There’s so much to do in and around Swellendam, smack bang between Cape Town and George on the Garden Route, that you’ll need at least three to five days to do it justice. So you’ll need to book accommodation in Swellendam. Luckily you’re spoilt for choice, with everything from five-star country hospitality to camping, and everything in between.
If you haven’t stopped over for a few days in this Overberg town you’re missing a treat. There’s a shedload of things to do in Swellendam, from hiking, biking and horse riding to museums, nature reserves and a country market. There’s also a bunch of Swellendam restaurants worth visiting for anything from a pastry, pizza or burger to seafood, steaks and even full-on fine dining. Once you know all this, you won’t be able to resist returning again and again. And you’ll need somewhere to stay. Here are some places we’ve stayed on our multiple trips to Swellendam, giving a good notion of the range the town has to offer.
Each of the seven rooms is decorated in fresh, contemporary style, with an accent wall that makes it unique. They all look out over the garden towards the pool and the Langeberg mountain range. The decor of our room was refreshingly minimalist, except for the lush jungle-green wallpaper on one wall. There’s a large bathroom with a bath and shower, two easy chairs positioned to enjoy the views, a tea station, mini fridge, and a small stoep in front. Free wifi and air conditioning too.
Calvin and Cheré du Plessis are the owners and managers of bloomestate, and they couldn’t be more friendly, helpful or warmly professional. Before we arrived on a Monday, Cheré had already texted us the menus of two nearby restaurants and offered to make a booking for us because few restaurants are open in Swellendam on a Monday. That’s going the extra mile and we appreciated it. Another special touch was the bottle of fresh lemonade in our minibar fridge. They’re also happy to chat and advise you about where to go and what to do in Swellendam and the wider region – great for guests who don’t know the area and its many attractions well.
Cheré is a chef so breakfast is a delight each morning, with fresh fruit and yoghurt, freshly squeezed naartjie juice from their own orchard, banana bread, as well as bacon, tomato, mushrooms and perfectly poached eggs. Let me warn you: the temptation to eat too much is huge when the food is fresh, tasty and beautifully presented.
If you want to take some bloomestate goodness away with you when you leave, pop into the small shop where Cheré sells homemade pasta, rusks, jams and other goodies.
The rates are very reasonable for a four-star B&B that offers countless touches of excellence and luxury.
Schoone Oordt Country House
Rooms have been built in the garden, with hedges and shrubs to provide privacy. There are welcome touches like a chaise lounge and fireplace in the bedroom, a private verandah with two wicker chairs, double basins and underfloor heating in the bathroom.
It all seems smooth and seamless, like a swan gliding over the surface of the water, even if its legs were working madly under the surface. This is thanks to the care the owners and staff take to deliver a first-class experience. If you’re looking for quality and attention to detail without fusty formality and are happy to pay for the privilege, then Schoone Oordt is just the ticket.
Our room had a private garden courtyard, while the other three look out over the pool towards the mountains. There were directors’ chairs for relaxing and a large bathroom with both shower and bath. All rooms have free wifi, a flat-screen TV with Netflix, tea/coffee station and a small fridge. There’s a comfy guest lounge/dining room with a fireplace for cold winters. It leads onto a large deck where you can enjoy a delicious cold and hot breakfast each morning while you gaze at the mountains over the treetops.
Given the quality of the rooms, the yummy breakfast and Patrick’s cheery helpfulness, you’re sure to have a great time at The View. It’s really good value too.
Arumvale Country House
Our suite had a bedroom with double doors that opened to a small patio with cerise bougainvillea, and an en suite bathroom with bath and shower. A separate lounge/dining room had a fireplace for romantic winter warmth, old prints on the walls and some old books to browse. There’s also a small kitchen complete with gas stove and oven, microwave and fridge/freezer, as well as all the bits and bobs you need for self-catering.
A kettle-braai on the patio – cleverly built in to avoid scrumming with those wobbly legs – gives guests a chance to braai, but by far my favourite part of the patio is the view. It looks out over a restful garden with green grass and plants like strelizia, plectranthus and arum lilies. Beyond the garden is a green field where cows quietly munch, and blue-grey mountains peep through wisps of cloud.
Swim in the salt-water pool in the garden, or relax on a lounger. Tall trees provide other shady spots around the garden, and a wooden deck under an oak tree is a good place to chill and enjoy the views or even practise yoga or meditation. More than 70 species of birds have been spotted in the gardens, so birders will find it rewarding to spend some time there with their binos.
If you get tired of the tranquility – as if! – you’re just a short drive away from multiple things to do in Swellendam and its surrounds. The rates are reasonable and children under eight stay free.
Frog Mountain Getaway
There’s a reception building that doubles as a TV lounge where parents staying in the rondavels can go to watch sport, though kids are far more likely to want to run and play outside. That’s the secret of this place – open spaces and safety for kids. They can ride their bikes, swim in the pool or canoe on the river, use the foefie slide, walk to the waterfall, fish for tilapia in the small dam, watch the cows or simply horse around at the playground complete with jungle gym, old tractor, trampoline and wendy house.
For me – without kids, during the week and out of school holidays – the joy was in the birds, the whistling and popping of frogs, the night-time darkness and the sense of utter peace. It was cold when we were there, but we sat on the stoep and warmed ourselves at the fire in the built-in braai.
We stayed in one of the thatched rondavels, which has a microwave, stove, fridge/freezer, ceiling fan and a wood-fired hot tub in the garden. Downstairs there’s a double bedroom with en suite bathroom, and a separate living/kitchen area. Upstairs is a loft bedroom sleeping two. There are also larger cottages that sleep 8-12 people.
Bontebok National Park
Set up camp within spitting distance of the Breede River. If you have a tent you can snuggle it into a shaded enclave under a tree, but the branches hang too low to get a caravan into the shade. Ablutions are great, but not all sites have power so make sure you state your preference when you book.
Listen to fierynecked nightjars in the evening and wake the next morning to a bontebok with its calf munching on grass just a few feet away. There are walks, a mountain bike trail, and swimming or fishing in the river.
If you prefer self-catering chalets to camping, they have those too. These 2-4-sleeper chalets are really lovely, some with views of the Breede River Valley and Langeberg mountains, but they can get really hot in summer. They cost five times more for two people than camping.
Find out more things to do at the Bontebok National Park.
Kam’Bati River Resort
Swellendam Caravan Park
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