If you’re longing for a break from the city or yearning to explore, make Swellendam your next weekend or mid-week getaway destination. The small town, just a 2.5-hour drive from Cape Town, offers beautiful scenery, wholesome produce and cuisine, and a community that is passionate about arts and craft. Saadiq Samodien uncovers a list of the must-see and must-do spots and activities to help plan your trip.
Swellendam upholds the strictest safety and hygiene measures to help keep COVID-19 a bay. As a gesture of goodwill at this vital time, the team at UberClean sanitized the entire town with high-pressure spray to combat harmful pathogens whilst eliminating microorganisms, viruses and bacteria found in common spaces. The product used is eco-friendly, biodegradable and is safe for the environment, humans and animals. Read more about the initiative here
Opened in 2016 by sister duo Lizelle Gschwend & Elandi Coetzee, Ikigai Coffee Bar & Deli is a popular breakfast and lunch spot in Swellendam and the Garden Route town of Riversdale.
The restaurant is open from Mondays to Saturdays and serves up freshly made breakfasts, gourmet and hot press sarmies, as well as a variety of healthy smoothies and sweet baked treats. Cosy up in front of the fireplace with a cup of local specialty coffee from Origin Coffee Roasting and a Belgian waffle.
Dubbed by locals and visitors as ‘the best cup of coffee that they’ve ever tasted in their life’, Ikigai Coffee Bar & Deli is worth a visit. You can top it off with their delicious homemade brownies in a welcoming atmosphere.
The minimalist interior of this coffee bar is both modern yet welcoming with a sense of zen-like calmness, perhaps tying in with the Japanese translation of Ikigai, meaning “a reason for being”.
Ikigai Coffee Bar & Deli also doubles as a store to stock up on pantry essentials. Shop Kransforntein olive oil on tap and a variety of locally sourced artisan products and crafts sourced from makers all over South Africa.
Address: 19 Swellengrebel Street, Swellendam
From 31 August to 1 November 2020, Swellendam Winter School is transforming the picturesque historic town of Swellendam into a vibrant, living classroom where you can immerse yourself in the rewarding indulgence of learning and self-improvement.
Whether you’ve been itching to acquire a new skill or restore that rickety heirloom gathering dust in the garage, the Swellendam Winter School allows you to unleash your inner creativity.
Tie in your getaway in with one of their courses in nature, colour psychology, botanical art, wellness, history walks, gardening and more.
Established in 2019, the Swellendam Winter School is now open for its second round of enrollment, with a stunning array of more than 30 courses.
Courses range from one-day workshops to an intensive five- or six-day immersion presented by facilitators who are both deeply knowledgeable and contagiously passionate about their subject matter.
These lessons will be taking place in the private homes, studios, or gardens of local facilitators for a truly personal and interactive touch. Swellendam Winter School want participants to feel like they are getting a peek behind the scenes of their facilitator’s creative processes, and leave feeling as if they’ve learned from the very best.
Head over to their website here to see a full list of upcoming courses and workshops.
The Continent of Sulina, Swellendam’s famous Faerie Sanctuary, is a quaint and tranquil paradise with huge trees, unique plants and cascading waterfalls, where the faeries and the angels uplift you with their positive energies of Love, Light and Magic.
The space provides a perfect ambience for you to browse their gallery of a variety of handmade ceramics and one-off faerie gardens, as well as a variety of crafts from all around the country.
Children are in for a treat with the Star Children play area, making it the perfect place to set up a playful family picnic and stretch your legs on your trip around Swellendam. The enchanted garden can also be used as a great venue escape for birthday parties or small family celebrations.
This unique faerie sanctuary has been 30 years in the making attracting caring and loving visitors… each time a new visitor arrives, it feels like another long lost family member has found a home.
If you are looking for one-of-a-kind prints on pure cotton, The Hand Printing Studio specialises in bespoke handprinted artistic designs on fabric.
Thereafter, a once-off, hand-made collection of scarves, tableware and cushion covers are created for a stylish yet individual twist to your decor or wardrobe. These products are aimed to be refreshing alternatives to the mass-produced items that clutter our already over-stocked market.
Pop in at their studio and browse through their library of once-off designs. This concept designer studio in Swellendam also accepts commissions for special orders or projects where the fabric printing is tailored to your preference.
One of their latest passions is eco-printing on cotton.
Founder Esme Kruger and her team also run regular silkscreen and lino printing courses for both beginners and advanced level enthusiasts. These lessons range from short 4-hour programmes to comprehensive two-day workshops.
All courses are led with hands-on guidance, using only 100% cotton fabric and water-based printing inks.
See the course dates here for their September and October lineup, but be sure to follow them on Instagram and Facebook to stay in touch with updates and inspiration. The studio regularly uploads their latest collection of prints.
A trip to Swellendam would not be complete without browsing the work of the local Artisans. Author by Kathlyn Allan handcrafts bespoke jewellery that tells a story.
Kathlyn crafts her designs from her home studio in the beautiful town of Swellendam, a constant thread that runs through her work is narrative.
The philosophy behind this independent designer is that jewellery can be the perfect vehicle for capturing moments and conveying heartfelt messages of love and appreciation, and commemorating people, places and events. It transcends mere ornamentation and materialism.
Allan’s work is filled with themes of familiar creatures with unexpected twists, historic motifs and nostalgic old-world charm with a modern edge. The sculptural aspect of her jewellery bridges the gap between art and functional design, in protest to mass-production and the repetitiveness of trendy simplicity.
Get in touch with Kathlyn via email or telephone to immortalise a piece of you or a loved one’s story through wearable art that is uniquely you. Her Instagram and Facebook feed also showcase the latest creations and updates.
Swellendam may seem all about outdoorsy activities, but the town is also home to this luxury day spa escape where you can reboot your body and mind after the seclusion of this lockdown. Sans Souci Spa at De Kloof Estate specialises in a multitude of massage, body and mani/pedi treatments and day packages to suit every want and desire.
Let trained therapists work their magic with award-winning collagen enhanced products and treatments. TheraVine™ and TheraNaka™ are both locally made and African-inspired skincare products used at this spa.
This secluded spot is perfect to whisk your loved ones for couples treats, girls’ day outs, or a bridal and Mother’s Day date. Couples can delight in their new romantic wood-fired hot tup treatment for two. Current promos include a free collagen eye and lip mask when you book a facial, and bonus mani or pedi with a 1-hour full body massage.
Bookings are by appointment only, and gift vouchers are also on offer if you want to spoil your special one.
Time: 8am – 6pm daily
Address: De Kloof Luxury Estate, 8 Weltevrede Street, Swellendam
Augusta’s African Kitchen, part of Augusta de Mist boutique accommodation, offers multi-course table d’hôte menus for a culinary journey from the Cape Table to the African continent.
Think local favourites such as Bobotie and Lamb Denningvleis, to Kenyan Curries, and Mwana wa Nkosa, a Swahili stalwart. Head further north with fragrant Moroccan tagines, and a few global classics such as Duck Confit and Tamarind Chicken also feature on the menu.
The secret weapon at this eclectic restaurant in Swellendam is their unique slow-food approach to ingredients and acclaimed local chef Lena Witbooi. Drawing the freshest produce from herb and vegetable gardens, fruit trees and a small olive orchard on the property, this is true farm to table. The team also roasts their own unique Masala blends and Harissa paste for recipes.
Don’t leave without trying their handcrafted wines from the Wine Cellar, best served with Cheese or Charcuterie Platters for a light lunch when available. Augusta’s African Kitchen also serves breakfast with freshly baked French Boule-style bread and homemade preserves and local citron.
The restaurant has been social distancing before it became the new normal – tables are spaced 2 metres apart and outdoor seating is available during fair weather.
Advance booking for dinner is essential.
Address: 3 Human Street, Swellendam
Website: www.augustademist.com/enjoy/augustas-african-kitchen| Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: 028 514 2425
You cannot leave Swellendam without experiencing the intriguing feeling of going on a township tour, as guided by Meisie Bokwana. It will be one of the most interesting experiences you can have – as you are taken away from the Drostdy and the mountain to the other side of the national road.
Verified tour guide Meisie grew up in Swellendam to a Xhosa Father and a Pondo mother from the Eastern Cape. Her stories of growing up in Swellendam throughout different periods in South African history will inspire you. She also runs an after-school project for kids in Railton which you can find out more about.
Meisie’s tour includes a guided walk through the township, a song and dance performance by local children, and tasking local delicacies such as Vetkoek, Roosterkoek, and Umqhombothi – a beer made from sorghum and maize malt. For those with an adventurous spirit, a Sangoma reading (not included in the cost) is also available.
This experience can take up to 2.5 hours (or a bit longer) and the kids will love it, so make sure you are not in a hurry and ready for a great experience.
Bookings for the tour can only be made via telephone. Contact Meisie on 081 001 2822
Cost: R150 – R250pp
Get your walking shoes out and explore the beauty of the Marloth Nature Reserve.
Named after a pioneer botanist, who alongside the Minister of Lands and Forestry allocated a portion of the mountain as a nature reserve, making it the perfect breakaway from the city. It was enlarged in 1988 to include the rest of the State Forest as well as a hiking trail. So if you’re a fan hiking, then this is for you!
Enjoy the beautiful trails amongst some of the richest mountain fynbos and vegetation – home to more than 25 species of erica. To go on the hiking trail, you would need a hiking permit which can be bought at the Marloth Main Office.
Remember to take sun protection with, as the trail does not have natural sun cover. Dogs are not allowed on the trail. For more info:
Your Swellendam getaway is not complete without a trip to historic museums, the cultural cornerstone of most Western Cape dorpies. It’s also an interesting and educational way to keep the kids entertained.
The tiny town only has a handful of heritage buildings with great architecture and one of them is the Drostdy Museum. Situated within walking distance from central restaurants, the museum was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 and is regarded as one of the oldest buildings in South Africa.
The building also includes a gaol, a house for the secretary, a mill and various outbuildings to give you an idea of bygone customs and culture.
One of the must-see venues is the Mayville House Museum which is restored to its 19th-century country splendour. This gallery gives visitors an accurate glimpse of what everyday life looked like while allowing them to get up close and personal with the clothes, household items and tools of the time.
Address: 18 Swellengrebel Street, Swellendam