what to do in Swellendam
One of the things that we love most about Swellendam is that it’s not one-dimensional. It’s not just a foodie destination, nor is it just about mountain biking or berry-picking. Swellendam leaves itself open to interpretation.
If you’re looking for a pit stop on the way to somewhere else, you might miss it because this town is subtle, revealing itself slowly. You’ll often find that artists, creatives, writers and musicians are attracted to Swellendam, not only because it offers a sense of serenity and idyllic isolation, but also perhaps because these sensitive types know that ‘stealing’ beauty from their surrounds is so vital to their work.
If you care to see it, it’s everywhere. Swellendam drips with beauty. The beautiful Dutch Reformed Church that takes pride of place in the centre of town. The restored Victorian homes lining the lanes and the hug of mountains that blush red with sunset. The river that runs through it. The waterfalls hidden in crevices in the mountain. The lush, cascading delicious ferns that seem to flourish in every nook.
Swellendam is romantic. A novel aching to be written. Cycle down the streets on a vintage bicycle and you’ll seem like you belong. One can almost hear scratchy records played by gramophones or slow tinkling pianos as a soundtrack to a slow Saturday evening. It appeals to romantics; with its shuttered windows, wrap-around stoeps, dusty old books and dark wooden staircases. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a romantic, prepare to be seduced.
Swellendam is also blessed with enough natural beauty to make your heart burst, if you’re as into nature as we are. The two nature reserves, Marloth and Bontebok National Park, transport you to places in yourself that you’ve never visited. Marloth Nature Reserve stretches along the Langeberg Mountains, blessed with natural fresh water pools, lush forest and dedicated hiking paths. The waterfall walk is a slow, steep climb, which can be accomplished by most members of the family, so please take your children along to splash in the pools and climb the gnarled branches of old trees. Fit hikers will be rewarded when climbing other paths leading to the top of the mountain, which offers unforgettable views. If hiking in Marloth Nature Reserve were your only reason to visit Swellendam repeatedly, it would be wholeheartedly understood.
On hot days, Bontebok National Park offers reprieve in the form of the Breede River – easily accessible from dedicated picnic spots. The white sandy banks of the river give it a beach feel, yet with the calm waters of a river. Take lilos, a picnic basket and sun umbrellas and spend the afternoon floating on the waters of this private piece of paradise. Of course the bonus of seeing buck only a metre or two away from you as you’re driving is even more of a delight. Upon leaving, you need only travel a few kilometres up the road to catch a legendary sunset over Umshanti at the Buffeljags Dam, or one better – you could book a sunset cruise aboard their Mississippi-style boat, and be pulled behind the boat on tubes!
We wrote about cycling in Swellendam in our previous post but the majesty of the town can be also be enjoyed from a kayak, a slow boat, a mountain path, on horseback or sitting on top of a mountain.
Whether you’re a culinary tourist, an adventure-seeker or merely looking for a relaxing place to read a book, Swellendam really does offer it all – even a beach.