(Guillaume Marais/Explorer's Garden Route)
Whenever you mention the town of Riversdale to local travellers, they have one of two standard reactions.
Either their eyes glaze over in an effort to remember where it was they had heard the name before, or they cite a complicated connection to the place - you know something like "my second cousin's daugther's husband runs the local grocery store."
To those with the glazed eyes, wonder no more! If you've ever taken a road trip from Cape Town to the Garden Route, Riversdale is one of the tiny 'plattelandse dorpies' you would have passed by on the N2. Unless you made a quick pit stop at the Engen garage and/or grabbed a breakfast or a burger at the Wimpy, you would have driven right through without so much as a second glance, only keeping your eyes peeled for the traffic cops that haunt this section of the national road.
So, now that you know what we're talking about, we've got a proposition for you (and, in fact, for those with the tenuous connection who have never bothered to visit): next time you head out Garden Route way, why not work in a little bit of time to explore Riversdale instead of just passing through?
There's a lot more to it than you might think!
Things to do
Admire Sleeping Beauty
Did you know Riversdale is home to the fairest mountain of them all? That's right! One of the peaks forming a backdrop to the village, sports the perfect side profile silhouette of a beautiful woman in repose and has accordingly been dubbed Sleeping Beauty. Once you know to look out for her, you won't be able to miss her... Especially when approaching from Mossel Bay's side or while exploring the town itself.
And while it looks like she doesn't have much personality, being a passive sleeping princess and all, if you follow her on Twitter, you will find that she's actually a whole bunch of fun!
Take a hike
Apart from admiring her from afar, you can also explore Sleeping Beauty on foot! Starting at the Old Toll House on the Garcia Pass, the 13km trail takes you all the way to the crest of the mountain and back. It's a relatively easy hike, featuring numerous streams and an abundance of birdlife. The last 1.5km to the top may be a little strenuous, but once you reach the summit the breathtaking view of the Langeberge will be worth it. We promise.
Check out the Explorer's Garden Route website for more details.
The network of gravel roads surrounding Riversdale, provides a perfectly picturesque playground for cyclists of all experience levels. Since there are no marked routes, the dirt tracks and farm roads are sure to delight especially those who enjoy getting off the beaten track and exploring to the beat of their own drum. If, however, you prefer having a little bit of guidance at least, the Explorer's Garden Route website has a few suggestions of circular routes to check out - 20km, 44km and 91km.
Visit the Korentepoort Dam
Located about 16km out of town at the foot of Sleeping Beauty and the Langeberg Mountains, the Korentepoort Dam is a delightful hidden gem where locals like to gather to enjoy various watersports, fishing or just chilling. Surrounded by pine forests and gentle rolling foothills, it's postcard pretty and has loads of grass, shade and braai spots. Getting in will cost R5 per person and R30 per vehicle.
Shop at Bali Trading
If you managed to drive right past the town itself, while en route to the more well-known sections of the Garden Route, the Bali Trading complex just a few km beyond, will almost certainly draw your eye... especially if you have a soft spot for quaint shops, crafts and homely goods. While it is widely known as Bali Trading, the complex is actually home to a whole array of smaller businesses, such as Sleeping Beauty Traders who specialise in cute crafts and colourful jewellery. There is also the Rooi Aalwyn Padstal & Coffee Shop, which offers a range of home-baked goods, preserves and locally produced eats.
All in all, Bali Trading is the perfect spot to stock up on gifts!
Do a tasting at Baleia Wines
Located just across the road from Bali Trading, you will find the suave tasting rooms of Baleia Wines. If you're en route to a destination it would probably not be the best idea for whoever's driving to indulge, but hey! That doesn't mean everyone else should miss out. Having carved out quite a niche for themselves in the area, Baleia produces a range of delectable wines and even managed to make Top 10 at Savvy Sauvignon Blanc Celebration recently.
Check out the Baleia Bay Facebook page for more details
Explore the back roads
If you aren't really the mountain biking type, that doesn't mean you shouldn't check out the back roads too. Hop into your car, head out of town and explore as many of the little gravel farm roads you can find (just don't get lost!). You're bound to spot some breathtaking rural scenery and, if you're there at the right time of year, some super sweet baby animals! So, be sure to keep your camera handy.
Take on Gysmanshoek Pass
While it is located closer to the neighbouring town of Heidelberg, the Gysmanshoek Pass is a definite must-try for anyone with a love of exploring mountain passes. According to Mountain Passes South Africa, the pass follows a historical ox wagon track dating back to the 1700s. It is accessible to ordinary vehicles when the weather is good, but when it rains, 4x4 vehicles are advisable.
Play a round of golf
The local golf club has been revered as one of the most scenic in South Africa. It boasts nine holes and an intimate and friendly atmosphere. The course has a 72-par rating and green fares are between R130 and R200. Contact: 028 713 3056
If you'd like to check out some local arts and crafts, Paddavlei Kunsgoete is your one stop shop. Located in the town's old bioscope, the brightly decorated shop belongs to artist Marilise Lombard, who also has her studio on the premises. The shop stocks a variety of local crafts, from colourful hand-painted cushions made by the disabled residents of Mosaiek to Marilise's own colourful canvases.
The shop is open from 08:00 to 17:00 on weekdays and from 08:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays. Contact: 074 034 0352
Read: 8 things to love about the Explorer’s Garden Route
AL-2-HEZ Mountain Bike Challenge
Covering 91km through fynbos, cultivated forest and all sorts of breathtaking scenery, this is the region's premier MTB race. Although the dates have not been set for 2015 yet, it is expected to take place at the beginning of September. According to their website, the event's aim is to be completely family friendly while providing a challenge in every aspect for mountain bikers.
Check out the website for more details
On 7 November, the Riversdale Garden Club will host a day of exploration into the surrounding mountains. There will be a MTB race as well as a fun run. To find out more, check out the Explorer's Garden Route website.
Where to eat
The Old Jail
A tree-filled, shady courtyard with a little bubbling fountain provides a welcome retreat for road-weary travellers and locals alike. Open between 08:30 and 15:00 on weekdays and 08:30 and 13:00 on Saturdays, they offer a delightful array of breakfasts, lunches, teas, coffee and drinks. They are famous for their carrot cake. Apart from the eats and drinks, the old jail complex has loads of nooks and crannies filled with all sorts of surprises - from second hand books to antique furniture.
Check out the Old Jail Facebook page for more details
Die Kwekery Coffee Shoppe
Located just outside of town, between a number of horse paddocks, the nursery itself offers a wide array of indigenous and exotic plants as well as roses. The coffee shop is open every weekday between 07:30 and 17:00 and on Saturdays between 08:00 and 13:00 and offers a wide variety of meals and sweet treats. On Sundays, the Dam Theatre Restaurant (also part of the complex) offers an amazing Semi-Buffet.
Check out Die Kwekery website for more details
La Bella Deli & Restaurant
So, after you've done your wine tasting at Baleia Bay and just before you set out to shop at Bali Trading, why not stop in at La Bella Deli & Restaurant for a bite to eat? Located right next door to Baleia Bay, they offer fresh home-made food and baked goods. If you'd prefer to stop by for dinner, they've just launched an evening menu on Wednesdays and Fridays between 19:00 and 23:00.
Check out their Facebook page for more details
Located at the Shell garage on the N2, Nibbling Squirrel is a great spot to stop off for some good old pub grub and a beer... or a cocktail. That's right! They're the only spot in town serving cocktails and definitely worth a try!
Where to stay
Oudebosch Guest Farm
Sleeping Beauty Guesthouse
Korentepoort Dam self catering