Swellendam's small-town rural ambience is changing fast as a number of young entrepreneurs, both local and foreign, have opted to drop out and live the rural life. Bloomestate (tel. 028/514-2984; www.bloomestate.com; R900-R1,500 double) will suit travelers who prefer contemporary design -- even the banana trees sprouting outside make a change from the ubiquitous oaks everywhere else. The two sets of rooms -- modern, with furniture by some interesting designers and MP3 docking stations -- open onto landscaped gardens, a heated saltwater pool and a Jacuzzi perched above a pond thick with lily pads. Sip drinks in an extremely stylish lemon, lime, and gray lounge. Neighbor Rothman Manor (tel. 028/514-2771; R820-R1,750 double) has similar grounds (down to the Jacuzzi and pond, although they do also have a couple of springbok and zebra), but their six rooms (not all have tubs) are more private. Inside, contemporary decor with an African edge contrasts with the whitewashed Cape Dutch exterior. If you don't mind stairs, go for the extralarge suite.

If you'd prefer to stay in a more traditional homestead atmosphere, a good-value option, with suites and cottages scattered in the abundant gardens of a historic Cape Dutch National Monument, is Augusta De Mist Country House (tel. 028/514-2425; www.augustademist.com; R900-R1,500 double, including breakfast; ask about winter and low-season rates). The rooms all look good, but the tastefully furnished Arum and Varkoor cottages, with reed ceilings and fireplaces, are particularly nicely situated at the top of the garden. You can easily walk to some of the town's best restaurants. This is also true of Schoone Oordt. For old-world luxury, Klippe Rivier Country House (tel. 028/514-3341; www.klipperivier.com; R1,100-R2,400 double; R3,000 cottage), built in the 1820s, is still a premium address, although the location on the outskirts of town means you'll have to do some driving. Rooms are elegant and spacious, strewn with antiques, reading matter, orchids, and art; the downstairs rooms all have fireplaces for winter nights, and there's a honeymoon cottage for those who want to be quite alone. Even if you don't stay (it is pricey and service can be a tad snooty), consider treating yourself to a three-course dinner here (from R195 per person; reservations essential).

Although Swellendam's newcomers have been giving the country retreats a run for their money, it's still worthwhile to head farther afield: A lovely 30-minute drive from Swellendam along the R60, Jan Harmsgat Country House (tel. 023/616-3407 or 072/279-3138; www.jhghouse.com; R1,100-R2,060 double including breakfast) is a 1723 working fruit, olive, and nut farm with a wonderful mountain backdrop -- possibly the most serene setting in the Overberg -- and justifiably famous for fine country meals. Next-door neighbor Mardouw Country House (tel. 023/616-2999; www.mardouw.com; R1,430-R2,140 double; R1,950-R2,714 suite), more glam boutique hotel than 1,000-hectare (2,471-acre) working farm, has upped the ante in the country house category. Last, if you're watching your budget, or simply crave real privacy, Tersia and Jeremy at Eenuurkop Getaway Cottage have done a wonderful job of renovating two self-catering cottages on their farm, both enjoying an idyllic setting just outside of Swellendam, and offering peace, privacy, and excellent value (tel. 082/956-9461; www.eenuurkop.co.za; R600 (sleeps 2)-R800 (sleeps 8).

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.