Western Cape, South Africa
The quaint town of Bredasdorp, which claims to be the first town or ‘dorp’ established in South Africa, lies on the slopes of a fairly high hill known as the Preekstoel (pulpit), in the midst of giant proteas and wheat fields. The proteas grow on the ridges of the hill and serve as one of the main products of the Bredasdorp district.
Bredasdorp is named after the first mayor of Cape Town, Michiel van Breda, who is also considered the father of the merino sheep industry in the country, having introduced the animals on to his farm, Zoetendals Vallei. Bredasdorp today is the economic hub of the Cape Agulhas region for local farmers and tourists to the area. The Overberg District Council’s Head Office is resident here and has been partly responsible for the fairly rapid development of the town. Despite this, Bredasdorp maintains its rural, ‘dorp’ type atmosphere and, like many of the little towns in this part of the world, offers a real ‘getaway’ from the madding crowds for city dwellers and for holiday makers.
An interesting rift between van Breda and his neighbour, Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl, resulted in a rent in the Dutch Reformed Church in Bredasdorp. The original NG church was built in 1860 and is still standing next to the rectory - a dignified example of neo-Gothic style architecture that forms part of the Shipwreck Museum complex. The rivalry led to the establishment of a second church in what is today the little town of Napier, but at the time was van der Byl’s farm. Independent Street in Bredasdorp is a tribute to the event.
Bredasdorp is probably best known for its Shipwreck Museum, which is the only one of its kind in the country. It offers an extensive collection of artefacts and furniture from ships wrecked along the coast and also showcases pieces specific to the Overberg. One can see cannons, chinaware, coins, buoys and ships bells, and the old parsonage or rectory, which has been restored, is furnished with pieces salvaged from shipwrecks, making it particularly interesting. Another of the rooms in the Shipwreck Museum is a tribute to South African author, Audrey Blignault, who was born in Bredasdorp.
The Heuningberg Nature Reserve at the top end of Van Riebeeck Street in Bredasdorp is a must for nature lovers and birders and offers various short hikes and walks in the nearby mountain.
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