A month or so ago we paid our very first visit to the Overberg town of Swellendam and we were blown away by the loveliness of this pretty little town just 2 and a half hours from Cape Town
In the past we have driven straight past it on our way up and down the N2 from Cape Town to the Garden Route, but now that we’ve spent some time exploring all Swellendam has to offer, we certainly know better!
And we’ll be back. There are so just many things we didn’t get to do on our weekend visit, in this post I share a few of the things that did make it onto our weekend itinerary in Swellendam….
Things to do in Swellendam
1.A walk down the main street or “Historical Mile”
This is an essential part of a stay in Swellendam. This is where you’ll get a sense of the history of the town (the 3rd oldest in South Africa) and get to meet some of the locals. Don’t miss the Saturday morning market known as the Under the Oaks Village Market. It’s an slice of country life that’s full of traditional South African fare such as roosterkoek, arts & crafts, fresh organic produce, home made sweet treats, soaps, books, cakes and buskers.
2. A visit to the Bee & Honey shop
This little bee shop in the middle of Swellendam was such a great find for my kids… esp considering one of them was learning about insects at school in the very same week! A treasure trove of bee info, including all the bee-keeping equipment, the highlights of a visit to the JW’s Beekeeping Honey & Equipment shop was seeing the hive of honey bees buzzing about their business behind a plate of glass. That and tasting all the varieties if honey and honey products on offer. My foodie son was mad about this and decided to spend some of his own pocket money on a honey toffee that was his and his alone! We loved tasting all the varieties and discovering that different plants produce different honey… in colour, taste and texture! There’s also a great selection of honey themed products available to purchase.
3. A visit to the Drostdy Museum for a peek into the past
Originally opened in 1943, the Drostdy Museum is a fascinating glimpse into the history of Swellendam from the Dutch East India period exhibited in the main building to the open Trades Yard to the Cape Victorian era on display in Mayville House.
4. A morning at the Bukkenberg pottery studio with master potter David
Right next door to the museum complex lies this creative hub…. and our visit to this working pottery studio proved to be a highlight of our weekend in Swellendam. My kids enjoyed getting their hands dirty on the potter’s wheel creating their own pots under the expert guidance of David. The gardens of this heritage property are equally worth a visit. See my more in depth blog post coming soon!
5. A visit to the Wildebraam Berry Estate
This local berry farm lies in the picturesque Hermitage Valley just 2km’s outside Swellendam. It’s a peaceful farming valley with incredible views of the Langeberg Mountains and the rolling green lawns and jungle gym are a great space for kids to run, play and enjoy while parents sample the various liqueurs on offer inside! The variety of flavours include Hazelnut, Peppermint, Choc Chilli and Lemon and all available for tasting! The shelves of the store are lined with homemade jams, preserves, chutneys and pickles that can also be sampled and purchased. From November to mid-December visitors can pick their own berries to take home!
6. A stop at The Cheese Shop
A traditional South African farm stall selling all manner of delights, but specialising in cheese. What’s not to like? After sampling all the offerings, we stocked up on a few new cheeses to enjoy for a mid-morning snack or a late afternoon treat.
7. Lunch with a view at Tredici
This traditional Italian restaurant is visible from the N2 and I often wondered what lay within it’s terracotta walls while driving by… well, now I know! Tredici is an incredible Italian restaurant offering amazing views over Swellendam, delicious thin-based pizza and a beautifully stocked gift shop and deli selling all manner of delicious treats including the best-selling chocolate brownies!
8. A massage or pamper day at the Rain Africa Day Spa
A relaxing weekend away in Swellendam wouldn’t be complete without a pampering massage at the Rain Forest Day Spa. Known for their deletable bath and body products made with natural ingredients, the spa uses these products in their treatments and offers a total body, mind and soul escape in the tranquil forest-themed spa space.
9. A drive over the Tradouw Pass to Barrydale in the Little Karoo
A stay in Swellendam is not complete without a drive over the famed Tradouw Pass to Barrydale in the Little Karoo (and a visit to Ronnie’s Sex Shop just down the R62 if you have the time!) This is a naturally spectacular pass that snakes it’s way up, over and through the ancient Cape fold mountains. This awe-inspiring drive is worth it alone for the incredible views but also to marvel at the engineering feat it must have been to build considering it was started in 1867 and completed in 1873.
Our visit saw the sides of the mountains covered in gorgeous yellow blooms, but every season is sure to offer a different set of delights! My kids loved stopping at the drip cave waterfall and we enjoyed our cheese purchases from earlier in the day at the side of the road at one of the many scenic picnic spots. We were high enough to watch the swallows swooping and eye level with the most gorgeous waterfalls! Despite it being a Saturday afternoon, the pass was quiet on our visit and it pretty much felt like we were the only people on the planet- something everyone needs to feel every once in a while!
10. Dinner at The Drostdy
If you’re looking for a dinner of delicious traditional South African favourites such as Malva Pudding, Cape Malay Curry and tender Karoo Lamb, then The Drosty is for you. Recently under new ownership and with a French chef, we enjoyed the combination of delicious home cooked food and heritage home surroundings. Located in the historic Zanddrift building with magnificent view of the Langeberg this spot is equally good for a lunchtime meal.
We had a great taste of country life during our weekend in Swellendam. The air was crisp and cool, the people friendly and welcoming and the scenery simply stunning.
It was a much-needed respite from the frenetic pace of busy city life and and we all came home feeling like we’d taken a big, deep breath of country life to keep us going until the end of the year!
More things to do in Swellendam
(We’ll have to go back to try these!)
- Visit the magical Faerie Sanctuary garden
- A township tour of Meisie Bokwana
- Microlight at Buffeljags Dam with Umshanti (or go hiking, swimming, canoeing)
- Navigate across the river on the last hand-drawn Malgas Pont in South Africa
- Paddle a canoe up the Breede River
- Get adventurous at the Swellendam Getaway Adventure farm
- Shark spotting at the Breede River mouth
- Visit the smallest SAN park at Bontebok National Park, home to bontebok, Cape Mountain Zebra, Red Hartebeest & many other small animals & abundant bird life
- Baby whale spotting at St Sebastian Bay or at Witsand or De Hoop Nature Reserve
- Explore the waterfalls of Marloth Nature Reserve
- A wine tasting day trip to enjoy the wines of neighbouring Ashton, Bonnievale and Robertson just 30 mins from Swellendam
- Visit the southern most tip of the African continent at Cape Agulhas and have a foot in each ocean – Indian & Atlantic
- Horseriding with Dee in the Hermitage Valley
- A terroir tractor ride at Weltevrede Wine Estate.
- Lavender picking and gifts at The Lavender Farm.
- A visit to Rolandale Farm Stall plant nursery, petting zoo and coffee shop just 10 minutes down the N2.
During our weekend in Swellendam we stayed in the family cottage at the delightful Schoone Oordt Country House located near the Drostdy Quarter of town.
This beautiful Victorian-era country home has been lovingly restored by the owners over the years who have retained all it’s character and charm. We were welcomed warmly with hot chocolate for the kids and a drink for ourselves in the lounge area before being shown to our double story cottage where the kids made themselves at home upstairs, enjoying the novelty of sleeping upstairs!
Schoone Oordt not only offers comfortable accommodation furnished with beautiful antiques, they also have a great restaurant on site. The Conservatory, serves up delicious dinners made with local ingredients (some even from their own veggie garden!)
Breakfast was a definite highlight, an extensive continental buffet of cold meats, local cheeses and fruit, was followed by a 3 course set breakfast menu including a “starter” each morning featuring the most delicious poached fruit! And, importantly, they had smoked salmon Eggs Benedict on the menu. Hooray!
We felt truly at home at Schoone Oordt and enjoyed using this as our base to explore Swellendam and surrounds. The staff were friendly, the beds comfy, the gardens beautiful and the atmosphere of this country house, warm and inviting.
Contact Schoone Oordt Country House
Images: Kathryn Rossiter