walker Bay’s shallow coves. A striking pendant chandelier draws the eye to the high ceiling – that sense of space is surely one of life’s modern luxuries. Speaking of luxuries, my husband made good use of the Nespresso machine and full-bouquet DStv, which meant he could watch sport while I had a beauty sleep one afternoon.
A home away from home
Why a guest house when these lodgings have all the makings of a boutique hotel? “We don’t want our guests to feel they are in a formal environment; they must feel like they are at home. They should feel comfortable and at ease,” says Mariane Maree, general manager. That’s also why over the summer season, the guest house has a complimentary wine bar with snacks between 17:00 and 19:00. With a drink in hand, guests can sit back and savour the view from the glass-fronted foyer. At the Hermanus Boutique Guest House, you find a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere, amplified by the natural warmth of staff. Whenever we returned from our explorations, we were met by a friendly enquiry and offer of assistance.
“We’re here to make things easy for our guests and see to whatever they need. Whether that’s strewing rose petals over the bed for a special proposal or helping with recommendations of things to do. We want our guests to discover what makes this a special part of the world. Hermanus is more than just the whales. There is so much to do here,” Mariane says. In sunny weather, your days are easily packed with walks, beach time, kayaking and swimming. Adventurous types might like to try the treetop slides or venture into the vineyards of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley on quad bike. When it grows cloudy and chilly, the art galleries and quirky little shops in the centre of town beckon. Wine tasting is always in order, no matter the weather.
Armed with Mariane’s suggestions for things to do, we set out to spend an idyllic weekend. Want to make the most of your time in Hermanus? We’ve got your 48-hour Whale Coast escape sorted.
11:00: Scenic drive to Hermanus
The Overberg is made for road tripping. Ribbons of road weave through orchards and fields while imposing mountains jut their peaks into a deep blue sky. In every direction you look, you’re confronted with beauty. Get your breakaway off to a picture-perfect start by taking Franschhoek Pass and continuing past the Theewaterskloof Dam to Caledon. From here the R320 leads straight into the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, home to Hermanus’s most renowned wineries.
13:00: Tasting and tapas
From the wooden-framed tasting venue to its setting amid a working flower farm, Bosman Hermanus is all about nurturing nature’s gifts. A WWF-SA Conservation Champion, the winery not only produces excellent cool-climate wines, but also protects and restores the indigenous vegetation. You get a taste of the region’s wildflowers in the avenue of fynbos that leads to the Frame House. Here you can enjoy a tasting of five wines along with small plates – think smoked olives, patatas bravas and grilled squid, each a more than ample serving. Bosman’s is considered a bit of a secret gem; this is the wine farm where you’re most likely to rub shoulders with the locals.
For a special occasion, consider booking the five-course menu with wine pairing at Creation. Using seasonal local ingredients, the creative chefs conjure dishes that are uniquely South African and utterly delicious.
18:00: Sundowners at Ficks
This open-air venue would be perfectly at home on the Mediterranean Sea: it is stylish yet laid-back, suited to watching the world – or in this case the whales – go by. Spread across several terraces, every table at Ficks Restaurant has a sea view and every guest a front-row seat. The bar staff are known for their cocktails, with alcohol-free versions being equally delicious. Match the colour of the setting sun with an Aperol Spritz that captures the locale’s Continental flair. As it grows dark, the lights twinkle on and, if possible, Ficks becomes even more romantic. It’s effortless to spend your whole evening here. The menu is based on dishes meant for sharing – pinchos (bite-sized bar snacks) and flammkuchen (flatbread with decadent toppings) – while the wine list showcases the region’s best. Even better, it’s just a stroll across the road to your room at the Hermanus Boutique Guest House.
09:00: Sea kayaking in Walker Bay
It’s an impressive array that greets you at the guest house’s breakfast buffet: a variety of fresh fruit salads, pastries, breads, cheeses and cold meats, plus your choice of a cooked dish. Go ahead and do justice to it all, because you’ll be burning energy out on the water soon enough. Sea kayaking gets you even closer to the marine life for which Hermanus is so famed. At Walker Bay Adventures, qualified marine guides reveal more about life below the surface. The two-seater kayaks are light and extremely stable, so anyone can have a go. However, it’s up to you and your partner to find your padding rhythm and work together as a team. It’s fascinating to see Hermanus from the water. Pay attention as the guide tells you more about the town’s landmarks – later today, you’ll walk past these very spots.
11:30: Hemel-en-Aarde mainstays
Visit one of the pioneers that brought this wine valley to the world’s attention. Hamilton Russell has a lovely intimate feel: enjoy your tasting at one of a handful of tables next to a large dam. At Bouchard Finlayson, five different wine flights are on offer, either in the atmospheric cellar-style tasting room or on the sunny terrace. The experience at Newton Johnson is as refined as the elegant building that houses the cellar, tasting room and restaurant. Perched high on the slope, the views across to Babylonstoren Peak and the coast in the distance are stunning.
15:00: Exploring the cliff path
Stretching from the New Harbour to Grotto Beach, the Hermanus cliff path runs practically the entire length of town. The full 12km can take around three hours, but it depends on how often you take advantage of the strategically positioned benches. Around Gearing’s Point sculptures from the Fyn Arts Festival also invite you to tarry. With the mountains on one side and the deep blue bay on the other, you are in ambler’s heaven all along the cliff path. When you reach Grotto Beach, stop in at Dutchies for a drink and a bite to eat – a taxi can see you home.
07:30: Early-morning energy boost
After two nights at the Hermanus Boutique Guest House, you should be fully relaxed and ready to take on the world again. For a jolt of energy, swim a few laps in the Marine Tidal Pool: your skin will tingle and you’ll feel bright-eyed. Reward yourself with an activated charcoal croissant topped with white chocolate and pistachio from The Gallery Café. Cheers to 48 hours in Hermanus!
Good to know
The Hermanus Boutique Guest House offers a variety of rooms: some with a sea view, others overlooking the pool. There are rooms of different sizes and price points, depending on requirements. South African residents qualify for a discount.
The guest house offers secure parking at the back of the building and there’s on-site security around the clock.