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Historic Swartvlei Beach Cottages 

The daunting job of restoring the historic Swartvlei beach cottages couldn’t have been handled by a better person than Nic Kruger because this project exemplifies his passion, talent and craftmanship.

The Historic Swartvlei Beach Cottages Restoration TeamOne of the historic Swartvlei Beach Cottages and its Restoration Team.

Owning two synergistic companies, Pure Salvage and Eden Stone in Knysna, Nic has made a living of doing just this! As a master of salvage, for nigh on 20 years, he has been discovering and recovering abandoned ship wrecks from back yards, boat yards, farm yards, landfill and other unlikely places and repurposing as much of the wood as possible into fine objects of usefulness and beauty. In similar fashion, he also builds specifically with natural stone and specialises in natural stone cladding.

It is not surprising then, that for nearly the same period, he, has harbored the dream of restoring the dilapidated historic Swartvlei beach cottages, a languishing eye-sore, every time he passed  by them to go spearfishing at Gericke’s Point.

First Swartvlei cottage before renovationFirst Swartvlei Cottage before its renovation

It was inevitable the day would come when he determinedly tracked down the owners and made a deal with them to revitalize these abandoned remnants of the Swartvlei Campers history.

It is a history going back over 200 years, long before the town of Sedgefield was even thought of! The most noticeable rundown building, originally known as the Yellowwood cottage, was built by the Robertson family. When it burned down, it was rebuilt some years later with well-treated Oregon pine. This was the wood that Nic worked with. 

The Dream Team that has salvaged the historic Swartvlei Beach Cottages

Nic realized from the outset he needed team mates to join him on his journey to make it a successful venture. He found 3 business partners willing to combine their resources with him in the form of finance, labour, building materials and networking skills. 

Nic Eric and the working TeamNic and Erick with the Pure Salvage Team

Nic funded the restoration project together with Erick van der Burgh, Hugo Dippenaar & Zak Smit, much of the physical labour being done by Nic’s business team at Pure Salvage & Eden Stone.

Erick has invested in the project financially and agreed to be Project Manager so he manages all its aspects including the bookings and all on-going work related to the cottages.

Hugo is the business owner of Ivy Garden Solutions in Knysna, a landscaping and gardening service, who Nic shared the dream with. Hugo immediately asked to be part of the venture – his role became assisting with the landscaping and providing financial backing.

Johan (known as Zak) is a friend of Erick's and a former colleague of Nic's who has done a lot of work for him as a project manager over several years. Zak works overseas now in the USA and participates by contributing investment capital needed to further restore the cottages. 

Historic Swartvlei Beach Cottages Restoration Project gets underway

Some Restoration Steps1. Clearing out of years of rubbish 2. The deck in the process of being repaired and rebuilt. 3. The deck roof in place. 4. Eden Blue Stone used to build a retaining wall.

Very quickly, the persistent dream became real possibility as the restoration project for the historic Swartvlei Beach Cottages  got underway. It began in earnest with a massive clean-up day on 1 July 2023.  Years of buried refuse and all kinds of rubbish had to be cleared away.

Start of front retaining WallStart of front Retaining Wall

However, once all the clutter and refuse was out of the way, everyone was surprised to discover the quality of the wood the house had been built with. The treated wood had survived the long period of neglect extremely well and it turned out the workmen were able to use most of it again in the restoration of the house.

Erick Van Der Burgh

Meanwhile, Erick, had gotten in touch with Trevor Guy Robertson who readily shared his family’s history surrounding the cottage. Subsequently, the team felt morally obliged to preserve the essence of the building to maintain the tangible spirit of the place and barely altered environment, as it reminded them daily of its historical significance particularly with regard to the huge Robertson clan and the Swartvlei campers whose families through generations still return to the campsite every Christmas time..

Trevor(left) with his cousin,Norman at the campsite circa 1980sTrevor (left) with his cousin, Norman at the Swartvlei Campsite circa 1980s

Trevor sent Erick old family photos of the large Robertson clan at the cottage and the campsite and the surrounding area where they had been part of the regular gathering of the Swartvlei campers from its earliest days. This allowed the restoration team to let the photos and the landscape guide them to perceptively recreate what had naturally arisen there previously.

Alot of stone for retaining wallsStone for the Retaining Walls

As happens in the majority of old building restoration cases, the budget the team envisaged was not how it played out on the ground. The desire to do it right has a way of overcoming the monetary aspects. Or as Erick said,”. Not what we had in mind!” (I doubt they'll be sorry in the long run!) 

The access to the property had to be made more manageable and the outdoor surrounds, more people friendly, which meant retaining walls and terracing to provide level communal outdoor seating areas.

Outdoor Seating and braai areaMilkwood Cottage - Outdoor Seating and Braai Area

Although much of the wood was salvageable, and the bones of the house were good, the foundations had to be redone, the roof repaired, the water storage tank had to be fixed, electricity supply brought to the property and connected, the windows reframed and appropriate glass fitted.

Last but not least the house, given the name of Milkwood Cottage, had to be appropriately refurbished in an authentic, sympathetic way to support and express the ethos of the place and it’s position.

It was also necessary to install security. Needless to say, this has all been successfully accomplished.

View of Swartvlei Lake from the cottageView of Swartvlei Lake from Milkwood Cottage

Milkwood Cottage was finished right on time for the arrival of its first guests on the 16th of December 2023 who will no doubt relish their prime position of a splendid view of Swartvlei Lake and the Outeniqua Mountains on one side and on the other side, the magnificent sight of the Indian Ocean in sound of the crashing waves with the potential to see dolphins and whales in the bay, all from their comfy seats on the covered verandah!

Ocean view from the covered verandahOcean view from the covered verandah of Milkwood Cottage

The Historic Swartvlei Beach Cottages are OPEN  for holidays

Renovated Milkwood Cottage and two to goRenovated Milkwood Cottage and two to go

What do the intrepid investors of the Swartvlei Beach Cottages Restoration Project want in return?

They have already experienced the first part of their journey i.e. to look at Milkwood Cottage and feel proud of what they’ve achieved. (I would say they have exceeded anyone's and everyone's expectations and done the MOST AMAZING Job!)

Milkwood Cottage holiday readyMilkwood Cottage holiday ready

They would like to see families enjoy the sea view serenity and to let the cottage to be lived in: for holidays makers, getaway weekends, paragliding groups, family get-togethers etc.

And most of all, they want visitors to appreciate the history of the place, to honour and protect it including the magnificent environment that surrounds it.

Mikwood Cottage CollageA glimpse, a tiny taste of what Milkwood Cottage at Swartvlei Beach offers!

Milkwood Cottage Swartvlei Beach

You can find out more information about the historical Swartvlei Beach Cottages Renovation and/or make a booking on their website 

or speak to Erick  Cell: 27 79 495 6763
or Email:

Related Links

Pure Salvage Banner

Salvaged timber offers a unique and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wood sources. Choosing salvaged timber helps reduce deforestation, lowers the carbon footprint, and gives new life to materials that would otherwise be discarded.

Hand-crafted Eden Stone

As a team of natural stone experts and highly experienced stone masons, Eden Stone is known throughout the Garden Route for their expertise and skill in the use of natural stone and rock: from stone cladding or veneering  to solid-stone building, construction and renovation, maintenance, repairs and restoration, landscaping and retaining walls, paving and more.

They are dedicated to sustainable construction practices, minimizing waste, responsibly sourcing materials, and prioritising eco-friendly solutions to reduce their environmental footprint.