This historic colonial town in South Africa’s Overberg region offers heritage architecture, art, wildlife and scenic beauty in surrounding nature reserves.
The picturesque town of Swellendam sits at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains. Established in the 1740s, today the town is a flourishing agricultural center and a favored retreat for artists. Browse art galleries and pottery workshops, ride on horseback through mountain forests, try your hand at berry picking or just soak up the scenery of the nearby nature reserves.
As one of the oldest colonial settlements in South Africa, Swellendam has a rich history that is evident in its historical architecture. A prime example is the Drostdy Museum, a collection of buildings dating back to 1747. Check out the displays of artisan tools and 18th-century furniture then visit the old jail and water mill. See work by South African painters and sculptors at the Knustehuijs Fine Art Gallery.
Swellendam is also one of the world’s largest youngberry growing regions. Take a cellar tour of a local berry farm then sample liqueurs, jams and chutneys made using youngberries. From November to mid-December you can even pick your own berries.
Opportunities for outdoor adventure abound. Ride on horseback in the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains. Jump on a raft and paddle through the rapids of the Breede River then spend the night at a riverside lodge. The Sulina Faeire Sanctuary is great for a family activity. As you walk through this enchanted forest you’ll discover wishing wells and see sculpted angels, fairies and elves.
A short drive south of Swellendan is the Bontebok National Park. Track the rare bontebok antelope, spot mountain zebras and over 100 bird species or enjoy picnics on the banks of the Breede River. Explore the trails of the Marloth Nature Reserve, which pass fynbos and wildflower fields. The 50-mile (80-kilometer) long Swellendam Trail is a 6-day scenic hike through the reserve’s ravines, forests and mountains, with log cabins to sleep in along the way. Hike just some of the trail as part of a day-trip.
Swellendam sits halfway between Cape Town and George, roughly a 2.5-hour drive from either end. It’s a popular stopover on the Garden Route. There is no public transport but the town center is small enough to explore on foot.