Spring is the season for an Overberg road-trip. Whether you’re into wine, whales or whipping out a wedge, the coastline from Kleinmond to Hermanus (and beyond) is the place to head for …
Hermanus: Vintage grandeur, contemporary comfort
If there’s a grande dame of the Western Cape’s scenic Overberg region, The Marine Hotel is surely it. Like a matriarch watching over her brood, The Marine sits proudly on the cliff’s edge, metres from the waters of Walker Bay.
It’s these warm(ish) waters, and the Southern Right whales that holiday here each Spring, that draw crowds of visitors to the town from July to November. Hermanus is famous for offering some of the world’s best land-based whale watching, and from your suite at The Marine Hotel you need barely leave your bed to watch the whales lob-tailing, breaching and spy-hopping.
With 40 rooms and suites — the spacious Premier Suites offer the best sea views — it’s a hotel that wears its history lightly, with heritage balanced by freshened-up interiors. At The Pavilion a contemporary bistro menu is offered in a space reminiscent of the roaring ‘20s, while the airy Sun Lounge — tables available outside too — serves up a generous spread for afternoon tea. Stay the night or stop for the afternoon, but ensure The Marine is on the hit list.
Kleinmond: Have a swing
Resort-style getaways are a rarity in the Western Cape, but Arabella — under the Tsogo Sun umbrella since April 2020 — ticks all the right boxes for keeping multigenerational travellers happy on holiday.
Set on the banks of the bird-rich Bot River Lagoon, it’s become a particularly popular destination for local and international visitors chasing eagles and albatrosses. Of the golfing kind, that is.
Threading between the homes of a residential estate, the 18-hole golf course — the work of respected golf architect Peter Matkovich — is regularly ranked among the top 10 in the country. The 18th hole is widely, and rightly, regarded as one of the finest finishing holes in SA. Aside from hunting birdies, keep a beady eye out for the herd of wild horses that call the lagoon home.
You could do the same from your private balcony though, with the hotel’s 145 rooms and suites dishing up fine views of the Kogelberg biosphere. Beyond the balcony there’s plenty to keep children and non-golfers entertained. The spacious Arabella Spa has a clutch of awards to its name, while four pools — including a dedicated children's pool — tennis courts and a modern gymnasium offer plenty to fill your days. But get out and explore too: you’ll find the Bot River wineries almost on the doorstep, while the penguin colony at Stony Point, and fynbos hikes of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, are just a short drive along the coast.
Hermanus: Waterside escapes
Too many visitors pull into Hermanus, see a few whales, walk the Cliff Path and don’t get any further down the road towards Stanford, a village well worth a visit. Which also means they miss out on views of the glorious Klein River Lagoon, which funnels out into Walker Bay at the eastern end of Grotto Beach.
Though there are kayak adventures and lagoon trips on offer, the best way to soak up those views are at The Thatch House, an elegant boutique hotel set slap-bang on the shoreline. The hotel’s six suites are (almost) indecently large, with spacious private terraces to sit out and savour these wide-open spaces.
But don’t just sit: the hotel offers complimentary kayaks for exploring the lagoon, a pair of swimming pools, a floodlit tennis court, a playground for kids and easy access to the hiking and biking trails of the nearby Fernkloof Nature Reserve.
Hemel-en-Aarde: Eve would be pleased
Hemel-en-Aarde. Heaven and Earth, I know, I know. It’s a cliché, but with views like this it’s no wonder the valley garners such praise. So where to admire them from, then? Family-run Newton Johnson Vineyards is a good start, pitched high on the valley’s eastern slopes. The wide lawns of Bouchard Finlayson are good too, and the pinot noir here is as fine as the panoramas. Feeling energetic? The three well-marked walking trails — no charge, either — explore the pristine fynbos on the hills beyond.
Just as well. You’ll need an appetite for Mogg’s Country Cookhouse, where chef Julia Mogg dishes up a delish menu of contemporary bistro cooking. Call ahead for a garden table.
The same goes for Creation Wines, where winemaker JC Martin ups the ante on both pinot noir and chardonnay, a fine foil for the globe-trotting menu from chef Eleanor Niehaus.
The estate’s new Voormanshuis also offers a decidedly modern country escape for two. Lay the table on the terrace and choose between firing up the braai, or pre-ordering dinner from the Creation kitchen. The views are great, but pay attention to the walls too: you’ll have good company in Pierneef, Marjorie Wallace, Jan Vermeiren and Christo Coetzee. Outdoors, Strijdom van der Merwe’s “Stairway to Heaven” is a playful addition to the landscape.