Tag Archives: swellendam

Breakfast at Aan De Eike in Swellendam (2021-01-12) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 07 MAR 2021

Earlier this year we stayed in Swellendam at the comfortable little Aan de Heuvel self-catering cottages for a couple of days. As it turns out though, Aan de Heuvel actually forms part of the Aan de Leisure Collection, a small enterprise that operates a number of accommodation options in South Africa’s third oldest town, including the lovely Aan de Oever Guest House, the mid-range and affordable Aan de Eike Guest House, the Battenbergs self-catering, and of course the aforementioned Aan de Heuvel cottages.

Aan De Eike is the largest offering in the group’s stable and as such acts as their official base of operations and home to all their facilities, including a travel desk, souvenir and gift shop, large outdoor swimming pool, a small gym, sauna, and of all things, a bicycle wash bay. (Mountain biking is a popular pastime in Swellendam). There is also a small on-site restaurant, and having been alerted to it when we earlier had picked up the keys to our cottage from the office over there, we decided to one morning rather indulge in something a little nicer than just settle for boring plain toast or cereal back at the house.

Sitting on the main road and open to the public, this welcoming space acts as a neat little Swellendam hub, and we enjoyed taking advantage of their wide open space, lush green lawn, and of course plentiful shade from all the surrounding oak trees.

Thin Crust Pizza at Woodpecker Pizzadeli in Swellendam (2021-01-13) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 04 MAR 2021

Having already mentioned that we woke up birthday girl Emily with cupcakes and LEGO, darted about the Bontebok National Park in search of buck, and devoured a waffle with ice cream at Ikigai, it is also worth noting that after a bit of swim time back at the guest house, we again ventured out onto the quiet, shaded streets of Swellendam to snuffle out some supper in the form of pizza from the aptly named Woodpecker Pizzadeli.

As it turns out, the Woodpecker Pizzadeli is actually the on-site restaurant attached to the Early Bird Guesthouse, serving a variety of meals (including vegetarian options) and, when not in Covid-19 lockdown mode, offering a wide selection of wines and craft beers too. That said, with the word ‘pizza’ so delightfully highlighted by being stuffed in the restaurant’s very own name, we were pretty much there for one thing and one thing only!

Pleasingly (for us, obviously not so much for the restaurant), the eatery was extremely quiet, giving us the space and confidence to take our time in sitting down to tuck in and enjoy their delightfully thin crust pizza combinations. Plus, as a completely unexpected nifty little bonus, the guys even showed up with some ice cream and a balloon for the birthday girl following our mains.

Waffles and Ice Cream at Ikigai in Swellendam (2021-01-13) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 01 MAR 2021

Emily was not exactly thrilled to learn that we would be away on holiday in Swellendam when her 7th birthday rolled in on the 13 January this year. There would of course not have been any birthday party given the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, but still, she was counting on least some form of celebration that involved a Helderberg Cake Company cake, her cousins, and a swim in at least my parent’s or sister’s big swimming pool. (Thankfully our little cottage at Aan de Heuvel had a splash pool, so we kind of covered at least one of those bases!)

So we did wake her with Spar-bought cupcakes, birthday candles, a happy birthday song, and a small present or two (yay LEGO!), followed by a Bontebok seeking drive in the nearby Bontebok National Park, but of course none of those were quite what she was looking for. That said, she did rather perk up when we announced that we were off in search of waffles and ice cream at Ikigai, Swellendam’s premier artisan coffee bar and deli.

Surrounded by planter boxes and featuring a fresh wood facade, Ikigai (which has a little more space than its express sister over in Riversdale) has this wonderful metropolitan feel to it thanks to its modern aesthetic and interior decor. The carefully chosen art and design elements look like something you would find in a funky Cape Town neighbourhood, and the menu selection certainly matches that with an array of artisan coffees, milkshakes, smoothies and even booster shots. A fun breakfast menu, delicious sandwiches and bowls, and of course a selection of treats such as cookies, cakes, and brownies, complement the drinks selection. That said, we were of course there for pretty much one thing and one thing only – Waffles with ice cream!

Belgian Chocolate and Curios at Chocolat etc. in Swellendam (2021-01-12) Photo Gallery | Shopping 15 JAN 2021

Our early January school holidays escape to Swellendam was lazing along quite nicely. Comfortably tucked in at the Aan de Heuvel self-catering cottage where the girls were pretty much living in our private splash pool, we didn’t need to mosey out much other than when needing to restock braai supplies or maybe pick up a treat or two while driving (aka sightseeing) around this quaint, historic, and lush green town at the foot of the Langeberg mountains.

One such treat snuffling saw us set foot in Chocolate etc., a small Belgian chocolatier/curios/gift shop that has definitely moved since we last visited Swellendam, but which is still very helpfully right by the Drostdy Museum Complex. Housed in a vintage style building squashed in between two estate agents, Chocolate etc. is primarily a place to grab a quick cup of coffee while perusing a relatively wide selection of fashionable clothing articles, gifts, curios, and of course a selection of nicely made artisan chocolates.

Of course I don’t think that Chantelle or the girls even looked at anything other than the chocolate display, as they eagerly had the lady on duty work her way through describing each and every one as the girls all made their difficult choices as to which flavours to grab. (Well not that difficult because of course all three strolled away with a nicely bulging packets at the end of our visit.)

Honey and Buzzing at Bee Things in Swellendam (2019-09-27) Photo Gallery | Shopping 30 JAN 2020

If you are rather fond of honey and happen to ‘bee’ in Swellendam, then it might just be worth your while to buzz across the main street to the brightly hued, honeybee-themed, hard to miss Bee Things shop.

As it stands, Bee Things is part of the Ubusi Beekeeping company which rose out of founder Jaco Wolfaardt’s beekeeping hobby that first morphed into JW’s Beekeeping Honey & Equipment, before finally emerging as this full scale commercial beekeeping operation that provides beekeeping, mentorship, supplies, and most important to me and you as a consumer, honey direct to the public.

Currently there are four Bee Things shops in operation, in Swellendam, George, Mosselbay and Barrydale, and these stores provide both an awareness and retail avenue for Ubusi’s honey and wax as well as for an assortment of bee-related products from 3rd party producers.

The end result? An amazing little shop experience that is crammed with the most exotic collection of honey (with some of it even on tap!), honey products, and locally manufactured hand crafted items, as well as a plethora of information about the beekeeping industry and practices, and of course bees themselves.

There is also a hive with honey bees on show (great for the kids), and this particular store in Swellendam (the home base so to speak) also features an amazing wall of Jaco’s private collection of honey that he has collected from literally all over the world!

Heading over Tradouw Pass towards Suurbraak (2019-07-01) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 20 JAN 2020

I genuinely enjoy travelling over the magnificent Tradouw Pass as it snakes its way over the Langeberg mountains, linking up the three towns of Swellendam, Suurbraak, and Barrydale as one moves from the Overberg towards the edge of the Klein Karoo.

Having been built by the legendary road and mountain pass architect Thomas Bain, the 17 kilometer long Tradouw Pass was officially opened in 1873, taking its name from a loose Khoi translation meaning roughly “women’s path”.

The stunningly beautiful pass cuts through green mountains and runs alongside gorgeous canyons – though its original form did make it rather prone to flood damage. Over time a number of renovations would help stabilize the pass, with the biggest of these coming in 1974 when the pass was basically completely rebuilt, with hairpins removed, the road widened, and its surface completely tarred. As part of this process, an additional 4,000 aloes and 2,500 indigenous trees and shrubs were planted, adding another layer of landscaping to this already scenic mountain pass.

Today there are plenty of viewing points to stop at and admire the landscape, which is exactly what I then did as we travelled over the pass on our way to Barrydale for last year’s June School Holidays trip to Warmwaterberg Spa.

(That said, only Emily was eager enough to actually abandon the car and head up to the Drupkelder cave with me!)

Antelope Spotting at Bontebok National Park in Swellendam (2019-09-27) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 29 DEC 2019

Bontebok National Park is an unusual SANParks site in that it is a species-specific national park, originally established in 1931 to try and ensure the survival of the relatively rare Bontebok antelope. In this they succeeded and today the park is home to around 200 Bontebok, the maximum amount of antelope a park of this size can support.

Situated 6 km south of Swellendam in the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains and bordered to the south by the mighty Breede River, the Bontebok National Park is the smallest of South Africa’s 19 national parks, covering an area of about 27 km².

In addition to Bontebok, the park is also home to Cape Mountain Zebra, Grey Rhebok, Cape Grysbok, Duiker, Red Hartebeest and the African clawless otter. Bird species thrive, with over 200 different types recorded, including Stanley’s bustard, Secretary birds and Blue Cranes (South Africa’s national bird).

The park also serves as a protected area for the conservation of coastal renosterveld and other endangered fynbos veld types, with a total of nearly 500 grasses and other plant species on the books. Home to some of the largest remaining ‘renosterveld islands’, the park also contains several plant species that are found nowhere else in the world.

With no large predators prowling the grounds, this park is open for self-guided drives, hiking, picnics, fishing and all manner of other outdoor recreational activities, and with both camping and accommodation options available (at the Lang Elsie’s Kraal Rest Camp), the park welcomes both day and overnight visitors.

September saw Jessica and Emily join me for a little long weekend up in Mossel Bay, and on the way up I decided to take the opportunity to swing left and first head off for a spot of Bontebok spotting – marking the first time that I had actually ever visited this particular park.

(We were successful in our antelope spying mission and in the end, despite the heat, enjoyed a lovely drive and stroll around the area.)

Much like the West Coast National Park, the Bontebok National Park is certainly not the most thrilling of national parks to visit (unless of course you are REALLY into birding), but if you are looking for veld, wide open space to enjoy, and the tranquility that comes with all of that, then this site certainly ticks all the right boxes!

Picking Youngberries at Wildebraam Berry Estate in Swellendam (2017-12-26) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 17 SEP 2018

Depending on my mood on the day, a drive up to Mossel Bay could either be a quick fire 3.5 hours long or a lengthy stop-filled journey that could take up most of the day. Our December 2017 drive? Definitely the latter.

While enjoying a lovely stop for a nice piece of cake at Swellendam’s Old Mill Guest House and Restaurant, my eye caught a sign referencing berry picking at Wildebraam Berry Estate, Swellendam’s self proclaimed “Berried Treasure”. (It must at this point be noted that as a dad and thus a fierce proponent of Dad Jokes, I truly LOVE that pun!)

Keen to see what this was all about, we made the drive down to the lovely Wildebraam Estate which, situated in the picturesque Hermitage Valley, is blessed with panoramic views of the Langeberg Mountains, is home to berry orchards, its own festival (1-2 December), pickled products and chutneys, and now accommodation options – plus, perhaps most important of all, is the producer of some very distinctive, very well known South African liqueurs.

We were of course not there to taste their liqueurs, sample their pickled products, fruit chutneys or atchar, nor peck at the fruit and vegetables, but instead wanted to jump straight into the picking of berries – hence the disappointment of learning on arrival that while berry season starts mid November, it only runs until the end of December, with a harvesting season of about 6 weeks only.

So this being the 26th of December meant that unfortunately we had arrived at literally the worst park of the berry picking window. Not to be deterred, Chantelle nevertheless grabbed a bucket and a pair of clippers and off we headed down the dirt road in search of some youngberries among the hidden orchards.

As it turns out, picking youngberries is not fun at all. At all. These tiny little fruit are protected by vicious little thorns (thank you rose family genetics), which you really need to get your hands into in order to get the fruit off. Also, the fruit is soft, so bruises easily, meaning that a gentle touch is required.

So sure, experienced pickers might make this look easy, but as we now learned, there is a reason that these little berries are so expensive. They’re difficult to extract! Anyway, we found an abandoned gardener’s glove (with an acceptable number of holes in it) that then gave Chantelle a fighting chance as she dove headfirst into the thorny bushes.

(For reference, I don’t love these berries enough for that, so the girls and I instead stood on the sidelines, shouting motivations and taking photos of her butt. There was also a friendly farm dog to keep us company.)

The problem is, as mentioned before, this really was the tail end of the season, meaning that there really was almost no fruit to be found. And we looked, may no mistake about that. The hot, middle of the day sun blazed down over us, the environment was prickly (but beautiful), and in truth, credit to a naturally stubborn Chantelle – she didn’t give up and eventually walked out clutching her prized (though truthfully quite empty) bucket.

(Crossing the little stream was a blessing in that it cooled us down, but also because it was a great source of entertainment watching a clearly scared Emily and Jessica cling to Chantelle like limpets, therefore making for quite the eventful crossing. For me at least!)

So. All in all, lessons learned, a new area discovered, a good distraction from the road trip, and now we all walk away knowing how youngberries are grown. That said, next time we’ll definitely make a stop much earlier in the season though…

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”52285,52286,52287,52288,52289,52290,52291,52292,52293,52294,52295,52296,52297,52298,52299,52300,52301,52302,52303,52304,52305,52306,52307,52308,52309,52310,52311,52312,52313,52314,52315,52316,52317,52318,52319,52320,52321,52322,52323,52324,52325,52326,52327,52328,52329,52330,52331,52332″]

P.S. You know that you’ve had a particularly pitiful time out in the orchards when you get back to the shop for weighing, the lady has a look, and then says you really don’t need to pay for that!

Related Link: Wildebraam Berry Estate | Swellendam

Roosterkoek Burgers at the Old Gaol on Church Square in Swellendam (2018-01-05) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 03 MAY 2018

The last time that we had visited the Old Gaol on Church Square restaurant in Swellendam it was raining. And we walked out with a delicous milk tart. This time however it wasn’t raining. And we were instead with my father, who was graciously giving us a lift back to Gordon’s Bay following our little George holiday detour.

In a way it is a bit of a pity that the Old Gaol restaurant no longer resides in the old jail over at Swellendam’s Drostdy Museum, because then obviously the name makes a lot of sense. However the restaurant’s new(ish) location in the historically significant building on Church Square makes for a good enough replacement – perhaps even better given the great outdoor space now on offer.

Given the good weather, we found a nice table in the shade, partook in the Old Gaol on Church Square’s reasonably good roosterkoek hamburgers whilst cooling down with an age appropriate assortment of beers, sodas and milkshakes – all while giving the legs a neat little stretch.

The restaurant appears to have undergone a bit of a face lift, with updated branding, a new menu and a staff complement which felt a little more snappy compared to the last time that we visited.

All in all, another pretty neat lunch time stop in Swellendam then.

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”51593,51594,51595,51596,51597,51598,51599,51600,51601,51602,51603,51604,51605,51606,51607,51608,51609,51610,51611,51612,51613,51614,51615,51616,51617,51618,51619,51620,51621,51622″]

Pro Tip: Can’t find the restaurant? It is literally across the road from the magnificent NG Church that dominates Swellendam’s main road! (Also, the old carriage standing out in front makes for a decent marker as well.)

Related Link: Old Gaol on Church Square | Swellendam