Have an adventure — or simply relax — in one of South Africa’s oldest towns.
Set between the Langeberg mountains and the Breede River, Swellendam is the third oldest town in South Africa. Rich in history, the area is embraced by gorgeous scenery and features a plethora of activities. Whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely afternoon of wine tasting or prefer to take in the landscape on a cycle or hike, the region has plenty of options from which to choose. Just a couple hours’ drive from Cape Town, Swellendam makes for a lovely weekend escape.
Take a sip
Just like so many areas around Cape Town, Swellendam and its surrounds boast a wonderful selection of locally-produced wines. Jan Harmsgat is a beautiful farm that straddles the region’s lush mountainous belt and is home to fruit, nut, and olive orchards, as well as indigenous wildlife like springbok, grey rhebok, and ostriches. The farm produces Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinotage, which are available for tasting, and you can go for drives through the single-block vineyards. The farm also offers accommodation and their restaurant, Just Amy, serves up wholesome meals made with produce from their own garden.
Olivedale Private Vineyards is named for the indigenous olievenhout or wild olive tree that is found in the area surrounding Swellendam. The farm, which lies in a valley between the Langeberg mountains and the Breede River, has its own cellar, which is open for tasting by appointment only. A little further afield, Sijnn Wines is located in Malgas and produces a core range that includes a red blend, white blend and saignée, a unique style of Rosé wine. More recent additions include a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Touriga Nacional, a Portuguese red varietal, as well as some limited-edition bottles.
If you’re in the mood for something different, it’s well worth tasting the locally-produced Rebel Gin: a classic craft gin that contains a variety of botanicals — think juniper berries, cassia bark, angelica root, coriander seed, and citrus peel. Ideal for a summer tipple, Rebel Gin combines well with Indian tonic and citrus for a refreshing mix.
Get out and about
Swellendam is steeped in history, and you’ll see some gorgeous old homes around town and the surrounding farms. The Drostdy Museum was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 and is one of the country’s oldest buildings. There are a number of other historic sites within walking distance of the museum, as well as some lovely coffee shops.
If you would like to get active on your time away, you might enjoy the hiking trails at Marloth Nature Reserve. The reserve is tucked away in the Swellendam Mountains and is carpeted in mountain fynbos and forest. The Plaat East trail is a five-kilometre loop that offers up beautiful views of the area. If mountain biking is your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that a brand-new trail network has just been completed in town. There’s also a 160-kilometre gravel race set to take place in July 2021 — the “Around the Pot” race is organised by Petrichor Adventures and the route will lead towards the Potberg mountain and cross the Malgas ferry before heading back towards Swellendam. There’ll also be shorter rides through the Bontebok National Park, and all the food at the event (including freshly baked roosterkoek and burgers) will be prepared by the local Buffeljagsrivier primary school, making it a truly community-focused event.
Stay the night
If you plan on staying over, there are some enchanting options in and around Swellendam. Schoone Oordt Country House is a gorgeous space with 11 luxury bedrooms. It’s set in a lush garden with a saltwater pool and onsite restaurant. All the produce and wine at The Conservatory are sourced from local suppliers and growers, and guests can enjoy three-course gourmet breakfasts, afternoon tea, and dinner.
Oena Escapes is a Swellendam-based company that offers a range of accommodation options in the area. The Rotterdam Boutique Hotel is located on a historic estate and has two charming buildings to choose from. De Wagenhuis has seven luxury rooms with views of the surrounding pastures, while Fraser Jones has 12 spacious en-suite rooms built around a central courtyard.
Country Paradise House is a stunning self-catering guesthouse in the heart of Swellendam and is conveniently located within walking distance of museums and restaurants. The house has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, making it ideal for a family getaway.
Whatever the weather or time of year, it’s clear that Swellendam is an attractive drawcard for any group of adventurers looking for a relaxed and enchanted getaway.
Visit www.visitswellendam.co.za for any advice, queries and bookings.