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Swellendam Snapshot

Squeezed between drop-dead-gorgeous mountain scenery and the N2, Swellendam (230km from Cape Town) is a historic town of oak-lined side streets, whitewashed homesteads, gables, gateways and other bits and pieces from the past. The town has a less eventful present than it does an eventful past – for a brief period, a mere three months, it was an independent rebel republic with its own president after the locals became gatvol with the way things were being run. Then, in 1865, at the peak of Swellendam’s golden years as a frontier of civilisation, the town was practically razed by an accidental fire that broke out in a bakery.

Things To Do

  • Swellendam is a playground of outdoor possibility that includes walking, hiking, birdwatching and mountain biking in the beautiful Marloth Nature Reserve and Langeberg Mountains, and canoeing and fishing on the Breede River and nearby Buffeljags Dam. The Marloth Nature Reserve offers a variety of day trails and the six-day Swellendam Trail, which traverses most of the reserve.
  • The Drostdy Museum, the ostentatious Dutch Reformed Church, Mayville (a period house depicting Victorian existence in the platteland), and Rheenendal Mill are all worth a visit for history’s sake. Both the Drostdy and Rheenendal have restaurants – a suitable enticement for culture-phobes. Swellendam’s backstreets are also worth trawling for fine examples of Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture. 
  • With approximately 100-and-counting guesthouses to feed off, Swellendam offers a good choice of restaurants. Housed in an amazing building, The Old Gaol Coffee Shop is our current favourite; try the roosterkoek with youngberry jam and cheese, it’s addictive. A few doors down, La Belle Alliance is a cool outdoor venue set to the sounds of a gurgling stream and foreign accents. For dining at night, cultured yokels recommend Roosje van De Kaap and The Connection – when we were there the latter had no menu, instead platters filled with whatever happens to be going on the day. Mattsens is popular among thickset local farmers and other heavy-duty carnivores – besides chunks of red meat, pizzas and fish are on the menu.
  • Swellendam is a convenient base for day trips to the Bontebok National Park, De Hoop and Grootvadersbosch nature reserves, Tradouws Pass, the pont at Malgas, Witsand (fishing and whales), and the Breede River Valley (wine routes).
Getaways in and around Swellendam
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