Swellendam: A place to linger

2015-03-04 11:10 - Dawn Jorgensen
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It may be easy to overlook Swellendam as we rush past towards a holiday on the Garden Route or time at the coast, but it would be a mistake to do so. This third oldest town in South Africa has a myriad of activities and attractions on offer, enough to keep one busy for a weekend stay, or much longer.

Situated on the N2 about 240km from Cape Town towards George, Swellendam has a rich history as a travel center. Early travellers and explorers who visited the Cape in the 1500's traded with the Khoi khoi along these shores. When the Dutch East India Company established themselves in the Cape in 1652, trade continued inland as far as Swellendam. 

In 1743 Swellendam was declared a magisterial district and a landdrost was appointed. From here a village grew up where artisans and traders settled. To travellers and explorers, their services were invaluable, as Swellendam was the last outpost of civilization when making the slow journey up the East coast.

Today it still offers many travellers a welcome break to their journey, with a variety of accommodation options to choose from, as well as an assortment of restaurants, activities and attractions. Yes, when you visit you’ll want to simply relax into the beauty of the Langeberg Mountains, but do allow yourself time to explore all that Swellendam has to offer.

A list of recommended things to do:

- See the Dutch Reformed Church lit up after dark.

(Dawn Jorgensen, the Incidental Tourist)

- Visit the Drostdy Museum, which offers the most comprehensive collection of artifacts from the time when the Landros ruled from here. Built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 to serve as residence and official headquarters for the Landdrost. Soon after a gaol, house for the secretary, mill and various outbuildings were erected. A visit is a walking return to our history.

- Book a massage at Rain Africa, an absolute must for shopping and incredible treatments. I had the Elephant Walk and it was a transformation to another state.

(Dawn Jorgensen, the Incidental Tourist)

- Take time to look around the very cool beekeeping store JW Bees with its working hive on display. It really offers a good reminder of how remarkable these precious industrial workers of nature are. Feels good to immerse oneself into the farming community too.

Bontebok National Park, the smallest of our 21 National Parks is gorgeous. On my first visit, I took a drive and one of their walking trails through the aloes and spring flowers, as well as a linger down at the Breede River. Home to 200 Bontebok, the formation of this park saved the species from extinction. Now that’s worth doing. Perfect spot for a swim on a hot day too.

- Walk down Swellengrebel Street to the art galleries and coffee shops, taste the handmade Belgian chocolate and look over the selection gifts and curios.

- Visit the sheep just off the main road and walk the reserves that border the urban edge.

(Dawn Jorgensen, the Incidental Tourist)

- Take a short drive into the Hermitage Valley to pick Youngberries at Wildebraam Estate.

-  For those interested in art look to the Moonshadow Studio, the illustrations of diTekenar and the Bukkenburg pottery studio.

- For the children and those with fantasy in their hearts, visit the Sulina Faerie Sanctuary. 

-There’s horse riding, mountain biking and hiking in the Marloth Nature Reserve  as well as canoeing, paddling or barging on the Buffeljachts Dam.

- If you’re there for a while take a trip down to the De Hoop Nature Reserve, especially during whale-watching season. There’s game such as zebra, antelope, tortoises and ostriches to be seen and you can visit the Southern most tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas too.

(Dawn Jorgensen, the Incidental Tourist)

Where you really should eat:

For real spoiling make a dinner reservation at the renowned La Sosta Restaurant, which has just won the Eat Out 2014 Best Italian Restaurant award. Their tasting menus thrills with delicate flavours and superb presentation and its all served in their intimate dining room that seats no more than 20 lucky people.

Recommended places to stay:

(Dawn Jorgensen, the Incidental Tourist)

- Jan Harmsgat Country House on a farm outside of town.

- Schoone Ooordt Country House, a variety of room types, beautiful service and attention to detail right in town and walking distance to most attractions.

- SANParks accommodation in chalets overlooking the Breed River in the Bontebok National Park.

For additional information contact Swellendam Tourism and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

They do a great job keeping us up to date with their news and events, reminding us that this really is a town that makes a detour off the N2 very worthwhile.

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