Although the Hermanus of today bears no resemblance to the small seaside village of last century, where the quality of the sea air made it a favourite resort for convalescence, the air has not changed and is still freely available, undiluted and freshly delivered along the length of the cliff top walk that winds from Grotto Beach to the New Harbour some 12 kilometres away. The beauty of this walk is that you can do whatever section you wish, accessing it from various parking areas along the route, with only a short detour on the road to avoid inaccessible cliffs.
With plenty of birdlife – sugarbirds, common fiscal and fiscal flycatcher, Karoo prinia, and assorted sunbirds in the shrubs – swifts and swallows soaring overhead – gulls and oystercatchers perched on rocky outcrops – cormorants roosting on a guano-spattered island – one is hard pressed to know which way to look. Landward or seaward, there is so much of interest, and the strategically placed benches (120!) that line the path provide the ideal opportunity to be mesmerised by the swells crashing into the rocky platforms jutting out to sea, as fascinating as the flames of a fire in their constant ebb and flow. In winter the Southern Right Whales shelter at the foot of the cliffs, a ‘safe harbour’ for calving and nursing their calves before the long swim back to Antarctica.
For those not drawn to nature in a big way, there are many architectural beauties abutting on the path, as well as some older homes undergoing extensive renovation as Hermanus continues to attract the very wealthy, both local and overseas – perhaps for the purity of the air and proximity to some astoundingly beautiful nature reserves, where the fynbos is endemic, with more species in a small area than can be found in many larger countries, or perhaps because only they can afford the prime property. But a walk along the cliff tops is in many ways far more beneficial to the soul than merely watching through a window, and thanks to the unstinting efforts of local residents, this privately constructed, maintained and preserved area remains accessible to the public and deservedly holds a place as one of the best cliff top walks in the world. Long may it remain so.