While not all of us can simply up and leave for the blissful serenity of country life, former city slicker Thaya Bedford gives you the inside track on a family escape in Overberg...
I’ve always felt the call of the country. From as far back as I can remember, I dreamt of living in nature, growing my own food and spending hours reading next to the fire in my log cabin tucked away inside a forest. By my early thirties, the pull was too powerful to resist any longer, so my son and I decided to take a brave, gumboot-ed step onto the road less travelled, embracing country life with all its quirks and pastoral charm.
Four years on, we’ve sunk our bare feet into country life. I won’t say I don’t miss being able to pop out to my favourite, buzzing after-work spot or being able to watch a favourite band at the drop of a hat, but the country offers completely different spoils.
Here are 12 of my favourite places in the Overberg, in no particular order - should you decide to indulge in a bit of country living yourself.
1. Schoone Oordt Country Hotel
This is a five-star boutique hotel with hands-on warmth and heart, in the best part of Swellendam. Their winter rates are unbeatable, as is their hospitality. A personal highlight for me is their resident Husky x Malamute who takes me for walks in Marloth Nature Reserve and has his own Instagram account @shadowthehoteldog
Very few people know that Rain’s HQ is in Swellendam, so they’re taken by surprise when they stumble across the Rain shop and Spa located at the entrance to Swellendam, which has branches in New York and London. Rain’s ethos of creating handmade bath and body products made from natural ingredients makes for conscious, luxuriously local products.
3. Graze Slow Food Café
Graze is a tiny venue in Stanford, owned by Tabby and Alex, who live on a self-subsistent farm outside the village. Almost everything that you bite into at Graze has just been pulled from the ground, plucked off a bush, picked or hand-harvested! Their farm-to-fork / garden-to-table practice is real, and you can taste it in every morsel. Think Rabbit Brulee and Salmon Curry, rounded off perfectly with Salted Chocolate Caramel Pie.
4. Field & Fork
I’ve dined at Field & Fork twice and have been impressed with everything. Its cosy, intimate atmosphere and friendly service, coupled with a passionate chef who puts everything he has into every morsel, make this a must for any visitor to Swellendam. I couldn’t resist ordering the fillet both times – because it’s quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever had.
5. The Eatery
I visit The Eatery in Hermanus often and have always loved everything I’ve ever tried. Their breakfast special for R25-00 is perfect for freelancers on the go, while their legendary burgers and craft beers make for the perfect Friday wind-down treat.
6. Diesel & Crème
If you don’t know this magazine darling yet, then you haven’t lived. Their legendary milkshakes are the talk of the Overberg and then some! This biker-chic diner on Route 62 in Barrydale is well worth a day trip.
7. The Tasting Room at Stanford Hills
What Stanford did before The Tasting Room, I’ll never know. It has been a success since the day it opened; that is, after adding the magical ingredient that is Chef Bridget Bartleman. I describe it to my friends as ‘down-to-earth delicious’ because nothing about The Tasting Room is pretentious. It’s all views, excellent Jackson’s and Stanford Hills wine and taste bud-tingling food. Oh, and Bridget’s Pork Belly Roast should be on your foodie bucket list because nobody does it better.
8. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
One of a handful of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, Grootbos is one of the most magical places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Perhaps the magic will hit you when you’re out horse-riding amongst the pink Erica Regularis; it may collide with you when you’re savouring a perfect steak that melts in your mouth; or maybe it’ll catch up with you when you’re falling into bed, gazing out towards uninterrupted views of the ocean over acres of fynbos. Go there and let me know.
9. Horse-riding with Dee in Swellendam
I had the great fortune to meet Dee about a month ago in Swellendam, when I explored a particularly magical part of Swellendam. Our horses were amazing, the views were life changing and the company was delightful. Please do yourselves a favour and book a ride. Dee caters to all levels of experience.
10. Hiking in Marloth Nature Reserve
I first discovered Marloth during my first trip to Swellendam about 1.5 years ago, when I hiked up the waterfall path with my son. It felt like we’d entered a magical realm as we splashed in mountain pools and lazed on the fat trunks of trees. If you’re into the art of walking, then you’ll understand why you need to become acquainted with this mountain.
Let me just say that if you visit Stanford and don’t eat at Havercrofts, I’ll consider you quite mad. They were the most loved restaurant in the Western Cape on Tripadvisor for many moons, but besides for that, they are just blooming marvelous. This hilarious husband and wife team will treat your taste buds to delectable morsels - and your belly to a few magnificent laughs.
12. The Saturday Morning Market at The Stanford Hotel
Stanford is special for many reasons, one of them being local love for handmade, locally produced and grown goods. The Saturday Morning Market at The Stanford Hotel offers their veranda to locals who sell everything from vegetables that have just been pulled from the ground, to decadent cakes, handmade meats, pates, artisan breads and cheese.
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