10 Things to Do in Swellendam
1. Order the Banana, Caramel and Ice Cream Waffles at "Oppie Stoep" (on the verandah) café in the main road. Having been scarred by two recent waffle experiences in Cape Town, where I was presented with such tough waffles a steak knife couldn’t even cut them, I decided to give this favourite childhood treat one more try at the pretty-as-a-postcard Oppie Stoep café while we were waiting for our horse ride (more on that to come). What can I say - they have perfected the art of waffle making. Also, however they made their caramel topping they should be awarded some kind of Nobel Prize for it. Best. Waffle. Ever.
2. Ride-em cowboy… go for a horse ride at Two Feathers Horse Trails just outside of Swellendam. First off, be sure to book your ride ahead as last winter we called on the day and there was no space available. This time I emailed Stephanie at Two Feathers beforehand. I explained I was very nervous as last time I rode a horse I was thrown off and broke my wrist – and that was about 25 years ago! She assured me of a well-behaved horse…What a beautiful ride we enjoyed through pine scented forestry roads at the foot of the Langeberg Mountain range and up into the protea clad slopes with breath taking views in all directions. The silence, broken only by the thud of hooves and a warm berg wind through the vegetation, was truly special. Having said that, and despite very little actual trotting, the hour long outride has me still walking like a cowgirl 2 days later. Two Feathers offers trails from 1 hour up to 5 days in duration. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: 0824948279
3. Drink with the locals! The lovely couple we met on our horse ride looked a little concerned when we stated out intention to watch the second half of the rugby at a real dive of a local bar, The Full Stop, at the ‘wrong’ end of Voortrek Street and tried to persuade us to rather opt for the more genteel Goose and Bear. We like to walk on the wild side though and The Full Stop did not disappoint (though sadly the Springboks did) - a real smoke-filled spot filled with locals of all ages, all very passionate and vocal about their rugby which was shown on a massive screen as well as on regular screens throughout the inter-leading rooms. Just don’t order the cheese platter unless you like your bread cheap, white and sliced and your olives small, hard and tinned, served with a hunk of tasteless cheddar.
4.Take a hike... I took this photo a year ago when we first came to Swellendam. We were feeling energetic and took the 5 km Duwelsbos hike in the Marloth Nature Reserve on the southern slopes of the majestic Langeberg Mountains. The fairly easy hike begins and ends at the reserve office. The trail turns at a small waterfall with pools that, in summer, are ideal for cooling off after quite a steep walk up. The day we did this we didn’t see anyone else the whole walk and really felt we’d found our own private paradise. The whole of Marloth offers dramatic mountain scenery, wildflowers, awe-inspiring mountain views and rare birds and animals. Feeling super-fit? Sign up for the Swellendam Hiking Trail, a six-day hike known as one of the most demanding hikes in the Western Cape Province.
tel: 028 -514 1410
5. View animals – Bontebok National Park is a protected refuge for the rare bontebok, a South African antelope recognizable for its red coat and white face. Entry is just a few minutes drive from Swellendam and free for Wild Card holders.
6. Step back in time…. As the third oldest town in South Africa (after Cape Town and Stellenbosch) Swellendam is rich in history. A stroll through the town offers a number of historical buildings some of which date back to the 18th century. Pop in at the Tourism Bureau and pick up the pamphlet, "Swellendam Treasures", which offers interesting information about the National Monument Buildings in and around the town. The Drostdy Museum in Swellendam, built in 1747 as the official residence and seat of the magistrate, has great architectural value, and reflects the official history of the District as an outpost for the Dutch East Company. tel: 028-514 1138
7. Be away with the faeries… we didn’t visit the Sulina Faerie Sanctuary as it’s not really our cup of tea, but many families with young children find this an enchanting and unique experience. Sulina is a ‘garden of mystery’ where numerous magical folk may be encountered behind every leaf or under every toadstool…Open every day, except Mondays, from 9am till 5pm. tel: 028-514 1786
8. Take the scenic route – head out from Swellendam in pretty much any direction and you’re guaranteed a beautiful drive. Rolling pastoral hills prettily dotted with thoughtful cows and skippy lambs line the dusty road towards Infanta. Or head towards Robertson for vineyards and orchards, this time of year still bearing golden leaves forgotten by autumn. Why not sample some local vino while in the area? – the Robertson Wine Route is well worth taking some time over.
9. Speaking of which, just 3 km outside of Swellendam you'll find Hermitage Liqueur Farm where locally grown Youngberries are made into a delectable liqueur. Tasting on site is a must, and a bottle or two will make great gifts for those back home.
10. Keep cruisin’…Something we haven’t yet tried but plan on doing next time around – a Sunset Cruise on the Buffeljachts Dam on a fully kitted-out double-decker wooden raft. I think this would be best in summer months however – enjoy the passing scenery, take a dip, paddle an inflatable 'croc' up a twisting rocky gorge or try your hand at bass fishing. A sun set, fire and star gazing end a perfect day in Swellendam.
Idyllic accommodation in Swellendam
We stayed at the beautiful Cape Dutch homestead, Klippe Rivier Country House, where we enjoyed delicious meals and 5 star luxury blended with historical authenticity (we slept in the Reitz Room named for one of the two past Presidents who stayed at the country house in days gone by – the other was Steyn). Sipping pre-dinner drinks in the library, spotting the eagle owl in the giant oak tree on the lawn and drinking in the silence and serenity of the surrounding countryside made this a very civilised weekend (local pubs jaunt aside).
For reservations contact Portfolio.