ATTRACTIONS AND RESTAURANTS, THINGS TO DO IN SWELLENDAM AND AROUND SWELLENDAM, WESTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA:
Nestling at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains, Swellendam has much to offer visitors who have an interest in history, nature and outdoor activities.
Situated on the N2, approximately 240km from both Cape Town and George, Swellendam is the perfect choice for a halfway stopover or as a base from which to explore the area. Rainfall is spread over the year (55% winter and 45% summer). There is little wind and temperatures are moderate.
There is no shortage of water and gardens are lush and luxuriant. The cost of living is reasonable and the town is clean and efficiently run. The people are friendly and there is no political strife with a virtual absence of serious crime.
LOCAL HISTORICAL BUILDINGS IN SWELLENDAM:
The third oldest town in South Africa, the shady oak-lined streets of Swellendam seem to groan with history. Early travellers and explorers who visited the Cape in the 1500’s traded with the Khoi-khoi people who lived on these shores.
When the Dutch East India Company established a replenishment station at the Cape in 1652, trade continued inland as far as Swellendam.
In 1743 Swellendam was declared a magisterial district, the third oldest in South Africa, and was named after Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel and his wife, Helena Ten Damme.
This outlying settlement soon became a gateway to the interior, and was visited by many famous explorers and travellers including Le Vaillant (1781), Lady Anne Barnard (1798), Burchell (1815) and Bowler (1860). In time, a village was established opposite the Drostdy, where artisans including numerous wainwrights and traders settled. To travellers and explorers, the services of the village folk were indispensable, as Swellendam was the last outpost of civilization on the eastern frontier.
By 1795 maladministration and inadequacies of the Dutch East India Company caused the long-suffering burghers of Swellendam to revolt, and in 1795 they declared themselves a Republic, but this was short-lived due to the occupation of the Cape by the British. With the arrival of British settlers in the early 1800’s the Overberg boomed, and its capital, Swellendam, was soon the heart of the famous mercantile empire of Barry and Nephews, created by Joseph Barry.
By the middle of the 19th century, the eastern districts had been colonized by the British settlers and Swellendam was a thriving metropolis. The town served as a useful refreshment station on the long, slow journey up the coast. Today Swellendam is a flourishing agricultural area, and has many attractive and historic buildings which serve as a reminder of its exciting past.
The first known sketch of Swellendam was of the Drostdy, by Johannes Schumacher in 1776, when he accompanied the son of Governor Swellengrebel to the town.
Today the Drostdy forms part of a museum complex that consists of several heritage sites.
- Drostdy Museum.
- The intricately built Dutch Reformed church that acts as a focal point of the town alongside a clutch of other historical national monuments.
- The Old Gaol Restaurant – ‘On Church Square’ – Established in 2001 by Brin and Judi Rebstein in Swellendam’s Museum precinct, The Old Gaol Coffee Shop began as a fledgling private empowerment venture.Before long a great partnership developed, with several local ladies employed in the restaurant. Steadily gaining skills and confidence, four of them received 30% equity in the Old Gaol in 2004. Current owners of this share, Charlene Mfundisi and Michelle Dyantyi, subsequently acquired the interests from the other ladies in 2007.
- Swellendam TV – Making films that both inform and entertain. Equipment sponsored by ‘The Railton Foundation’.
- Rain – Created for Living – Made in Swellendam …! Creating handmade bath & body products and hand crafted home ware with the utmost attention to detail using natural ingredients with African origins. Rain products are responsibly handmade with love and care for our customers, craftspeople and the environment.
- Swellendam Tourism
- Drostdy Museum, Swellendam – A regional heritage site in the historic heart of Swellendam, with an extensive archive and display of period furniture etc; set on an estate comprising several historic buildings.
- The Berry Farm – Berry farm, lots of walking & mountain bike trails in the valley as well as bird watching. Golf course – 800m & 2.3km to the middle of Swellendam. Ideal getaway for families.
- Wildebraam Berry Estate – A selection of fresh (in season) and frozen berries – our private cellar produces a range of delicious liqueurs including Youngberry, Honey, Aniseed, Rooibos, Peppermint, Lemon and Hazelnut. Accommodation on the farm.
- Cape Info – Cape Town Accommodation Guide. Find accommodation, attractions, restaurants, wine estates, events in Cape Town & Western Cape, South Africa: hotels, guest houses/B&B, self-catering.
Just minutes from Swellendam, the wonderfully peaceful Marloth Nature Reserve boasts magical walks to waterfalls, indigenous forest and even allows you to go to the top of the majestic Langeberg Mountains which tower over Swellendam.
This 8000 hectare national park is home to the threatened Cape Mountain Zebra and Bontebok. It boasts 196 different birds and 490 different plant species. The plants and flowers are at their best in April. Enjoy a walk in the park, or as a guest of the Bukkenburg, you’re offered a special tour around the Bontebok National Park with our previous owner Adin Greaves – who’s written a book on the Park – at a discounted rate.
Enjoy a day’s fishing in the Breede river or simply cruise past historical Infanta and one of the oldest lighthouses on the coast. Opportunities for river rafting also exist through the faster flowing rapids areas. Learn about the local bird population, fishing resources and whales. The Breede river estuary fishing is, and has always been, the best in South Africa. Please ask Stephen or Jackie for more details.
Enjoy a round on the beautiful Swellendam Golf Course. As one guest recently commented, “the golf was spoilt a bit by the magnificent views”.
The Marine Nature Reserve at de Hoop is one of the best places in the world to view the Southern Right Whale, some 40% of the population of which come to de Hoop’s 23,000 hectare coastal reserve. On land, the reserve is home to 86 mammal species including the occasional leopard, 1500 plant species, of which 108 are rare or threatened and more than 250 species of resident and migratory birds. De Hoop has something to offer all manner of nature lovers, its 70 km of rugged coastline and sheltered rock pools provide ideal swimming in addition to land based whale viewing. Visitors can choose from a range of hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as guided interpretative fynbos and rock pool walks and birding excursions. You can also cross the Breede River with the last hand operated ferry in Africa (Malgas)
If you are after a simply beautiful drive through rugged terrain then makes sure you take the 14 kilometre long Tradouws Pass between Swellendam and Barrydale. It is so craggy and arduous that you will wonder how the pass originated. It was actually constructed in 1873 by a large gang of prisoners. It is a truly breath taking drive.
A few kilometres from Swellendam, a turning off the R60 takes you towards Bonnievale and through the beautiful Breede river valley, which is dotted with vineyards and tasting rooms. Some have restaurants and there is even the opportunity to have a picnic by the banks of the river or on a short river cruise. Longer boat trips are available with opportunities for swimming, bass fishing and bird watching from the boat, followed by a picnic or a braai in a delightful spot under the blue gum trees by the river. Please ask Stephen or Jackie for more details.
Visit the beautiful, almost-deserted beaches of
- Struis Bay.
The southernmost town in Africa and the closest point to where the Indian and Atlantic oceans officially meet. L’Agulhas means needles in Portuguese. This refers to the jagged rocks which claimed many ships due to the fact that the compass shows no magnetic deviation at this spot which led to fatal navigational errors. Visit the Shipwreck museum and the Agulhas National Park with more than 1750 botanical species and a coastline supporting breeding sites for many rare birds such as the African Black Oyster Catcher.
Fynbos is the natural vegetation occurring in the Western Cape. The Fynbos Road stretches for 100 kilometres from Agulhas National Park to the birding hotspot of Stanford, circumventing urban areas and meandering through peaceful rural landscapes.
Relax and enjoy wine tasting in a beautiful, shady garden with a history of its own (including a bubbling natural spring). Van Loveren produces 23 different wines in its modern cellar. It has a range of cultivars that has married well to this fertile valley with its robust undertone of lime.
The historic village of Elim situated halfway between Bredasdorp and Gaansbaai was founded by Moravian missionaries in 1824 and has been declared a National Heritage Site. The vineyards of the Elim region on the Agulhas plain stretch south east of the village on the Fynbos Road. Its unique location has made it one of the newest and yet most exciting wine producing areas in the world.
Established in 1838, Napier is a beautiful little town that still retains much of its old world charm. It is fast gaining a reputation as an artist’s community playing host to numerous cultural events. Along the main road you will find a host of art galleries and collectors shops including a toy museum.
Without a doubt, Montagu is the ultimate Breede river valley destination and arriving there through the Kogmanskloof gorge number among the most dramatic arrivals in the country. Montagu is best known for its hot springs, but serious rock climbers come for its cliff faces which are regarded as among the country’s most challenging.
If you don’t feel like climbing, you can still reach the top of the Langeberg mountains on Wednesdays and Saturdays on a highly recommended 3 hour tractor ride from Protea Farm which can be booked for you by Stephen or Jackie. The views can be stunning.
The coast just a short drive from Swellendam is one of – if not the – world’s most famous whale watching areas. From Bukkenburg to Witsand you can watch the once almost extinct Southern right whales breaching and splashing just a pebble’s throw from the shore. The months of September, October and November are the best whale watching months, but you are almost guaranteed of seeing whales throughout the winter.
Visit the coastal town of Hermanus (only one hour and forty five minutes away). Go Whale watching between August and November and watch out for the town’s “Whale Crier” who, with the aid of a dried kelp horn, broadcasts the location of the latest sightings, or take a stroll on the sandy white beaches.
BETTIES AND BEYOND:
On the R44 from Hermanus to Gordon’s Bay lies the Kogelberg Nature Reserve which has more plant species per hectare than any other place on earth. Many of these are spectacularly beautiful and extremely rare. Ask Stephen or Jackie to guide you to the best, and surely most generous, fish and chip lunch you’ll ever have – a bustling, ramshackle corrugated iron restaurant called Hook Line and Sinker hidden away from the tourist spots in Pringles Bay.