Welcome to Swellendam
Swellendam is a town in the Overberg region of the Western Cape; about two and a half hours drive inland from both Cape Town and George. One of the larger towns along the N2, Swellendam is located in a very scenic area of the Garden Route, at the foot of the Langeberg Mountain range. Located next to the Marloth Nature Reserve and the Bontebok National Park, the town is also an administrative centre for agriculture in the region, which is largely focused on wheat, canola, oats, sheep and dairy farming.
Swellendam is the third oldest town in South Africa, and was founded in the mid-1700s as part of the colonial expansion of the Dutch East India Company in the Cape. While independent farmers had first established themselves in the area before then, the town was officially established as an administrative centre in 1743. The Dutch East India Company’s presence was further enforced with the construction of the original Drostdy in 1747, an historic Cape Dutch building that still stands in the town today. In general, Swellendam is known for these kinds of historic buildings, and is famous for a number of other Cape Dutch style and other heritage-listed structures.
Locals appreciate the sense of historic preservation in the town, evident in the town’s well-maintained museum complex and the number of historic buildings that are now home to restaurants, guest houses and administrative offices. A sense of local pride has also been re-established through a touristic revival of the so-called Republic of Swellendam, which alludes to the fact that the town declared itself an independent republic in 1795 in revolt against the Dutch East India Company. Although this independence was short-lived due to British colonial expansion, the town of Swellendam retains a sense of pride about this brief period of rebellion.
Although the town is well established, and has all the necessary amenities, it is still appreciated for being an area of natural beauty away from the hustle and bustle of city life. With two nature reserves in close proximity, the area is celebrated for its natural beauty, and many visitors come to the town to unwind, and explore the greater Swellendam area. This area is made up of the towns of Barrydale, Buffeljags, Cape Infanta, Malgas, Suurbraak and Stormsvlei. Many visitors also come to the area to take part in outdoor activities such as hiking in the surrounding mountains, horse-riding and canoeing, or visiting some of the wine and olive estates in the surrounding area.
The greater Swellendam area hosts many annual events and festivals throughout the year, but over the winter months the town does quieten down with many restaurants and guest houses closing over the winter holiday period. However, even during this time, visitors can take in the history of Swellendam by visiting the museums or even just taking a walk around the town to appreciate the many historic buildings. As the centre of a thriving agricultural area, Swellendam is also known for its quality produce and has some of the most highly rated restaurants in the country.