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The historic whale watching town of Hermanus

Each year thousands of domestic and international tourists flock to the shores of the gorgeous coastal town, Hermanus. Internationally renowned for its whale watching, Hermanus is an ideal holiday destination. Despite being one of South Africa’s most loved tourist destinations Hermanus has managed to maintain the quaint and tranquil atmosphere of years gone by.

The Hermanus of Days Gone By

This gorgeous seaside town has a proud history dating back to the early 1800s when a man by the name of Hermanus Pieters followed a path etched into the ground by a herd of elephants. Hermanus Pieters was a travelling teacher and shepard who growing tired of his locality, made the decision to pack up and try somewhere new.

He wandered south of Caledon along the elephant trail and ended up next to the sea where he discovered a fresh spring. Hermanus Pieters decided to set up camps here because of this spring and the fine grazing the land provided for his livestock. This beautiful setting became known as Hermanuspietersfontein (directly translated as Hermanus Pieters Fountain). Once farmers in neighbouring districts begun to hear of his success they too began their journeys to this new and fertile location. Many of the farmers only vacationed in Hermanuspietersfontein during the warmers summers months. They spent their time fishing whilst their wives and children spent many a happy day along the magnificent beachfronts. Once the winter months set in the farmers would return to their homes, the fishermen however stayed. The fish was plentiful and the men had great successes in the ocean that lapped the shores of this small town.

By 1886 so many families had moved to Hermanuspietersfontein that a church and school were built. In 1902 after an irate postmasters complaint due to the towns’ exceptionally long name, Hermanuspietersfontein became Hermanus. The town was so beautiful and filled with fresh sea air that it was not uncommon for doctors to recommend a trip to the seaside town for their patient’s health.

The Sleepy Village Beside the Sea

The residents of Hermanus fought strongly for their home to remain a sleepy, quaint seaside village rather than succumb to the modernization that was creeping up all around them. One of the most significant contributors to this “village feeling” was William Hoy who was a frequent visitor to Hermanus. Hoy was the general manager of the railways and he ensured that the natural beauty of Hermanus would not be marred by the extension of the railway line into the village. Hundreds of years later Hermanus is the only railway station in the country with no trains. Hermanus is historically rich with many tales and interesting facts about the people who were responsible for making the town what it is today: from anti-railway activist William Hoy to the last indigenous beachcomber who lived in a cave in town. These people amongst many other contributed to both the development and the uncommercialised feel of Hermanus today.

What to do in Hermanus

Hermanus may be a quiet town but it is definitely not an uneventful one. There are a number of choices for beaches, from rock-protected coves to long expanses of sandy beach, perfect for safe swimming and strolling and the many tidal pools provide safe bathing and are perfect for children. The variety of cliff path walks and hiking trails, magnificent diving spots and excellent birdwatching opportunities are a treat for the nature lovers.
Many renowned artists, sculptors, ceramicists, writers, jewellers, glass designers, quilters and photographers have settled here and brought international recognition to Hermanus. These artists often hold exhibitions which should not be missed. There are also a wide variety of shops where you can purchase anything from clothing to curios. The museum enables visitors a fascinating glimpse into what the town was like in the past.
It is however the whale watching which draws so many visitors to this seaside paradise. Each year from July to December South Africa becomes home to thousands of Whales who leave the icy Antarctic to mate and birth their calves. The Western Cape is a hot spot for Whale watching in South Africa. The most common whales in this area are the majestic and once near extinct Southern Right Whales. Hermanus, which is located a mere 45 minute drive from Cape Town, is known as the “heart of the Whale Coast” and is recognised by World Wildlife Fund as the best land-based whale watching area in the world. The Annual Whale Festival held in September celebrates these truly magnificent creatures. A trip to the festival, 5 days of exhibitions, boat trips, flea markets and entertainment, is highly recommended.

During your visit to this gorgeous town say at the Windsor Hotel which is situated on a cliff edge with spectacular panoramic views of the Indian Ocean below. This Hermanus hotel is perfect for a relaxing seaside holiday break, and the frolicking whales in the Indian Ocean will add to your enjoyment!

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