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Blue Flag beaches, lush vineyards and breathtaking natural scenery combine to make Hermanus a popular stopping point on South Africa's beautiful coastal Garden Route road trip. Once a small fishing village on the Cape Coast, it's now known as one of the best places in the world to spot Southern Right whales. Restaurants serving local seafood line the waterfront, while inland there are national parks carpeted with the Cape's unique fynbos shrubland.
Hostels in Hermanus have an easy-going vibe that fits in well with the town. You can stay in an eco friendly heritage house, a studio apartment with a private kitchenette or a hostel with high-end mattresses to help you get a good night's sleep. Most of Hermanus' hostels have free parking for road trippers, as well as outdoor spaces where you can learn the South African art of braai (barbecue). Look for a Hermanus hostel with free breakfast so you can refuel before another day exploring along the Garden Route.
Main Road is the heart of Hermanus. It has lots of bars and restaurants, from big chains selling American food to smaller independent seafood shacks. The harbour is 3km west of the town, about half an hour's walk. This is where the whale watching and dive boats depart from, and there's a clifftop restaurant with views over Walker Bay. Just 3km east of the centre, Fernkloof Nature Reserve in the Kleinrivier Mountains has hiking trails and local wildlife to spot.
There's plenty to do in Hermanus besides whale watching, although it's certainly worth making time for that too. The town's Walker Bay is one of the country's most celebrated wine regions. You can take tours around the Hemel-en-Aarde valley wineries and sample lots of different vintages. For an active afternoon, try the 11km-long Hermanus Cliff Path Biodiversity Walk to spot beautiful blooms and unique wildlife, including cute dassies: they might look a bit like big guinea pigs but they're actually the closest living relative to the elephant.
Hermanus is just under a 2-hour drive east of Cape Town and is often a first stop on the Garden Route road trip. If you don't want to hire a car, the Baz Bus hop-on, hop-off backpacker bus passes through Hermanus on the way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The town centre is small enough to wander around on foot, though you can also rent a bike to explore a bit further afield.