The little settlement of Malgas lies on the southwest bank of the Breede River in the Overberg, about 30km southeast of Swellendam. It’s perhaps best known for its pont across the Breede River but there are many other things to do in Malgas and the surrounding area too, from wine tasting and whale-watching to canoeing and fishing. Here are some of them.
Where does the name come from? Malagas was a Khoikhoi chief who used to live in the area. The story goes that the name of the settlement was changed to Malgas (without the extra a) because way back when, post for the little village went astray and ended up in Malaga, Spain. Only the Malagas Hotel, opened in the 1990s, retained the original name.
Just a three-hour drive from Cape Town, Malgas has a church, a hotel, a shop and a sprinkling of holiday homes so it’s not even a one-horse town, although the wider Malgas district includes a number of other small settlements like Lemoenfontein and Diepkloof.
1. Cross the Breede River on the Malgas pont
2. Go wine tasting
We tasted two vintages of Sijnn White. A blend of chenin blanc, viognier and roussanne, it’s whole bunch pressed for elegance – a very different and interesting wine. Some 60% of the vineyards are given over to red varietals. The Sijnn Red is made from syrah, mourvedre, trincadeira and touriga nacional. We tasted three vintages, all served with a vintner’s platter of olives, nuts, salami, parma ham, cheese and bread. These aren’t cheap-and-cheerful wines, but really worth tasting for those who enjoy something classy and a little different. We couldn’t resist buying a few bottles to take home with us.
Sijnn Wines is open for drop-ins from 10:00 to 15:00 on Saturdays, but you’re welcome to contact them to make an appointment during the week.
3. See Malgas church
The little church was nearly destroyed during a flood in 1906, when water rose to a height of 2m inside and destroyed the pulpit bible and some valuable antiques.
4. Shop at the Breede River Trading Post
5. Enjoy a river cruise
If the idea of drifting slowly up and down the Breede River for about 90 minutes appeals to you talk to the Malagas Hotel about their cruises, which happen daily unless it’s too windy for safety. You don’t have to be staying at the hotel to join a cruise. This is a good way to see the holiday houses that line the river, as well as otters and birds. It’s not unheard of for seals and dolphins to come upriver from the mouth too. Living the Breede also offers cruises.
If this sounds too lazy for you, hire one of the Malagas Hotel’s two-man canoes or pedal boats for a more active experience. Again, day visitors are welcome for these activities.
6. Go birdwatching
7. Go fishing
The Breede River mouth and estuary are extremely popular with fisherfolk, offering some of the best fishing in the Western Cape. Infanta and Witsand (see points 18 and 19) are also within easy reach for a day with your rod. Think kob, grunter, garrick (leervis), steenbras, bass, carp and more.
8. Photograph canola fields and hay bales
9. Go river rafting
Feel like some outdoor fun and adventure? Then sign on for a river-rafting day trip along the Breede River with Felix Unite. Climb into a two-man inflatable Croc and set off on the river with your guide. The Breede is classed as grade 1 and grade 2, so it’s fun for the whole family. For heightened adventure, book in winter or spring when the river is higher. Although the river still flows in summer, the level is low. Minimum booking size is six people.
10. Hire a houseboat
11. Go horse riding
Love horses and riding? Whether you’re an inexperienced, intermediate or expert rider wanting to get out into nature, book a trail with Milkwood Horse Trails. You’ll find them 8km from the pont along the road towards Infanta. The three shorter trails take about 90 minutes each, and there are longer trails too. Experience the beautiful Potberg mountains or do a trail along the Breede River. Most of the horses are rescues and your fee helps to care for them.
12. Eat out
The Malagas Hotel has the only restaurant and bar in Malgas that’s open every day of the week. You don’t have to be staying at the hotel to enjoy an a la carte lunch on the terrace or dinner but you do need need to book for dinner. They do a five-course dinner which is a lot of food, or you can choose to have only a main course, such as calamari or pork chops with chips and lashings of veg. Servings are generous.
And remember that there are lots of nice restaurants in Swellendam only 46km away.
13. Stay over at the Malagas Hotel
If you’re staying in the rooms but you really feel like a braai, buy braai packs and cook them in the special braai room area. Don’t forget to ask the barman to show you where the flood waters came up to in 2008 – it’ll blow your hair back.
- Enjoy a 60min aromatherapy massage
- Go on a river cruise
- Go canoeing
- Have fun on a pedal boat
- Swim in the pool
- Go fishing
- Play volleyball
- Enjoy the dart board and pool table in the bar
- Kids can have fun on the jungle gym, swings and trampoline
- Have a meal in the restaurant or terrace (see point 12) or a snack basket with your drinks in the bar
- Enjoy a braai
14. Go whale-watching
15. Feel the music
Feel the vibe, enjoy the music and carnival atmosphere at the Up the Creek Music Festival on the banks of the Breede River about halfway between Malgas and Swellendam. The 2020 lineup included Cross Current, the Blue Broers, Hot Water, the Flying Bantu, the Van Der Mentals and The Kiffness but had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.
16. Take a drive to De Hoop Nature Reserve
More things to do at De Hoop Nature Reserve
17. Visit the Bontebok National Park
More things to do at Bontebok National Park
18. Drive to Infanta
19. Take the pont to Witsand
It’s fun to put your car on the ferry for the river crossing from Malgas towards Witsand (see point 1). And there are plenty of good reasons to visit Witsand, including nice beaches and good snorkeling. Fisherfolk will enjoy the spear-fishing, deep-sea and river fishing. San Sebastian Bay is considered one of the best nurseries for southern right whales (see point 14). Visit one or two of Witsand’s restaurants with wonderful views over the river mouth and ocean.
20. Don’t miss a visit to Swellendam
More things to do in Swellendam
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