What To Do in and Around Swellendam.
Swellendam is a small town tucked between the Langeberg Mountains and the Breede River, in the heart of the Western Cape's Overberg region. The third oldest town in South Africa, it was named after the first South African-born Governor of the Cape, Hendrik Swellengrebel, and his wife Helena Ten Damme.
In the past, it often served solely as a stopover between Cape Town and the Garden Route but, after spending a few days here, I can now fully attest that my perception of Swellendam has changed completely. The three days still proved to be too short of a stay to get to all the things I wanted to get to, however, I did manage to squeeze in quite a few activities. These were some of my favourites…
Where To Stay
The Ecotreehouse, accurately described as a "picture-perfect countryside escape". This luxury self-catering cabin is perched among large pine trees and surrounded by the rolling hills of the Langeberg Mountain Range.
Set in the lush green Hermitage Valley, just a few minutes drive from the centre of Swellendam and an easy two and a half hour drive (220 km) from Cape Town CBD. This off-the-grid smallholding is a sustainable living paradise shared with a few horses, hundreds of birds, clicking frogs, the odd tortoise, and a rescued pup named Lucy.
Guests get to experience luxury, off-the-grid living thanks to efficient design, modern technology, and responsible use. A grey water system and septic tank feeds back into the land, gas fuels the hot water and stove, while the sun’s energy powers all the lights and appliances with an ample 3000kW system (no paraffin lamps).
What To Do
Spend a day in the Marloth Nature Reserve
Marloth Nature Reserve is a hidden gem in the Swellendam Mountains. Activities include hiking, walking, mountain biking, bird watching, horse riding, or you could choose to spend the day lazily picnicking under the trees in one of the designated picnic spots.
There are seven day trails to choose from, all varying in difficulty. From the first water pool at Duiwelsbos, which can be hiked with a toddler, to the strenuous and challenging 12uur kop.
Bruce and Alex from Friends of Marloth introduced me to the reserve and, short on time, we headed up the Duiwelsbos Trail. The 2km shaded trail winds up and along the edge of steep moss-covered banks between the 10 and 11 o'clock peaks. It's an easy walk passing fairytale-like rock pools, ancient trees, and hidden nooks all the way up to the source of the Koornlands River. Climb a few steep steps and you've come to the end at the very reason for the trail, the Duiwelsbos waterfall.
All trails and activities begin at the Marloth Nature Reserve office, where vehicles may be parked.
Marloth Nature Reserve is named after the pioneer botanist who, together with a deputation of Swellendam residents, petitioned the Minister of Lands and Forestry in 1928 to set aside part of the mountain as a nature reserve. During 1981, the reserve was enlarged to include the rest of the State Forest and the Swellendam hiking trail was opened.
Head through for the day and choose from a range of activities including canoeing and fishing. Hike or cycle on one of the stunning routes along the river to mountain pools & waterfalls, or feel free to bring your own boat as the dam is perfect for watersports.
Umshanti also offers boat cruises on a double-decker barge for up to 35 people and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a hot summer afternoon. Canoes in tow, the boat stops in a shaded gorge for you to spend a full day swimming, jumping off rocks, canoeing to the waterfall, hiking, and generally just working up an appetite for the afternoon braai on deck.
Should you choose to spend a few days here, the lodge also has five cottages available to rent. Each house has 9 beds each, a fully equipped kitchen and bedding is provided.
+27 (0) 28 512 3787 firstname.lastname@example.org
Swellendam Winter School
The Swellendam Winter School came as an extraordinary and unprecedented cooperation between the community members of the town. Between the months of May and August, you'll have the opportunity to learn from internationally renowned figures to local legends through a variety of 1, 2, and 5-day workshops in venues all over Swellendam.
Designed around 6 themes- mind & body, food & wine, creative arts & design, nature & heritage, home crafts & design and yoga retreats, The Winter School has over 50 courses to choose from. The courses range from Bread Baking to Soap Making, Horse Riding to Mind Development, Bird Identification to Organic Gardening, Hand Printing to Furniture Painting… and so much more.
I highly recommend it if you’re looking to take a leisurely learning holiday in Swellendam and gain new skills knowledge, and friends.
View the courses.
Where To Eat
Ikigai Artisan Coffee Bar & Deli serves great coffee, delicious toasted sandwiches, wraps and salads, as well as sweet and savoury treats. Enjoy a cup of coffee from Origin Coffee Roasting while browsing the shop stocked with a variety of South-African made products.
Trading hours: Monday to Friday: 8am - 4:30pm, Saturday & Sunday: 9am - 2pm
What do you get when you combine a country butcher, a baker, local flowers and freshly ground coffee? The beautiful Country Deli at Sipiershuis.
Pop in for a variety of quality hand baked breads, country meats, great coffee and biltong.
Trading hours: Mon to Fri: 7am - 4pm, Saturday: 7am - 1pm, CLOSED: Sunday
La Belle Alliance
Situated on the bank of the Koornlands River, La Belle Alliance has a beautiful garden terrace under a canopy of White Stinkwood trees. With lots of sunshine during the warmer months and blankets on cooler winter days, it's the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxed breakfast or lunch.
Trading hours: Monday to Sunday: 8:00 - 17:00
Field & Fork
A fine dining restaurant with the culinary vision of bringing locally sourced quality produce from the field to your table. Field & Fork is located in Swellendam’s heritage area and forms part of the Drostdy Museum. This building is one of the oldest in South Africa.
Trading hours: Open 7 days a week, from 5pm for drinks and 6pm for dinner service.
Take a drive to the town of Suurbraak
Considered one of the most beautiful towns in the Western Cape, Suurbraak can be found about 22 km east of Swellendam along the N2 highway. The village was established in 1812, when the London Missionary Society established a mission station to serve the Attaqua Khoikhoi. Visitors can still visit the mission station, as well as the original church, today.
The Tradouw Pass
The Tradouw Pass, meaning “women’s path” in the old Khoi language, is a 16 km drive through some of the most beautiful scenery that the Langeberg has to offer. It truly is just one of those mountain passes that you must drive whenever you get the chance.
The Pass was constructed between 1869 and 1873 by Thomas Bain to link the Klein Karoo town of Barrydale with Suurbraak and Swellendam.
Stop for a picnic in one of the designated parking areas along the route, or stop and spend the day hiking along the river where there are a number of rock pools and waterfalls to simply view or swim in.