South Africa is a country of many seasons, but perhaps one of the most popular is the whale watching season. Year on year, hundreds of visitors from home and abroad flock to the country’s stunning coastal regions in the hope of catching a glimpse of these fascinating and gentle giants of the deep.
From around the month of July every year, migratory southern right whales arrive from Antarctica after swimming thousands of kilometres to mate and calve in the warmer waters of coastal towns such as Hermanus and Kalk Bay.
What better way than to combine the incredible sight of southern right whale breeching whilst enjoying some mouth-watering seafood? If you have ever wondered where the best restaurants are to view these incredibly acrobatic masters of the ocean, here is a list of our best whale watching restaurants.
1. Bientang’s Cave in Hermanus
If there is one place you are almost guaranteed to see whales in South Africa, then Hermanus is it! Known to both locals and visitors as the holy grail of whale watching, this picturesque coastal town has long been renowned for its whales. There are so many great places from which to see these majestic mammals, but Bientang’s Cave is one of the best whale watching spots for sheer location. Set right at the water’s edge overlooking the bay, the restaurant is literally built out of an actual cave. Most of the restaurant overflows onto the rocks which provide front row seats to the area’s main attraction. Food-wise, this is not a gourmet restaurant, so we suggest sticking with fish & chips.
2. Harbour Rock in Hermanus
Known to locals as “The Rock”, Harbour Rock is located in the New Harbour of Hermanus, quite aptly, atop a cliff. Its location lends itself to near 360° views of the surrounding ocean and allows for some of the clearest sightings of whales during the whale season. Enjoy the frolicking whales from your table (you may even be able to snap some incredible southern right whale photos!) whilst sipping on an ice-cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The highly impressive menu is filled with both local and international favourites and guests are guaranteed only the freshest produce straight from the sea.
Even though the coastline is blessed with many ideal view points from which to watch whales from the land, it is also possible to go on boat-based whale watching trips which depart daily from the New Harbour.
3. Harbour House in Kalk Bay
Kalk Bay is one of the most enchanting seaside suburbs in Cape Town and well-worth a visit for its quirky antique shops, boutiques and art galleries! And one of our top restaurants in this historic neighbourhood is Harbour House. This is a much-loved False Bay gem, decidedly upmarket, light, airy and sophisticated set within an exquisitely serene seaside environment right on the rocks of the Atlantic Seaboard. The Harbour House in Kalk Bay is perfect for breezy summer days, and the wrap-around windows ensure that even the most tucked away of tables are guaranteed a view of the sea. Here you can see dolphins and seals frolicking next to your table and on a good day you can easily see southern right whales breaching!
4. Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point
Cape Point is the perfect location if you want to see the best the Cape has to offer from the indigenous Fynbos to baboons, dassies, prolific birdlife and, of course, whales. And where better to do this from than from the Two Oceans Restaurant right at the tip of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve? On most days it is frequented by lots of day tripping tourists from all over the world, but if you’ve never been to Cape Point, its well worth it for the views and to say that you’ve been to the most south-westerly tip of Africa! The restaurant boasts windows from floor to ceiling and is known for its seafood menu (and touristy prices of course!)
5. Shellfish Bar in Kleinmond
During whale season, Hermanus can become quite crowded, and the restaurants are often fully booked weeks in advance. Many locals have learnt that the nearby towns of Kleinmond and Bettys Bay are the season’s best kept secret. You are bound to see just as many whales here whilst managing to avoid the crowds. We suggest stopping for a light lunch at the Shellfish Bar. You can be certain you won’t need to elbow anyone out of the way to catch a glimpse of a single fin, whilst this is still optimum southern right whale habitat. The restaurant is rustic in nature and authentic to the surroundings overlooking the quaint harbour.
Whether in Kalk Bay, Kleinmond or Hermanus, you are sure to see the southern right whale migration in action. There are so many great spots to choose from; these five are but a starting point for those wanting to experience fine seafood and the best views of the Atlantic Ocean. We suggest a slow drive along the coast, stopping as you go to observe the colossal power and beauty of these incredible mammals.