Bontebok National Park (tel. 028/514-2735, or 012/428-9111 for reservations; www.sanparks.org; summer daily 7am-7pm, winter daily 7am-6pm) lies 7km (4 1/4 miles) out of town to the north and is accessible by car or mountain bike. South Africa's smallest reserve, it's dedicated to saving the once near-extinct chocolate and cream-colored bontebok antelope, plus the rare coastal renosterveld fynbos it grazes on. There are no large predators in the park, but it is a peaceful place to spend a day, with some easy walking trails along the Breede River. The self-catering chalets (R705 double) have been upgraded and offer good-value (if not plush) accommodation.
Back in the early 1700s, the Dutch East India Company was perturbed by the number of men deserting the Cape Colony to find freedom and fortune in the hinterland. Swellendam was consequently declared a magisterial district in 1743, making it the third-oldest white settlement in South Africa and bringing its reprobate tax evaders once again under the Company fold. In 1795, the burghers finally revolted against this unwanted interference and declared Swellendam a republic, but the Cape's occupation by British troops later that year made their independence rather short lived. Swellendam continued to flourish under British rule, but a devastating fire in 1865 razed much of the town. Almost a century later, transport planners ruined the main road, Voortrek Street, by ripping out the oaks that lined it, ostensibly to widen it. Two important historical sites to have survived on this road are, at no. 36, the Oefeningshuis (where the tourism bureau is located), built in 1838, and, at no. 11, the over-the-top baroque Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1901.
The Drostdy Museum complex (tel. 028/514-1138; Mon-Fri 9am-4:45pm; Sat-Sun 10am-3:45pm) comprises the Drostdy, the Old Goal and Ambagswerf (Trade's Yard), Mayville House, and Zanddrift, now an excellent daytime restaurant. The Drostdy was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 to serve as residence for the landdrost (magistrate), and features many of the building traditions of the time: yellowwood from the once abundant forests, cow-dung and peach-pit floors, elegant fireplaces, and, of course, Cape Dutch gables. The Drostdy also houses an excellent collection of late-18th-century and early-19th-century Cape furniture in the baroque, neoclassical, and Regency styles.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.