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Your guide to Swellendam
All About Swellendam
Perched at the foothills of the Langeberg mountains in the Western Cape province of South Africa, Swellendam is the perfect base for exploring the three nearby nature reserves in the region, including Marloth Nature Reserve, less than two miles away. Bontebok National Park is only four miles from town and is home to bontebok — a native antelope — as well as steenbok, duiker, and the endangered Cape mountain zebra.
Swellendam is a stop along the Western Cape’s Garden Route, a 125-mile coastal drive that passes through indigenous forests and past golden beaches and lush mountain terrain. Road trippers regularly stop in Swellendam to experience its many historic Cape Dutch-style buildings. As the third-oldest town in South Africa, Swellendam is home to 50 designated heritage sites, including the Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1911. The town also features unique modern attractions like the Continent of Sulina, an enchanted garden packed with fairies, pixies, and gnomes.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Swellendam
Swellendam enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Thus, you can expect the hottest weather between December and February, with minimal rain. Fall temperatures get gradually cooler, but rain remains rare. Winter (June through August) sees the most precipitation and cool weather, but generally still offers comfortable daytime temperatures. And spring (September through November) has comfortable temperatures but a significant amount of rainfall. Come to Swellendam between July and October to see the colorful fynbos blooms carpeting the Marloth Nature Reserve. Weather shouldn’t be a barrier to visiting Swellendam at any time of year, as local businesses and attractions remain open year round. If you’re here in February, don’t miss the Up the Creek Music Festival along the banks of the nearby Breede River, with live music, comedy, and entertainment.
Top things to do in Swellendam
Thirty minutes east of Swellendam is the Tradouw Pass, a scenic mountain pass that takes you through rugged terrain and past incredible views. The Langeberg Mountains rise up on either side as you drive along the winding road at an elevation of 1,138 feet. Several lookout points allow you to pull off and admire the view, and there are even a couple of swimming spots where you can take a quick dip before continuing on.
To get a more complete picture of what life is like in this part of South Africa, take a trip to Railton, a nearby township with a strong Xhosa culture. The town is also home to skilled craftspeople who specialize in traditional beadwork, basket weaving, and pottery. Stop by the local craft market to peruse the wares, and sample Xhosa dishes like beef tripe stew and maize meal porridge.
Dutch Reformed Church
Located in the center of town, this stark white church is considered a national heritage site. Originally established in 1652, the current structure was rebuilt in the early 20th century to accommodate its growing congregation. The church contains architectural elements evoking a wide variety of styles, including Italian Baroque, French Gothic, Cape Dutch, and even Belgian in the form of its tall wooden tower. You’re welcome to take pictures of the outside at any time, but in order to see inside you’ll need to attend a Sunday service.