A pretty scene of a house on a hill in the mists. Taken in the wine lands near Hermanus in the Western Cape area of South Africa, near Cape Town. What a beautiful place to live.
Until we explored Hermanus, we had no idea that it was a wine growing area. A wine tasting trip, along with a lunch to match the wine, soon taught us otherwise.
This view was from our lunch table. So beautiful.
from New Artwork by Jeremy Hayden http://ift.tt/2mLb2xT
Where is Hermanus?
Hermanus, known as Hermanuspietersfontein until 1902, is situated on the south coast of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. It is approximately 120 km, or around a one and a half hour drive from Cape Town.
Why Go to Hermanus?
Apart from just being a pretty spot and a great place to chill out and take a break, Hermanus is known for Southern Right whale watching, typically between late June / early July to early November. Have a look at the very informative Hermanus website.
Our visit was planned to get together with friends and family, and see the whales while we were there.
Getting to Hermanus
There are two ways to get there.
– Driving there from Cape Town, or from inland. Hermanus is situated some kilometres off the main N2 national road.
– Arranging a transfer through a private company.
We hired a car, which we collected at Cape Town airport on arrival from Johannesburg on Kulula Airlines.
We chose the scenic coastal route to get there. This is a very pretty drive down through Pringle Bay and past Betty’s Bay, best taken slowly with a few stops to look at the scenery.
The alternative, main route is the shorter of the two, through the mountains, mainly along the national N2 route. We returned to Cape Town this way, stopping at Houw Hoek farm store on the Houw Hoek pass. Excellent pies available there, as well local produce and biltong.
It’s worth stopping to see the view over the Cape Flats and Somerset West at the top of Sir Lowry’s Pass. We stopped there in time to see the local paragliding group in action.
A smoky day over the Cape Flats. Somerset west on the left and Strand by the sea on the right.
Where to Stay in Hermanus
The town is well established for the tourist trade, offering a good variety of accomodation, from hotels to guest houses and self catering establishments. A number of local agents offer holiday rental properties.
A key consideration when choosing your accommodation is transport. The town is spread along the coast. We stayed approximately 5 km from the centre of town, so really needed the car on a daily basis.
Through friends we rented a house in Voelklip, quite close to the beach, for the 5 nights we were there.
Food. Eating Out and In
There is a wide variety of restaurants and cafés to suit most tastes. Wherever we ate the food quality was good.l
Along with many other shops, the three main South African supermarkets, Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers and Woolworths are in Hermanus. Self caterers will have no problem finding something good to cook.
By UK standards, good steak is ridiculously cheap and of excellent quality. Suffice to say that we made the best of it.
What to do in Hermanus
Just sit on one one of the many benches on the cliff tops, relax and watch the sea. Or wander across to Gearings Point. The whales will be there, typically just wallowing in the sea. Often you will see mother and calf.
If you are lucky you’ll see a whale breach, leaping out of the water and splashing back in. Or a huge tail emerging and slapping the water. Looking across to Gaansbaai you may see distant splashes of whale activity.
During my 2010 visit I saw a few breaches close to the shore. In this trip the whales we saw were content to just drift in the water, close to the shore. The breaches we saw were far out in Walker Bay, but still impressive.
Alternatively take a boat trip or go out in kayaks to get closer.
This was a surprise tour, as we had never connected Hermanus with wineries. a great day out, we took the Hermanus Wine Hoppers tour, covered in my last post.
Hermanus has a long history based around fishing and the local harbour. The Old Harbour Museum shows much of this history.
Local markets offer a range of products including location art and craft and a range of clothing, locally made and imported. Well worth a couple of hours rooting out some treasure.
This was a tour that we saw when planning our trip. It’s not one we took, but it’s available.
Just Go There
Cape Town and the surrounding area have much to offer. We consider Hermanus to be one of those little gems which most tourists have probably never heard of. Well worth a visit if you’re visiting the Cape.
And with that it was time to move on from Hermanus. To one of my favourite places in South Africa – the KZN (kwaZulu Natal) coast near Durban, a little beach spot called Umdloti.
Wine tasting in Hermanus with Hermanus Wine Hoppers
Hermanus. Sea, whales and great seafood. But wineries? I had never connected the two. While planning our trip we came across Hermanus Wine Hoppers. Put simply, they get you to the wineries, you do the rest.
Here’s how it works:
- Hermanus Wine Hoppers picks you up from your Hermanus accomodation at 10:30 a.m.;
- Until 4:30 p.m. They take you to up to 6 wineries;
- The driver ensures that you can get into the winery, I.e. Not sitting around waiting. If the winery is busy, they simply take you to the next winery and come back later;
- A driver comes to pick you up after half an hour. If you are not ready he simply moves on and another comes half an hour later, continuing until 4:30, or you are ready to leave;
- They deliver you back to your accomodation at the end of the tour;
- You pay the cost of the wine tasting at each winery;
- A couple of wineries offer food, so you can get some lunch, with one, Creation Wines, needing pre-booking.
Our Wine Hopping Trip
Well, we managed three wineries and lunch. And then it was 4:30. One thing that has to be said, when you taste wines you are supposed to spit out the sample. Probably like most non-aficionados, we swallow!
I am not going to try and critique all of the wines we tasted. You’ll need to do the trip to do that. Here are the wineries we visited.
Hermanuspietersfontein Wine Cellar takes its name from the original name of the village of Hermanus, shortened by the postmaster in 1902. The wines are produced on their farm, Sondagskloof. Read about it on their website.
True to their Afrikaans heritage, all Hermanpietersfontein wines have Afrikaans names.
Very professional in their approach, we were offered 4 wines to taste of a selection of 7 for ZAR30.
Our favourites were the light Kaalvoet Meisie Sauvignon Blanc and the Shiraz blend Skoonma.
Whalehaven were very laid back, and, in our view, the best ambience of all of the wineries.
For the wine taster Whalehaven offer just wine to taste or, for ZAR60 a wine and chocolate matching taste session. This was our choice and well worth it. The chocolates, with their specific flavours are produced exclusively for Whalehaven, who boast a number of awards received for their efforts.
Our favourite combination here was the Pinot Noir matched with the Rooibos and rose chocolate.
- Abalone Chenin Blanc matched with orange blossom white chocolate. The wine is named for the support which the winery gives to the prevention of poaching of abalone along the Hermanus coast.
- A Merlot matched with lavender chocolate. The combination delivers and interesting mint flavour which would go well with a roast lamb dinner.
- Pinotage with a dark chocolate.
The Bouchard Finlayson winery is situated in the beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde (translated as Heaven-and-Earth) valley. It comes across as old, but at the same time modern and sophisticated. Bouchard Finlayson claims to be the most awarded boutique winery in South Africa.
Bouchard Finlayson offered 3 wines to taste for ZAR20, or 6 for ZAR40.
My thoughts on their wine:
- Galpin pinot Noir – very smooth. I could drink that regularly.
- Hannibal – a unique blend of Italian and French styles. Not bad at all.
Crocodiles Lair Chardonnay – I am not a fan of Chardonnay, but this was my favourite at this winery.
Not far up the road from Bouchard Finlayson, on the Hemel-en-Aarde ridge, we came to Creation Wines.
At the beginning of the tour we had been asked if we wanted lunch, and it was pointed out that we would need to book. Hermanus Wine Hoppers sorted out the booking for us. So this was our lunch stop.
Creation offer a few choices of wine and food matching. The biggest one being “The Story of Creations”. This is a 7 course, small plate meal, each plate being matched with a sample of appropriate wine. cost is ZAR 395.
As we were hungry we chose the larger plate, 3 course meal, again with matched wine samples being served. The diner does, of course have the option to buy the wine by the glass.
This really was fine dining, with superb food and matching wine served with a very professional chat about the wine. The wine samples were small, but there was no hesitation in providing another sample when a glass was empty. Cost was on enquiry, but came to about £25 each.
Heading Home after an Excellent Day Out
The meal at Creation Wines was a great experience, in a beautiful setting. We took our time, and spent spent 3 hours there, finishing and being picked up by Wine Hoppers at 4:30. No time to do any more wineries. I think we were all “wined out” at that point anyway.
Hermanus Wine Hoppers deliver top class service. They are very attentive, but unobtrusive, not interfering with the pleasure of the day. Transport is safari style in a bakkie (light pickup) properly set up with seats and canvas canopy. When we hit some cold and Windy weather on the Hemel-en-Aarde road the driver was very quick to ensure that we were all dry and had blankets to keep warm.
Definitely a tour I would do again, and highly recommend.
Bientang’s Cave – Whales and Seafood on the Rocks
Our visit to Bientang’s Cave was planned right at the start of our trip. A getting together of friends in Hermanus over an extended lunch in a great spot. It was everything we had wished for and more.
What and Where is Bientang’s Cave
Bientang’s Cave is a restaurant situated on the rocks on the Hermanus seafront in an old strandloper cave. Tables are positioned on the rocks, giving the visitor a great view of Walkers Bay With luck, at the right time of year, you’ll see whales.
We had planned to sit out on the rocks, as close to the sea as possible. As the wheather wasn’t perfect we moved back to the main body of the restaurant. That proved to be a good plan, as we did see a few people getting their feet wet at tables on the rocks.
The menu offers a range of dishes including steak and burgers, but is very clearly a seafood menu. With prawns at the top of our choices, a good spread of seafood potjie, seafood curry and seafood platters was eaten. Of course these are “proper” prawns, much bigger than anything you’ll see outside of top restaurants in the UK.
For me an excellent snoek pate was followed by one of my favourites, a seafood potjie, though it was difficult choice between potjie and Malay seafood curry.
There was no rushing this meal – it took all afternoon, with a fair amount of South African wine consumed as well.
And the Whales
A couple of whales were seen nearby, with some activity out in the bay.
With most of our group having three courses it worked out to under ZAR450 a head. Now I am not sure how that works out for South Africans, but for the UK tourist that’s around £26 each. Excellent value.
If you are visiting this part of the world, a meal at Bientang’s cave is a must. Great food at good value.
As a footnote, on our last full day in Hermanus, after spending the day just sitting around and seeing the sights, we opted for a late lunch at Bientang’s Cave. Just as good as the first time around!
The other day I saw a post about whale watching from beatravelling: Onshore Whale Watching. It reminded me of an unplanned visit to Hermanus, near Cape Town a few years ago, coincidentally on the weekend […]Read on ...