I have very happy memories of The Marine Hotel in Hermanus, going back some 65 years. It was a favourite holiday place for my grandparents, and we spent many happy times there. M.F.K. Fisher in her book ‘The Art of Eating’ said, “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…”
Smell is such a powerful reminder of things past. I remember the smell of the steaming brown river water of boyhood baths at The Marine Hotel in Hermanus. I remember so well the smell it gave to the strong stewed tea, when as eager on-holiday children in the early mornings we went out to fetch steaming cups from the chambermaids who served it with rusks from a row of stone pots on creaking teak trolleys, their starched uniforms rustling as they moved. Cups and saucers, spoons, milk and sugar were on the bottom of the trolleys with the daily menus and hotel newsletter – the sea temperature was a very important notice – and previous evening’s Cape Argus, the morning’s Cape Times arriving only later on the early Railway buses. Hermanus was the only town in South Africa to have a railway station with no track. I remember shouting hello down over the balcony at the ghillies gathering outside waiting for their customers to come out before breakfast, bait in their little baskets, rods at the ready.
Ghillies would take the residents fishing off the cliff path – my grandfather and some of his old mates amongst them – to bring back yellow-bellied rock cod and other exotic looking fish which the chefs would fry up for breakfast. How I remember those buttery tranches of sea fresh fish served with wedges of rough-skinned Cape lemons. Usually after a plate of thick yellow maize meal porridge served with crunchy brown Demerara sugar and cream ‘because we were on holiday’, rather than the usual udder-warm milk from a blue and white striped Cornish Ware jug to which we were used.
The Saturday Night Dinner Dances were a great attraction, to residents and locals. I remember the tall stately Stuart Cloete, one of South Africa’s famous authors, swirling round the dance floor with his American wife, the aptly named Tiny. All the men wore tuxedos and the ladies wore ball gowns. As little boys we were allowed to sit at the top of the stairs and watch the people coming in for dinner.
Today, The Marine Hotel is the only one of the grand luxury hotels left in Hermanus. The Musson’s Bay View Hotel, The Morgan Edwards’s Riviera Hotel where I worked in 1965, The Birkenhead have all gone.
And luxury it certainly is. The Marine hotel is one of South Africa’s most spectacular seaside hotels. Located on Hermanus’ famous cliff path, overlooking the breath-taking Walker Bay in the Western Cape’s Overberg region, the hotel is the ultimate location for whale watching during whale season – often directly from the comfort of the sea view bedrooms. In a recent Trip Advisor posting, a guest said under the heading, Best Hotel in Hermanus – Another lovely visit to this fabulous hotel. Last time was 10 years ago, and this time was better, if that were possible. Location and level of service are what this hotel is all about.
The Marine Hotel is perfectly situated for a several days stay.
The famous Cliff Path offers wonderful views, local fynbos, and of course, in season the Southern Right Whales. The town is known to have some of the best land-based whale watching in the world. The Whale Watcher blows his kelp horn when whales are breaching in the bay.
The Fernkloof Nature Reserve is a dream to walk through in the morning when the sun is shining directly onto the plants. Different views can be had in the late afternoon with the sun at another angle.
The Award-Winning Wineries of the Hemel en Aarde Valley behind the town offer a wealth of wines for guests to taste and to put a couple of boxes in the boot of their car.
The Old Harbour reminds us of the days when fishermen used to go out each day to see what they could bring back for the locals, the hotels and the fish factories in the New Harbour. Abalone is a wonderful seafood endemic to the coast, and there are now factories breeding them for restaurant use.
Day trips down the coast to Gansbaai and other resorts offer shark diving, wonderful sea views and a working harbour in Gansbaai.
The Marine Hotel offers much to residents and non-residents alike. Luxury Suites and very elegant Double Rooms make for a very comfortable stay.
The Sun Bar, is open for quick coffee in the morning, High Tea and a splendid collection of South African Wines and bubbles and signature cocktails and great eats. Stunning views over Walker Bay – and of course the whales..
The Pavilion is the Breakfast Room at the Marine. An ample Buffet is set up here in the morning. Guests can sit inside or take their pick from two al fresco options, either in our courtyard by the pool, or on the outside pavilion overlooking Walker Bay. Fresh fruit and freshly baked pastries are laid out each morning, together with cereals, a selection of local cheeses and cold cuts, and delicious Franschhoek Smoked Salmon Trout. The hot options, fortunately including my favourite Eggs Benedict and other hot options are served à la carte.
The Origins Restaurant offers relaxed social dining in the comfortable surrounds of a modern, kitchen-focused restaurant. Here Head Chef Tronette Dippenaar showcases the impressive bounty of the Overberg, ensuring that the focus is always on local flavours and fresh ingredients. Whether you prefer tapas, natural wines and craft beer or a full sit-down dining experience, you will find it at Origins. The ‘Small Plates’ menu section pays tribute to the social art of sharing. ‘Shoots, Stems & Leaves’ takes inspiration from the earth; local, seasonal produce delivered as complex, delicious salads. The mains and sides are ‘Hunted’ and ‘Gathered’; each ingredient reflecting the surrounding area. Desserts with local flavour bring ‘The Sweetness’, with artisanal ‘Cheeses of the Region’ rounding off the menu.
The staff is headed up by Sebastian Berinato, General Manager, an accomplished hotelier with a history of running superb hotels.
Read more about The Marine Hotel – CLICK HERE