Just beyond the Western Cape Hotel & Spa, on the opposite side of the Bot River lagoon, lies Fisherhaven, the westernmost part of Greater Hermanus.
This quiet little place 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 lagoon it offers fishing, sailing and boating facilties.
Hawston 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 building of historical interest. Hawston has a long stretch of beach that reaches towards Kleinmond but swimming can be dangerous. 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 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. They named it Onrust, the spelling of which 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. The colony of artists settled here has included Uys Krige, Jan Rabie, Jack Cope, Elsa Joubert, Bill Davis, Gregoire Boonzaaier, Marjorie Wallace and Cecil Higgs.Vermont and Onrus consist mainly of holiday homes and their owners arrive in droves during the holidays to bathe on Onrus Beach.
Painting by Marusa Mason
The Onrus lagoon is at present at the centre of a contentious debate regarding the ecoli levels of the water. Showers, cloakrooms and a restaurant right on the beach make this a very friendly beach for holidaymakers; it is also a favourite surfing and body boarding spot. The 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, paddle or sandboard.
Sandbaai lies on the coast at the entrance to the Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley. It is the most recently developed residential area of Greater Hermanus. Most of the roads are gravel roads lined 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 provides safe swimming at low tide and is dotted with rock pools and coves. It is a popular snorkeling spot and there are cloakrooms and showers. Sandbaai has a few art galleries, one specialising in aviation. It also offers a recently opened seafood restaurant that already has an excellent reputation.
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, jewellers, 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.
Hermanus Wine Village in the Hemel-en-Aarde Village
The valley truly is the epitome of its name making the Hermanus Wine Wander an extremely pleasurable experience.
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 and residents are empowering themselves by starting their own small businesses. Zwelihle even has its first B & B 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 has recently been infused with colour by Operation Preen, a community collaboration to clean and paint the houses in the area.
The town of Hermanus "proper" sits on the western cove of Walker Bay between magnificent sea cliffs and the Olifantsberg. 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 news of good summer grazing spread to the surrounding areas and soon farmers from neighbouring districts would come in the summer months, bringingtheir livestock to benefit from the fresh grazing and carting their families along to enjoy the sea. The spring came to be known as Hermanuspietersfontein but was shortened to Hermanus when municipal status was given to the town in 1904.
The bay was named after a Royal Naval officer called Walker. The farmers may have discovered Hermanus, but it was the fishermen who settled here. With an abundance of fish, the village attracted more and more families. By the early 1900s word of the excellent fishing, outstanding beauty and "healing" air had spread across the world. It even became fashionable for Harley Street doctors in London to prescribe visits to Hermanus' "champagne air" to their patients.Hermanus was, and is, an excellent holiday venue.
One of the first regular visitors to Hermanus was Sir William Hoy, general manager of the South African Railways. He was so taken by the tranquillity of the village that he saw to it that the Bot River railway line never reached Hermanus. His legacy lives on in the Hermanus Station that has no lines or trains and the hill that lies in the middle of the village, Hoy's Koppie, where he and his wife are buried. Hoy's Koppie not only provides an easy walk though fynbos to a lookout point over the village, but is also an important link to the earliest inhabitants of the area, the Khoisan. Klipgat Cave, a large overhang on the southern side of the koppie, has archaeological evidence of these indigenous people inhabiting the cave long before Hermanus Pieters came across it.
Hotels were quickly built to accommodate the demand for holiday lodgings. The first hotel was the Astoria Hotel, now Astoria Village; followed by the Sanatorium (now the Windsor) and then the Marine Hotel which was built in 1902. The growing village soon needed the infrastructure required by a burgeoning and stable community - churches were built, a school, magistrate's courts, a new post office, police station, and even a new harbour.
Tourism is still the cornerstone of Hermanus' economy, but today visitors have a selection of venues to choose from. In addition to the hotels there are many guesthouses, self-catering cottages and backpackers' lodges offering visitors excellent hospitality.
The easternmost part of Hermanus, at the foot of the Kleinriviersberg which stretches to Stanford, is the residential area of Voëlklip. 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 lies 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.
Hermanus, also known as the Riviera of the South, is attractive to travellers not only because of its wondrous setting, but also because it offers a myriad of activities all year round. The sun and pristine beaches in summer and land-based whale watching in the green months; fishing, diving, hiking, cycling, fly-fishing, boating, bird-watching, paragliding, golf, bowls, riding...there is always something to do.
Fernkloof Nature Reserve in the saddle between Lemoenkop and Olifantsberg hosts one of the richest 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 beauty and magic of Hermanus have attracted many famous artists. The town has thus become home to a number of galleries that house both local and international work.
The village holds a Passion Play in the Old Harbour every year; 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 HermanusFood & Wine Fair (July) with delicious cuisine and delectable wines from over 60 exhibitors.