A Weekend in Swellendam

Alluring towns with a rich heritage make the drive up all the more special, especially since it’s the third oldest town in South Africa.

Settled at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains, one can see why Swellendam is so exceptional. With a late morning start, we headed off to where everything all began for Swellendam.

The History

In 1745, Swellendam was founded by The Dutch East India Company as the last outpost of civilisation on the eastern frontier. By the middle of the 19th century, British settlers had colonized the eastern districts and Swellendam became a thriving center. Today, this town has a myriad of activities and attractions on offer that makes one want to never leave.

Tour the Town

Rushing to try and decide what to do first, we realised that there was no way we could fit everything we wanted to do and see in a mere five hours. So we set off to do what we thought would be best; marvel at the site of history and let our feet do all the exploring.

Drostdy Museum

Visiting a museum will take you back into history. The Drostdy Museum displays the story about how settlers arrived which offers the most comprehensive collection of artifacts from the time when the Landros ruled from this town.

Built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747, it served as the 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.

We started off at the main Drostdy building moving our way outside between grasshoppers and tweed, lost in historic artefacts we made our way across the street to The Ambagswerf where all the trade took place, mesmerised by how things were done during that time period and made our way by foot to the beautiful Mayville House before walking through the Rose garden that encapsulates your thoughts.

Bukkenburg Pottery

If you’re looking to do something a bit unusual then taking up some pottery with the master potter himself, David Schlapobersky is what you should do. David and his partner Felicity have been potty since 1973 and their studio is filled with pots from raw clay to various the shapes of ceramics.

Old Gaol Restaurant

After ditching our car and strolling along the town streets, we made a stop at Old Gaol Restaurant as the sun began to set overlooking the infamous Dutch Reformed Church. We ordered something other than our usual burger and chips and tried out their amazing Roosterkoek that was soft to the bite, drizzled with cheese and tomato and a hot cappuccino.

Courtney and I spent most of our afternoon there with friendly staff and mountainous views as the day fell silent.

Dutch Reformed Church

There’s no way of not taking a picture of this Dutch Reformed Church in the center of the town. Built-in 1911 in an eclectic style, it immediately catches your attention. The white building has Cape Dutch gables, Gothic windows, Renaissance entrances, and a Baroque spire. Inside is a tiered amphitheater with banks of curving wood pews facing the pulpit and organ.

Bee Things

We visited this shop out in Barrydale but Bee Things sells everything from 100% pure South African honey with different natural flavours to adorable bees like accessories, crockery, and even health care products.

Stroll the town

Walk around and soak in its historical beauty.

Other Activities to do in Swellendam

Here is a list of other activities to do and see:

  • Visit Bontebok National Park with various forms of wildlife as well as over 200 different species of birds.
  • Get lost with Faerie Sanctuary as your inner child while roaming the magical world of mushroom rings and wishing wells.
  • Try mountain biking along the various routes.
  • Get cultural with a township tour with Meisie Bokwana.
  • Be adventurous with a Umshanti river cruise.

Until the next adventure.

Stephanie Marthinus Blog