HISTORY & TOWNS OVERVIEW
Situated approximately 220km from both Cape Town and George and boasting natural beauty, Swellendam is built on the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains. Ideally located as the starting point to the Garden Route and near the Tradouw Pass, which leads to the Little Karoo and famous R62 road, Swellendam is the base point for tourists wanting to explore the region and all it has to offer.
On 17 June 1795 local inhabitants expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with Dutch rule at the Cape by issuing a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). The rebels called themselves 'national burghers' after the French Revolution, and elected Hermanus Steyn as their President. The short-lived 'Republic of Swellendam' came to an end when British forces seized the Cape towards the end of 1795.
With the arrival of the British settlers in the early 19th century, the Overberg grew rapidly and soon Swellendam was the heart of a mercantile empire, created by Joseph Barry, who dominated trade in the area. Swellendam was visited by many travellers and explorers and numerous artisans settled here. It became the gateway to the interior.
Barrydale was established in 1878 on completion of the church when European Settlers moved into the valleys and mountains in search of fertile soil and water supplies to support their farming.
Because of the need for the farming community to travel and sell their produce in Swellendam, the concept of the Tradouw Pass was born in 1854. This pass was constructed by master builder Thomas Bain between 1869 and 1873. The Tradouw Pass means Women's Path in the Khoi language and is a 16km drive through an altitude range of 219m through some of the most beautiful and rugged mountain scenery on offer in the Langeberg.
Named after James Barry, an early settler in the region, who was not only a trader but a lawyer, agent and auctioneer, deputy sheriff and commandant of militia for the town, Barrydale is situated on the borders of the Overberg and Klein Karoo, near the Tradouw Pass and merely 40 minutes’ drive from Swellendam.
Creativity, live music, good eats, unique accommodation, and welcoming people are at the heart of this Karoo town. Artists, environmentalists, writers, and lovers of alternative lifestyle are drawn to this village where they live perfectly blended with a charming farming community. Famous writers from the area include Christine Barkhuizen-le Roux and Leslie Howard.
The name Buffeljagsrivier is said to have originated from Governor Hendrick Swellengrebel’s son who visited the area and shot the last free roaming buffalo in the area. Oxen and cattle were traded at the trading post next to the river from 1730 - 1790.
A small farming community at the foot of the spectacular Langeberg mountains, this fertile region produces milk, cheese, vegetables, citrus, olives, and persimmons.
Buffeljags Dam offers a variety of activities including fishing, water sports and sunset cruises. Alternatively, just relax whilst enjoying the scenic views of the mountains and the splendour of nature. The Canola Gravel Routes for cyclists use the Oude Post Bistro & BP Filling Station as a starting point for some of these routes.
malgas & infanta
ABOUT Malgas & Infanta
On the banks of the Breede River, you will find the small town of Malgas. Previously known as Malagas, the area was used as a harbour for ships who travelled from Cape Town to deliver goods to Swellendam. A landmark to the area is the famous Pont, which was the last man powered ferry in the country. In 2020 it was replaced with a new motorised ferry. Visit their Facebook page @themalgaspont to check if it is operational at the time of your visit.
Stay either on land or water by hiring a houseboat. The Breede River allows for a variety of water sports and is known as a great fishing and bird watching spot and mostly a peaceful escape.
At the west mouth of the Breede River, sits a small village by the name of Infanta, approx. 29km from Malgas via a gravel road. Infanta is known for its undisturbed rocky shores, fishing and a great whale watching spot during whale season.
Suurbraak was formerly known as Xairu, meaning “beautiful” or “paradise”. Originally an Attaqua Khoekhoen settlement, Suurbraak was established in 1812 as a Mission Village by the London Missionary Society.
Situated approximately 20km to the East of Swellendam on the N2. Suurbraak still resembles its original layout. Modest cottages from the early settlers with wood burning stoves are found between big oak trees and next to running water streams. Traditional farming methods are still in use.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of trails hiking or biking, through forests, rivers, and waterfalls. Explore Suurbraak by foot through the streets and soak in the history of this preserved town. A quaint piece of heaven.