There are 2 kinds of vacations in this world. Those where you return relaxed and those where you return in need of another vacation. A stay at Birkenhead House is definitely the former.
A quick hour and a half from Cape Town and you’ll find the little town of Hermanus. Famous for its whale watching, it’s possibly one of my favorite places on earth. Ever. I visited for the first time about 3 years ago and fell in love with it the moment I arrived. It’s difficult to explain why, but it kinda feels like you’re taking a little step back in time. Yeah, just a little step, like 20 years maybe. Everyone is super friendly (as if they’re all neighbours) and there’s not much to do but drink wine and relax – all the quintessential characteristics of a sea side town really. Apparently, there’s an adventure filled wild side to Hermanus, but in all honesty, I’ve always been too busy relaxing to find it.
Slap bang in the middle of all this relaxing wonder, right on the edge of a cliff overlooking Walker Bay, sits Birkenhead House. We arrived early one afternoon in July and from the moment we handed over our car keys, everything was taken care of.
Imagine you had an incredibly wealthy friend. Like super wealthy – but also not douchey about it, you know the kind who never talks about how much money he has or puts the keys to his “porscha” on the bar when he arrives. Okay, you got it? Right, now imagine he invited you to his family’s beach house for some R&R. Cool right? Yeah, it is! Of course, when you politely ask if you can bring something to contribute he simply says, “don’t worry about it, it’s taken care of”. That!! is what staying at Birkenhead House is like.
As this is our second stay in a Royal Portfolio Hotel (see our La Residence stay here) we’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of impeccable service – Afterall, you don’t make Travel and Leisures Top 5 Hotel resorts list in Africa without making your guests feel at home do you? And the staff do absolutely anything to make you feel that way, not just in the obvious “let me help you with your bags” kinda way, but in their attention to detail for the little things – a perfect example being the personalised dinner menus, nothing makes you feel more special than a menu that reads “Sergio and Elzaans dinner menu”! Cute man guys!
The hotel has a very beach house look to it with the 11 rooms carrying that signature Royal Portfolio eclectic touch. They all have balconies offering either mountain or ocean views and in most cases, a little of both – either way prepare yourself to let sunrise and sunset battle it out for the ‘most beautiful’ award. As you would expect from a 5-star hotel, all amenities are at your disposal.
The true beauty of a stay at Birkenhead House is it’s all inclusive experience. All your food and drink from the moment you arrive is included in your stay. This detail alone is enough to let you forget everything else and just chiiiiiiiiil!!
Truth be told we were a little skeptical about “all inclusive”, expecting that we would be limited with choices and faced with a whack of exclusions, but this wasn’t the case. There are no buffets and every meal is made to order. The extensive wine list is filled with some of South Africa’s best and there is always some MCC on ice for when you need some bubbles – even if that’s first thing in the morning.
Breakfast consists of the usual continental spread, filled with cereals, cheese, cold meats and freshly baked bread and pastries! I had to triple check whether the cheese scones were ‘THAT GOOD’, the second one convinced me, but the third really sealed the deal : ) The home made granola also deserves a special mention, because, WOW it was special! You’re of course welcome to order a hot breakfast of your liking… so we did, cause we don’t know when to stop!
Lunch was so incredible it was worthy of its own blog post, so you can read all about that here.
By the time you reach dinner, all that you really wish for is another stomach. For the sake of this review, we powered through on our 1 stomach though #Sacrifices. Dinner is nothing short of fine dining, your 4-course meal is served complete with amuse bouche and palate cleanser. This wasn’t hotel food either, it was truly outstanding. Much like lunch, all the food is local and seasonal, you can expect anything from rump steak to chicken curry from a menu that changes daily. I can not stress more how much the food at Birkenhead House blew us away!
I’de love to tell you more about all the fun and exciting things we did around town, but the truth is, we spent most of the time between meals, drinking wine, napping and just enjoying the tranquility of the never ending views on the pool deck. In the middle of whale season (July – November) it’s rumored that you can spot more whales from that pool deck than you can by taking a trip to sea. We were a little early in the season but managed to catch one showing off during lunch.
Look, we were just lazy, but there is loads to do around Hermanus. The hotel is situated right on the cliff paths (an 11 km walking path along the coastline) offering some of the most incredible views and a pretty epic morning jog. You’re also on the border of the Hemel and Aarde wine valley where we strongly recommend you do a tasting at Creation Wines. For the more adventurous there’s all the usual stuff, but Shark Cage Diving seems to be “the thing to do” – However, I suggest rather donating the money and leaving those poor sea creatures alone!
In the end, Hermanus is definitely worth a visit and if you’re visiting, you gotta stay at Birkenhead House.
Oaky. Travel safe and stay fancy.