Bredasdorp is a sleepy agricultural town in the midst of a peaceful landscape of sheep farms and wheatfields at the southern-most region of Africa. The town of Bredasdorp is clean and pleasant, situated on the slopes of a 368 m high hill called the Preekstoel (pulpit), on the ridges of which grow a profusion of giant proteas. Wheat, wool and wild flowers are the principal products of the Bredasdorp district.
Bredasdorp was established as South Africa’s first “dorp” (town) by Michiel van Breda in 1838. Van Breda, the first mayor of Cape Town, also regarded by many as the father of the merino sheep industry laid the foundation of the merino sheep on his farm Zoetendals Vallei. A rivalry between Michiel van Breda and his neighbour, P V van der Byl, led to the establishment of two separate churches on their farms and eventually two separate towns, Bredasdorp and Napier.
The grand old church remains the heart of modern Bredasdorp and forms part of an excellent museum complex. The restored Rectory is furnished in styles typical of several eras and is particularly interesting, because of the extensive use of furniture savaged from numerous shipwrecks. The neighbouring shipwreck museum has a range of exhibits from the skull of an unfortunate seaman to brass telescopes, finely made navigational instruments, exotic coins and superb china and ceramic ware.
Apart from its typical rural atmosphere, all essential services are available in Bredasdorp. Visitors regard this town as a conveniently situated base from which to explore the surrounding countryside.
Kapula Candles is famous for its more than 1 000 different candle designs. Kapula is a unique home-ware gallery offering visitors a true South African retail experience.
Arts and Crafts shops like the Antique Warehouse, Craft Corner, Julian Keyser Ceramics, Klippen Coffee & Gift Shop, Paleishuis and Pandora’s Box is popular Bredasdorp attractions.
The Shipwreck Museum is the only museum of its kind in South Africa. It displays an extensive collection of artifacts and furniture from ships wrecked along the South African coastline. It also contains showpieces specific to the Overberg.
There are three sections:
- The Independent Church, have cannons, figureheads, chinaware, coins, ship’s bells, buoys and other life-saving equipment.
- The Old Parsonage is a typical Strandveldhuis (Overberg home) and is complete with articles collected along the coast. Here, too for safekeeping, is a collection of newspaper cuttings and other trivia salvaged from various wrecks.
- The Old Coach House exhibits Cape carts, a scotch-cart, two horse-drawn hearses and a fine old fire engine.
The Foot of Africa Room is a commemorative room for the historical records of the famous Foot of Africa marathon. The 24th marathon took place in 2001.
The Audrey Blignault Room is furnished in honour of Audrey Blignault. She was born in Bredasdorp and enjoys national recognition as a writer, especially on the Bredasdorp area. The Foot of Africa and Audrey Blignault Room form part of the Tourism Bureau Complex.
Churches, like the impressive Dutch Reformed Church – 1911, is an example of Cape Gothic style architecture. The Reformed Church – 1996, is furnished with furniture from early 1900 churches and the Anglican Church – 1861, (All Saints) is a beautiful little stone church with stained glass windows.
Merino Ram Statue was erected in honour of the merino sheep which brought fame to this area, due to careful breeding by Michiel van Breda on his historic farm, Zoetendal Vallei. It can be seen at farmers’ co-op near the silos on the Swellendam Road.