Hermanus Pieters (ca.1778–1837) was a Dutch teacher who arrived in Cape Town in 1815. He was recruited by Dutch-speaking farmers who disliked that English was the only language used in all government schools. He settled in Caledon, but taught Dutch to farmers in a wide area around that town, including the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. He often vacationed at the spring ("fontein") in present day Hermanus, where he fished and grazed his sheep, so that the place eventually became known as “Hermanus Pieters se Fonteyn”. He died before the village Hermanuspietersfontein existed. 65 years after his death the postmaster decided to abbreviate the name to Hermanus.
Hermanus lies along Walker Bay on the south coast of the Western Cape. It is located about 115 km southeast of Cape Town and is connected to the Mother City by the R43 highway (or coastal R44 scenic route) and N2 motorway. The R43 continues to Cape Agulhas, the most southerly point of Africa. Hermanus is 40 km from Gansbaai, a famous spot where one can dive amongst the Great White Sharks. It is also notable that Hermanus still boasts a historic railway station building without a railway line. The founders of the town decided not to lay any tracks as this would have made Hermanus more commercial and felt that Hermanus needed to stay a small Fisherman's Village. To this day the locals still refer to it as "the village."
Sandbaai lies on the coast at the entrance to the Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley. It is the most recently developed and fastest growing residential area of Greater Hermanus
Zwelihle, designated a "black" area by the former government, is a residential area that consists mainly of shacks.
Hermanus is classified as having a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen). It receives 520mm of rain per annum, the majority of which falls during the winter months of June to August in the form of frontal precipitation. Average midday temperatures range from 25 °C in February to 16 °C in July. Extremes of above 30 °C and under 10 °C are not uncommon. Summer and Winter months are characterised by strong South-Easterly and North-Westerly winds respectively.
Hermanus is in the Cape Floristic Region and thus has one of the highest plant diversity levels in the world. The principal vegetation type of this region is Fynbos, a mixture of evergreen shrub-like plants with small firm leaves. In the local Fernkloof Nature Reserve, 1474 plant species have thus far been collected and identified.
The Space Science Directorate of the South African National Space Agency, previously the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO), is a research facility of the National Research Foundation, and forms part of the worldwide network which monitors variations of the earth's magnetic field.
Hermanus Yacht Club hosted the Laser (dinghy) 4.7 World Championships in 2007.
Grotto Beach is the largest beach in Hermanus and has also been proclaimed a "Blue Flag" beach. Blue flag beaches meet international Environment, Safety and Management criteria. Other beaches with Blue Flag status include Voëlklip, Onrus, Kammabaai, Langbaai and Hawston.
Visitors can watch whales from the cliff-tops, from the air or via boat-based whale watching. Since August 1992, Hermanus has had the world’s only Whale Crier, the first being Pieter Classen 1992-1998, then Wilson Salukazana 1998-2006, and Zolile Baleni since April 2006, who sounds his kelp horn to announce where whales have been sighted. In 2005 Zakes Mda wrote the novel The Whale Caller in which the Whale Crier of Hermanus is the main character, a man who gets enthralled by a Southern right whale he names Sharisha.
Hermanus hosts an annual whale festival at the end of September, to celebrate the returning of the southern right whales to Walkerbay during the calving and mating season. Eco-Tourism is the main theme of the Hermanus whale festival with the Eco-Marine Village who feature all the Nature conservations, trust and foundations on the Cape Whale Coast. Residents and visitors celebrate the migration of Southern Right Whales and other marine wildlife with ocean-themed activities and exhibitions, emphasising education and environmentally responsible adventures and activities. Prior to this main whale festival a "Kalfiefees" (or "Calf Festival") is held, to welcome the first whales (usually in August). Both festivals are characterised by food and craft stalls, environmental presentations and South African drama productions.