Swakopmund is much loved because of its old-world charm and relaxed atmosphere. Founded in 1892 during the period of German colonial rule, it served as the territory's main harbour for many years.
Today's lush green lawns, palm trees and carefully tended and colorful public gardens enhance this curious desert town, hedged by desert and sea. Swakopmund has several excellent restaurants, pubs and discos and a few nightclubs. A special feature of the town is its jewelry shops, which offer pieces ranging from contemporary African to continental designs. Art and craft shops offer local products, while street vendors sell Namibian rural art.
The museum on the beachfront was founded by Dr Alfons Weber in 1951, and contains the largest collection of birds' eggs in Namibia. The reference library, known as the Sam Cohen Library, comprises some 6 000 volumes, including the renowned 2 000-title Africana collection of the late Ferdinand Stich. The archives, housed in the same building, allow visitors access to a unique collection of newspapers dating from 1898 to the present day.
Year-round sport and recreation include paragliding, hang-gliding, surfing, windsurfing, yachting, sand skiing, skydiving and golf etc. The golf course in its desert setting has been described as one of the best in southern Africa.
A popular feature of the Namib-Naukluft Park is the Welwitschia Trail, which lies east of Swakopmund. The route is marked with stone beacons and offers a close look at the Welwitschia mirabilis, a botanical curiosity endemic to the Namib Desert and one of the most intriguing and bizarre plants on earth. Sprawling untidily on the desert plains, the Welwitschia is believed to have a lifespan of up to 2 000 years.
The plant produces only two leaves throughout its lifetime. The desert winds tear at the fibrous, evergreen blades, shredding them into strips that curl into snake-like thongs, leaving the tips withered and dry. A large concentration of these plants is found along the Welwitschia Trail. While this is their most southern distribution, Welwitschia's occur as far northwards as the south-western corner of Angola. A magnificent specimen, known as the Great Welwitschia and estimated to be about 1 500 years old, can be seen along the Welwitschia Trail.
A scenic desert drive along a proclaimed road through the Namib-Naukluft Park stops at a lookout point over the valley known as the Moon landscape. Soft overlaying levels of earth, deposited some 450 million years ago, were eroded over millenniums to create this eerie landscape.
An unexpected cluster of eucalyptus and palm trees on the banks of the Swakop River at the farm Goanikontes surrounds a historic farmhouse dating back to the mid-1850s. In earlier times the farm had a thriving vegetable garden and supplied fresh produce to Swakopmund. Goanikontes is now a popular picnic site and venue for all-night parties.