Hermanus, South Africa
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What it is
An ultra-luxe gem tucked along the Walker Bay cliffs, famed for whale watching.
What it isn't
Large. This is an 11-room hideaway, and each antique-filled space—designed by owner Liz Biden—is more Instagram perfect than the last.
What we think
You might pinch yourself, just a wee bit, when you awake at Birkenhead House. Ensconced in a king size Louis Farouk antique bed, with a gold gilded 18th century French gold chair ready to host you for your morning cuppa, the sun is streaming in—and your alarm clock is nothing but that and the sound of waves crashing below you. It’s perfectly normal to feel like you’re in heaven here: guest activities include spotting Humpback whales up close and personal on a day tour by boat, and wine tasting trips to Hemel-en-Aarde, one of the oldest vineyards in the country. Treatments at the spa are just as heaven sent; don’t miss the African Fusion Swedish Massage—which blends a traditional rubdown with local Marula-infused oils.
You're here because
The hotel is consistently ranked among the best in Africa, and you didn’t journey all the way here for “meh.” Also: it’s a misty ten minute walk along the cliff path to Grotto Beach, where full-time lifeguards and pristine sands await.
You’re as locavore as they come. (Why fly to Africa to eat fish from China?) Which is why you’re so tickled that chef Oliver Coetzee works so tirelessly to whip up the most delectable regional morsels he can find, including crayfish, mussels and prawns pulled directly from the boulders beneath the hotel. Tonight, you ask to sit by the infinity pool; with the sea beyond, you feel like you’re floating yourself.
Whale-watching from May to December
Boat around Dyer Island
Kayaking and snorkeling
The charming beach village of Hermanus, a whale watching mecca about an hour and a half along the coast from Cape Town. Stop by the Fernkloof Nature Reserve to hike amid teetering fynbos flowers.