Hermanus, which marks the beginning of the Garden Route, was originally called Hermanuspietersfontein but had its name shortened when it proved too long for the postal service. A charming fishing town on the southern coast of the Western Cape, Hermanus is about 120km from Cape Town and famous for whale watching during the winter and spring months.

The Old Harbour Museum, which houses an impressive life-size skeleton of a whale, tells the tale of the area’s rich fishing history. Along the R320, amid the rolling slopes of the Babylonstoring Mountains, lies the Hermanus Wine Route.  Meandering through the picturesque area known as the Hemel en Aarde Valley, this lowly road is home to world famous vineyards, and a good reason to visit Hermanus. If you do, make sure you spend time at these places:


Birkenhead House

In a town said to have Champagne air you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to upmarket eateries and accommodation. Found at the eastern end of Hermanus and perched atop the dramatic rocky promontory, Birkenhead House is a multi-tiered, five-star boutique hotel overlooking picturesque Walker Bay.

Included in the prestigious Royal Portfolio, Birkenhead House has been established with no expense spared: the decor is beach-house luxury rivalling the likes of the Hamptons with not one, but three, swimming pools. One of them is an infinity pool overlooking the azure Atlantic Ocean, which plays host to southern right whales between May and December.  

The 11 ultra-chic suites are palatial in size, with large windows allowing you to take in the majestic sights without leaving your luxury room. Here the emphasis is on comfort and pampering – the knowledgeable concierge goes a long way to help you retreat into this enchanting and romantic haven. 
119 11th St, Voelklip.
028 314 8000. 
birkenheadhouse.com

Must Do

Forming part of the Garden Route, the imposing mountains are covered in lush fynbos, making for scenic hiking trails. Exhilarating horse rides on the beach in the mornings or a stroll along the wide beaches right at the doorstep of Birkenhead House towards the pink flamingo sanctuary will leave you revitalised and ready for an indulgent afternoon of wine tasting.

Image: Seth Shezi

Hemel en Aarde Valley

Famous for producing world-class Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, the valley is home to high-end farms such as Bouchard Finlayson, Sumaridge, Southern Right and Creation.  A Hermanus trip would not be complete without a visit to these master wineries. hermanuswineroute.com


Hamilton Russell

Not so long ago, the Wall Street Journal stated that Hamilton Russell Vineyards was a “producer of one of the best New World Pinot Noirs you’re likely to find”. Their world-class Pinot Noir achieves what all great South African wine sets out to do: it’s a marriage between the old world of Pinot Noir from Burgundy in France and the new world of South African red wine. The colour is brilliantly clear, the nose you get has a hint of game and on the palate the silky texture is light, almost ethereal. One word comes to mind, finesse.  
Open Mon-Fri. 9 Hemel en Aarde Rd,  
028 312 3595.

hamiltonrussellvineyards.co.za


 Vineyard at Hemel en Aarde
Vineyard at Hemel en Aarde
Image: Seth Shezi

Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay

Hamilton Russell produces applauded Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays fit for special occasions, and thankfully the family is now offering something for 
everyday drinking with the introduction of their new three-year-old Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay blend. The 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay Ashbourne blend, sourced entirely from the maritime Walker Bay, launched to rave reviews for both its character and the enchanting Belle-Époque label. This easy-drinking blend opens with a floral bouquet on the nose, a classic structure and crisp notes of citrus softened by the fruity but subtle Chardonnay  on the palate.  
By appointment only. Hemel en Aarde Rd 
028 312 3595.


Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay
Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay
Image: Seth Shezi

The Restaurant at Newton Johnson Family Vineyards

Situated within one of the Cape’s premier viticultural sites, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson offers the best gourmet experience in Hemel en Aarde, elevating its culinary standard on par with that of its fine wines. Specialising in contemporary fine dining, the relaxed service, airy ambiance with ample light and sprawling vineyard views, makes The Restaurant an ideal spot for a long, indulgent lunch.  

With the uber-talented Eric Bulpitt (ex executive chef at The Roundhouse) at the helm, patrons are treated to a concise, seasonal menu of locally sourced produce and farm-foraged greens that have been prepared meticulously and with respect.  Chef-proprietor Bulpitt and his team have mastered the art of making gastronomic theatre accessible and appear unfussy and everyone is taking note. He explains: “We were barely open a year when Eat Out announced us as a Top 10 restaurant. It came as a very humbling, unexpected surprise.” 
Open Wed-Sun 12-3pm and Fri-Sat 6.3-8.30pm.
Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley.
0212002148.

newtonjohnson.com


The Hamilton Russell Vineyards tasting room
The Hamilton Russell Vineyards tasting room
Image: Seth Shezi
Hamilton Russell, owner of Hamilton  Russell Vineyards, rides his bike around the farm
Hamilton Russell, owner of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, rides his bike around the farm
Image: Seth Shezi

Cartology 

Named after the study of maps, this intriguing dry farmed  bushvine Chenin and Semillon white blend, produced by  young winemaker Chris Alheit of Alheit Vineyards, is a vinous exploration of the Cape’s heritage. Getting hold of Cartology is a study in patience – it is sold out until the release of this year’s vintage, but due to overwhelming demand Alheit is already taking down names for the waiting list. 
By appointment only. Hemel en Aarde Ridge,  
0832746860.

alheitvineyards.co.za


Claudia Brut Methode Cap Classique

 Located at the highest point of the Hemel en Aarde wine route, Domaine des Dieux is aptly named. Directly translated as “house of the gods”, Domaine des Dieux is the oldest and most celebrated Methode Cap Classique (MCC) producer in the valley and is where the au courant come to “pop bottles”.  The 10% Pinot Noir and 90% Chardonnay flagship Claudia Brut MCC spends 40 months on its lees, helping the wine to develop rich brioche notes.  Look out for the expansive mousse on the palate – it is beautifully creamy, with a long citrus finish. 
Open Tue-Sat 11am-4.30pm and Sun 11am-3.30pm. 
Top of R320, Hemel en Aarde Road.
0283132126.

domainedesdieux.co.za


The Beanery

Often, after a night of rambunctious wine drinking, one needs a decent cup of coffee. Eric Bulpitt, executive chef at The Restaurant at Newton Johnson, swears by Mike Bayer’s roast at The Beanery.  Tucked away in an unassuming part of central Hermanus, The Beanery continues to be the locals’ well-kept secret. 
Open Mon-Sat 7.30am-close. Shop C8, Main Rd, 
0283122416


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