The natural beauty of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Hermanus has traditionally attracted holiday house investors but, its lifestyle estates are now also attracting young professionals.
Originally blessed with the Monicker Hermanuspietersfontein after the shepherd who discovered a spring here in the early 1800s, Hermanus was established in 1857 with the building of the town’s first house, followed nine years later by the first school.
In 1902, deeming it too cumbersome to write, the local postmaster shortened the name to Hermanus. But, really, Hermanus owes much of the villagey charm it still retains today to Sir william Hoy, general manager of the South African Railways and a regular visitor, who, in the early 1900s, blocked the extension of the Bot River railway into the seaside town he had come to love.
Hoy’s passion for Hermanus was hardly difficult to fathom. perched on a cliff edge between sea and soaring mountains, the town offers one of the most breathtakingly beautiful pieces of coastline in the country, as well as a natural harbour that, for centuries, has provided the perfect vantage point for watching fishermen come ashore with their daily catch.
Today, the Old Harbour is part of an open-air museum, a popular attraction in a town that now boasts a thriving tourist trade. Just 120km from Cape Town, Hermanus is also credited with being the best spot for land-based whale watching in the world, and the whales that come to breed in walker Bay in the latter half of the year draw the crowds in their thousands.
But Hermanus is by no means a one-trick pony: there are many other dimensions to lure visitors to the town and the surrounding Hemel- en-Aarde valley. Boutiques, galleries, bookshops and excellent restaurants are abundant in town, while the Hemel-en-Aarde boasts world-class – albeit less ‘commercial’ – wine farms and off-the-beaten-track eateries, and many of the local farmers are only too happy to welcome guests. The area’s natural assets are a draw card for outdoor enthusiasts, too, who capitalise on the ocean for kayaking (although it can be hard to avoid them, it is illegal to approach within 300m of a whale without a permit) and scuba and shark-cage diving, the mountains for hiking and biking, Fernkloof Nature Reserve for walking, and several excellent courses, including Arabella and Fernkloof, for golfing. Residents love the 10km-long cliff path that offers sweeping views of walker Bay. In whale season, the Hermanus Whale Crier blows his horn to alert everyone to the position of whales in the bay and crowds gather along the cliffs to enjoy the world-class show put on by the nursing mothers and calves.
Hermanus is well served by amenities, including the Hermanus Private Hospital, and there are a number of good schools in the area: Hermanus High remains a top government school, while the newly opened Curro Hermanus Private gives parents the option of independent schooling and Camphill School provides education for children with special needs.
Hermanus in numbers
- 86% of recent buyers in Arabella Estate are aged between 36 and 49 years
- 27% of owners are between 35 and 49 years old
- 40% of owners are between 50 and 64 years old
- 26% of owners are over 65 years old
- 70% of owners in Fernkloof are over 50 years old
- 50% of residents have owned property here for over five years
- 55% of house sales are between R1 and R3 million
- 7% of owners are under 35 years old
Who’s buying and what are they paying?
“Buyers over the past two years have been predominantly Western Cape and gauteng residents,” says Annien Borg, Pam Golding Property’s MD for the Boland and Overberg regions. “Most of them purchase for holiday use, with the possibility of retiring to these homes at a later stage,” she adds.
There is much interest from international buyers, too. “We receive ongoing enquiries from potential buyers in the UK, Canada and Belgium, including top local executives who are currently working internationally,” says Borg, adding that another key source of interest is South African expats living in the UK but who plan to return home in the future.
According to Borg, there is currently a wealth of stock on offer in Hermanus, with the most coveted areas including beachfront suburbs like Voëlklip, Eastcliff and kwaaiwater, as well as the secure Fernkloof Golf Estate and Hermanus Heights. “There is a good supply of beachfront property, and this will always remain a good investment,” she says. “It’s worth noting that we have several top-end buyers who are biding their time, waiting for the right property to suit their needs.”
Borg claims that pam golding’s average house-price sale last was R4,2 million, significantly higher than the area’s average: “we concluded several top-end deals during the year, with properties priced over R5 million accounting for 64% of the total value sold. These included a six-bedroom beachfront home in Voëlklip, sold for R19,5 million to a buyer from Stellenbosch.”
Hole in one
Arabella Country Estate boasts 236 freehold lifestyle estate properties that have been developed to a uniform theme. Residents have access to the fully fitted 145-room luxury Arabella golf estate hotel, which includes conference, food, and beverage and leisure facilities as well as a wellness centre. The 18-hole golf course, a par 72 layout designed by peter Matkovich, is of international standards and has full clubhouse facilities. Despite these credentials, one of the biggest draw cards to Arabella Country Estate is the ecocredentials it boasts. The property is located within the transitional zone of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and is adjacent to the Bot River Lagoon, a designated buffer zone of the Biosphere Reserve. It has several large vacant areas that will remain undeveloped, and the Arabella Country Estate management is required to conform to the objectives of the Biosphere Reserve, including the principal of sustainable development and protection of the natural environment on and surrounding the property.
The golf-estate property spans 113 hectares and has a 1,6 kilometre frontage onto the scenic lagoon. arabellacountryestate.co.za
Heaven on earth
Hemel en Aarde Estate is a particularly popular and sought- after development just 3km from the town centre and boasting all the perks of modern estate living. “Hemel en Aarde estate has cottage-style two- and three-bedroom family homes situated near the club house – with amenities such as swimming pool, gym, tennis and squash courts, sauna, play park and about 8km of pathways within the estate for walkers to enjoy – as well as larger three- and four-bedroom contemporary houses,” say Liebenberg and Vermaak. Prices range from
R1,6 million to R5,3 million, with some properties going for over R10 million. ‘There is currently an exclusive property marketed by Seeff for R13 million on 1,84 hectares (floor size 916m2) perched on the highest point of the estate overlooking the sea and mountains surrounding Onrus River.” The estate has a guarded security entrance and perimeter wall with electric fencing. Long-term rentals are available as for several homeowners, this is a second home waiting for their retirement.
“For the kids it’s great,” says Carolyn Martin, co-owner of Creation wines. ‘There is not an iota of a chance they will become mall rats: they spend their time surfing, playing tennis, cricket and rugby, and there are plenty of golf courses around us. we have teachers from Cape Town coming to take ballet classes and there are art classes, Mastermaths and plenty of academic support. The local primary school produces some great results and gives the kids a good dose of reality at the same time. There is also a private school, Curro Hermanus, which was initiated by me and a friend about three years ago. It has about 500 kids and is growing. It is part of a large group of well-established private schools across the country, so there is something for everyone. My kids go to the local government school, which has about 900 kids. They both do exceptionally well academically and in sport. Glenn is deputy head boy of the dual-medium, bilingual school. On the farm, he hunts birds and fly fishes and builds lairs, while Emma is more interested in making wine and spending time in the tasting room chatting to clients and working the till. We have a great MediClinic and doctors in Hermanus, which is reassuring when you’re raising a family. I think small-town living is what you make of it,” she adds.
You live in a pristine natural environment plud the buzz of a holiday town with many visitors to the farm – it’s fascinating, since they come from all over the world. So it’s quite a stimulating environment and there is plenty of opportunity and space for creativity – for me, a perfect balance.
Owner of pure South gallery and gift Shop, Liz Coates has lived in Hermanus for nine years and enjoys the fact that although the pace of life is slower than in the city, it’s hardly a sleepy town. “There is always something happening here,” she says. “We even started a new art and cultural festival in June this year, Hermanus Fynarts, through Hermanus Tourism. You must have the right attitude to live in a small town. There so much to do: there’s a wine club, bowles every second Sunday, hiking clubs, and everything revolves around the golf club. The key is to get involved and support everything that happens in the community. There are lots of small, individually owned businesses here and we all support one another as business is very seasonal.
Eat, drink, shop
Don’t miss eating at the Fisherman’s Cottage; dating back to the 1890s, it forms part of the old harbour museum in the fisherman’s village. And SeaFood at The Marine has just had a makeover so, besides gourmet food, expect new-look interiors. Pop in at The Beach House, Pure South and Amulet for decor items and Romantique for vintage pieces and antiques. Hemingways Bookshop has new and second-hand finds and knowledgeable staff. Try Abalone Gallery for contemporary SA art and Walker Bay Art Gallery for investment pieces. Up in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, you can’t skip Moggs Country Cookhouse or The Tasting Room at Creation Wines.
Check out hermanuswineroute.com for what’s happening in the area.
Average property price in Hermanus and surrounds (past 12 months)
R500 000: price of a small apartment or vacant land
R930 000: price of homes sold in Westcliff (27 homes)
R1,2 million: price of properties sold in Hemel en Aarde estate (includes several plots)
R1,5 million: price for a lock-up-and-go home in Westcliff
R1,68 million: price of homes sold in the whole of Hermanus
R1,8 million: price of homes sold in Fernkloof estate (49 transfers)
R2,2 million: price of homes sold in Eastcliff (13 transfers)
R2,8 million: price of homes sold in Voelklip (54 transfers)
R4 million: price of a large family home close to the beach
R15 million > price of a luxury beachfront home