A Traveller’s Guide to Swellendam

The historic town of Swellendam in the Overberg region of South Africa is the third oldest town in the country.

Ideally situated two and a half hours’ drive from Cape Town, this beautiful town is the perfect country escape. It’s surrounded by picturesque mountains, rivers, farms and nature reserves.

In this article, I’m sharing a few of the top things to do and see in Swellendam.

Things to do in Swellendam

Bontebok National Park

The Bontebok National Park was established in 1931 to ensure the preservation of the Bontebok.

Bontebok National Park is the perfect place for a day visit with family or friends. Take a game drive to view the park’s Bontebok, Grey Rhebuck, Cape Mountain Zebra as well as many other smaller mammals; enjoy a picnic on the banks of the Breede River; braai at one of the designated braai spots; or do some bird watching.

If you’d like to extend your visit, you can also camp in the park.

Drostdy Museum

The town has over 50 provincial heritage sites. One of them is the Drostdy Museum.

The Drostdy was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 to serve as a residence and official headquarters for the Landdrost (magistrate). They also erected a gaol, a house for the secretary, a mill and various outbuildings soon after.

Visit the museum to see the Drostdy’s remaining furniture and various other interesting artifacts.

Sulina’s Faerie Sanctuary

“Do you believe in faeries? Even if you don’t, a visit to this special place in Swellendam will make you want to believe in them.” – The Good Life in Swellendam

My favourite since childhood, Sulina’s Faerie Sanctuary is a fairy garden filled with beautiful hand-crafted fairies, gnomes, dwarfs, dragons and more. 

Besides walking through the enchanting forest-like garden, Sulina’s also has a play area, a cafe, and a gift shop with hundreds of hand-crafted faeries to choose from.

Wildebraam Berry Estate

Wildebraam is a working berry farm located in the Hermitage Valley, 2km outside Swellendam. The farm produces berries, berry and fruit jams, relishes, and a range of liqueurs.

When visiting the farm, you can taste the liqueurs – flavours include Youngberry, Honey, Aniseed, Rooibos, Peppermint, Lemon and Hazelnut – or pick berries, when in season (mid-November to December). 

In addition, the Wildebraam Berry Festival takes place yearly on the estate. Be sure to pop in on 1-2 December 2018 for berry-filled fun, from great food to live music to kids entertainment.

Rain Day Spa & Store

The Rain Forest Day Spa in Swellendam offers pampering, relaxing, and de-stress treatments. There are also rituals specifically developed for Rain, such as Metamorphosis, Rain Walk, Elephant Walk and Initiation.

The global* franchise of Rain stores sells products like toiletries, handmade soap, fragrances, and more. Their products are all made of natural products like Aloe Ferox, Baobab, African Honey, Khoigoed, Cape Chamomile, Cape Snowbush, Egyptian Jasmine, Frankincense, Kenyan Myrrh, Mongongo Nut and Rooibos.

*Yes, global! This brand with its humble beginnings in Swellendam now has stores in the US, Ireland and Namibia.

Other notable activities in Swellendam include hiking in the Marloth Nature Reserve; horse riding; river rafting on the Breede River; visiting the De Hoop Nature Reserve; lavender picking at The Lavender Farm; buying cheese at the Keurbomen Cheese Shop; popping into the Bee Things bee and honey shop; doing a pottery workshop with local potter David; taking a township tour with Meisie Bokwana; and playing golf at the Swellendam Golf Club, one of the top nine-hole golf courses in the country.

Restaurants

Tredici

Italian restaurant Tredici‘s philosophy is always to offer more than you’d expect.

Hence the name.

Tredici is the Italian way of saying Baker’s Dozen – a belief dating back to the 13th century. In that era, bakers would illustrate their honesty by always offering their customers more than the law required. So, instead of 12 loaves in a dozen, customers would receive 13, and when purchasing only 12 measures, 13 would be given.

At Tredici, expect artisan baking, fresh local produce, pizza, delicious pastries, and drinks including coffee and local wines.

Drostdy Restaurant

This is the best place in town for traditional South African favourites such as Cape Malay Curry, Karoo Lamb and Malva Pudding. Owned by a Frenchman, the Drostdy Restaurant also serves authentic French dishes.

The restaurant‘s 1757 heritage building overlooks the beautiful Langeberg mountain as well as an indigenous garden.

La Belle Alliance

Located on the banks of the Koornlands River, a visit to La Belle Alliance is a must. The restaurant has a beautiful garden terrace with a timber deck extension that offers tranquillity and shade under White Stinkwood trees.

La Belle Alliance is great for breakfast or lunch with your kids (and your dogs are welcome too). As a child, I used to love playing down by the river when we had lunch at La Belle Alliance when passing through Swellendam.

The restaurant’s building is another historical site. It was formerly a Masonic lodge, with some symbols still visible on the premises today. 

Woodpecker Pizza Deli

Woodpecker Pizza Deli, a favourite among locals, offers a casual and vibey dining experience. The restaurant is famous for its delicious thin-based gourmet pizzas, pasta dish variety and fine Overberg wines.

The family-friendly restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, and is open for lunch and dinner.

De Vagabond

The De Vagabond Restaurant in central Swellendam is another favourite among the town’s locals. As it is one of the busiest restaurants in town, dinner reservations are recommended. 

The menu covers everything from local dishes like Bobotie, Malva Pudding and Kingklip fish to contemporary dishes like burgers and sushi.

The restaurant’s bar is also a popular spot for drinks with friends during the weekend.

Accommodation

Aan de Oever Guesthouse

Aan de Oever is a Cape Dutch-style guesthouse located on the bank of the river. It has thirteen elegantly furnished bedrooms and suites as well as a pool, a braai area and a deck with a magnificent view.

De Kloof Luxury Estate

De Kloof Luxury Estate is a gem in a secluded green valley. Presides over 12 000 m2 of lush grounds, the five-star boutique hotel and luxury country guesthouse has a large pool, a secret woodland, vegetable and herb gardens, a koi pond, and fragrant rose and lavender paths.

Old Mill Guest House

The Old Mill Guest House and Restaurant is a stylish national monument. Its Belgian owner and its staff welcome its guests with warm Flemish hospitality.

The guesthouse has six traditionally decorated rooms looking out onto a lovely garden. Old Mill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has WiFi. 

Frog Mountain Getaway

For something completely different, stay at Frog Mountain Getaway. Situated on a guest farm, Frog Mountain Getaway offers affordable self-catering cottages, including a pet-friendly unit.

Ideal for the whole family, the farm’s fun activities include a swimming pool, hiking along the waterfall trail, paddling, a fishing dam, a playground, and even a foefie slide.

Want to know more about Swellendam? Check out Visit Swellendam or swellendam-info.co.za for more information on the town, activities, accommodation, events, etc.

For more Overberg travel guides, take a look at the following guide by The Happy Blog: A Traveller’s Guide to Hermanus

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