It's that time of year again! Gather your binoculars, cameras, smartphones, and super-zoom lenses because our beloved sea-bound giants have returned to South Africa! Every year, between June and November, the Whale Route becomes a whale-watching hot spot as mighty southern right whales make their way along their migratory path. The southern right whales are the main attraction, but you can also see humpbacks, Bryde's whales, and large pods of dolphins. So, where are the prime positions to see these magnificent creatures? Here are our top eight hotels for whale watching in South Africa (in no particular order).
1. 138 Marine Beachfront
As the name suggests, 138 Marine Beachfront is one of the few guesthouses that sit right on the beachfront. Therefore, it's one of the best hotels for whale watching. Boasting an upmarket space with spectacular sea views, this elegant hideaway is only a stone's throw away from the centre of Hermanus. Its prime position affords guests a secluded space away from the hustle and bustle of the town while still being close enough to take advantage of its many attractions, which include pristine beaches, nature reserves and the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route.
One of the best hotels for whale watching in the country, 138 Marine Beachfront Guesthouse, gives you a front-row seat to Walker Bay and its whales. The guesthouse provides an intimate space with only six rooms, all named after marine life found in the area. Therefore, it's perfect for a romantic getaway and, of course, anyone who wants to do some whale watching in South Africa.
Using light pastel blues, whites and creamy hues, the interior is light and breezy (just as a beach house should be) while maintaining a feeling of warmth. Meandering its way away from the snug sanctuary is an adjacent beach path that leads to exquisite sea and mountain scenery. Venture out and explore the stunning surroundings, or simply appreciate the ocean vistas from the lounge deck of this award-winning guesthouse.
2. One Marine Drive Boutique Guest House
Still cosy but a little more contemporary, the One Marine Drive Boutique Hotel has eight spacious rooms. Located on Hermanus' seafront, this stylish hotel is within easy walking distance of the hamlet's eclectic shops, art galleries, vibrant bars and restaurants. It's also right next to Cliff Path, renowned for the best shore-based whale watching in the world.
Inside, you'll find many eye-catching aspects. However, nothing compares to its dazzling sunset views! A stay here is a whale watcher's dream thanks to generous, sea-facing rooms. And not to mention the plush whale toy waiting on your bed, which is a nice touch! Furthermore, each room is individually decorated with modern décor.
Private balconies allow guests to savour their morning coffee while watching whales breach on the ocean's horizon. Furthermore, hearty homemade breakfasts are the ideal way to start the day in the snazzy dining and lounge area. And the secluded courtyard with its heated swimming pool is perfect for soaking up the sun.
3. The Marine
A grand hotel, The Marine sits on a spectacular seaside spot right on Hermanus' famous Cliff Path. It's elevated as if perched on the world's edge. As a result, the views over the Walker Bay waters are certainly something to write home about! The Marine was first on the scene, going back over a century when whale watching in South Africa was still in its infancy. Therefore, it's certainly a trailblazer and one of the best hotels for whale watching.
The Marine exudes a clean, modern look. However, there's also an air of antiquity. The décor is trendy, but a hint of history seeps through its fashionable guise. Established in 1902, the hotel has seen numerous extensions and renovations. At the same time, it still embraces its historical roots.
Most of the hotel's main areas and rooms are ocean-facing. As a result, you can expect a spectacular whale watching experience from almost anywhere in the hotel! For breakfast, savour a selection of fresh fruit and freshly baked pastries on the outside terrace, followed by High Tea or a glass of bubbly at the Sun Lounge and Bar in the afternoon.
You can also cool down by taking a dip in one of their two saltwater pools or opt for a day of pampering at the spa. However, no matter where you're lounging, you're bound to see the resident and guest marine life in the ocean.
4. Birkenhead House
Also found in the ever-so-popular "whale capital" of Hermanus, Birkenhead House is stylish and hides many delectable delights. Located on a clifftop overlooking the whale watching paradise of Walker Bay, this beach house is undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind property with oodles to ogle when it comes to quirky yet refined design and décor. Therefore, it's one of our favourite hotels for whale watching along the Whale Route.
Birkenhead House does not only offer a space of opulence, but a sumptuous experience too. Think Great Gatsby-style elegance that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while still retaining that laid-back aura you want from a beach retreat. And its all-inclusive concept leaves you wanting for nothing with every luxury to hand. From the furniture and finishings to fine dining and five star service, every detail delights.
Every room showcases its own unique flair, adorned with stunning contemporary interiors. They are located in three houses making up the property, and all offer exceptional views. The main areas have a courtyard, bar, spa, dining room and lounge area. Furthermore, right on the cliff's edge, there's a spacious viewing deck complete with sun loungers and an infinity pool.
5. Mosaic Lagoon Lodge
Just beyond Hermanus, cradled between the ocean and towering mountains, you'll find the spellbinding Mosaic Lagoon Lodge. It offers a secluded setting showing off vistas, a delightful variation to the cliff-edge locale. The exquisite backdrop is not the only drawcard here, as there are many adventures on the beach, water, and land to discover.
The lodge overlooks the lulling Hermanus lagoon waters and sits on the water's edge, sharing this spot with an ancient milkwood forest. Furthermore, this forest's lush foliage and verdant wetland attract a bounty of birdlife and other interesting critters alike. The lodge stays true to the beauty of its natural surroundings with its architecture comprising organic materials such as thatch, stone and woodwork – thereby seamlessly blending with the environment.
Besides staring at the beautiful views, you can also enjoy several excursions, including whale watching, seeing great white sharks (at nearby Gansbaai), boat cruises, kayaking, quad biking and much more!
Then, after a day filled with adventure, return to your lovely lagoon sanctuary. Wooden walkways adjoin dreamy safari-style suites with the lodge's main dining area, lookout deck, swimming pool and spa. Enjoy the sunset before retreating to your own cosy fireplace and inviting king-size bed.
6. Grootbos Garden Lodge
Offering distant glimpses of the ocean, Grootbos Nature Reserve is a botanic wonderland filled with fynbos carpeted hills and shady milkwood forests. Located near Gansbaai, the reserve is not only the ideal spot for those looking to appreciate the Cape Floral Kingdom in all its glory but also the perfect home base for whale watching! And it's here that you'll find the five-star Grootbos Garden Lodge.
Grootbos Garden Lodge celebrates nature by drawing inspiration from its surroundings. Ceiling beams illustrate the branches of the hallowed ancient milkwood trees, while splashes of colour (influenced by kaleidoscopic fynbos) complement the exquisite woodwork and modern architecture. Furthermore, the floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with natural light and accentuate the expansive views on all sides.
Garden Lodge is ideal for couples, friends and family alike, with several free-standing suites, activities, and facilities for all generations to enjoy. Refreshing, bright, and surrounded by indigenous gardens, the suites are ideally positioned with privacy in mind. This special property brings the outside in, thereby creating a fully immersive experience for the whole family.
7. Grootbos Forest Lodge
Follow meandering trails through magical milkwood forest to find something a little unexpected but oh-so spectacular! Also found in Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Grootbos Forest Lodge is a place where nature, elegance and fairytales combine. Given its name, one would assume that the lodge is surrounded only by jungle-like terrain. But no, wait until you come out the other side.
Beyond the forest, the lodge's main area is a gateway to different landscapes. Verdant trees and dense brush transition into a modern space of clean lines, elegant décor and expansive windows. Beyond that, the windows reveal a blanket of flowering fynbos stretching as far as the eye can see until greeting the coastline's lapping ocean waters. Therefore, this setting makes it the perfect place for a romantic getaway!
The stunning views extend to the lodge's luxurious accommodations. Then, branching away from the main area, stone paths wind under natural green canopies, taking you to secluded suites. Private, tranquil and opulent, these suites radiate romance and inspire an urge to reconnect with nature. Soak up absolute serenity on your private deck with panoramic sea views, or snuggle up in the cosy lounge in front of the fireplace on a nippy night.
8. Grootbos Luxury Private Villas
Extravagance is hard to find in the middle of nowhere. Even harder still is creating a grandiose space that complements nature whilst being mindful of the environment. Well, we have good news! Two such places exist within the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve at the Grootbos Luxury Private Villas.
Here you'll find one six-bedroom and one four-bedroom villa that emerge from a sea of fynbos on top of a hill. Therefore, it's no surprise that they both boast ocean vistas. However, what sets them apart is that they come with their own personal chef, a private guide and a driver. The aim here is to provide a completely bespoke experience. As a result, your entire stay is curated to your tastes, individual needs and schedule.
Even more impressive are the villas themselves. Inside, you'll find a sleek contemporary sanctuary entirely decked out with a fully-equipped kitchen, dining room, spacious living and barbeque areas, an outdoor pool, gym, wine cellar, and large outside decks. The six-bedroom villa enjoys a personal cinema and media room, whereas the four-bedroom has a sauna, relaxation room and a games room complete with a pool table for fun times with family.
Want to Visit The Top Hotels for Whale Watching in South Africa?
Now that you know the best hotels for whale watching in South Africa to book, don't waste your time! Get the ideal vantage point to view these giants of the deep.
Contact our Rhino Africa Travel Experts and enquire about the best Whale Route hotels – and perhaps combine that with a Big 5 safari. Who knows? You could be lucky enough to see Africa's Big 7 all in one visit to South Africa!
Featured Image Credit: The Marine
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