As you drive into the the stunning town of Knysna it will become clear as to why it is often called the Jewel of the Garden Route. Situated along the Indian Ocean; home to a pristine estuary, and surrounded by hectares of lush indigenous forest; the gorgeous town offers visitors a chance to get to truly explore and experience the beauty of the Cape.
That’s not to say the bustling town centre won’t keep you busy. The town is world-renown for it’s divine oysters and seafood experiences, and is fast becoming the classic car capital of South Africa. The town is also becoming quite the golfing destination - boasting three Championship golf courses that not only offer superb play, but also merge with the natural beauty of their surrounds - making them an idyllic place to spend your day.
Things to do
For those looking for the fine dining, and luxury shopping experience, the Knysna Waterfront is the place to go. Indulge yourself with delicacies, such as the divine Knysna oyster and sparkling wine from the Cape Winelands, before exploring the shops and kiosks in search of local art pieces, jewelry and memorabilia.
A trip to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, located on the Western Knysna Head, is a must. Once you arrive via ferry, the only way to reach the reserve, you will be taken on a tour by one of the reserve’s specialist guides. The untouched beauty of the reserve is enough to takeaway the breath of most, and is complemented by the incredible knowledge the guides have of the surrounds.
The Featherbed Reserve should not be your only time spent in the glorious natural surrounds of Knysna. The Knysna Forests will offer you an entirely different experience. The lush greenery, and myriad of indigenous wildlife and fauna create a magical world that is like no other. There are numerous trails which can be walked, or bicycle ridden. For those horse-lovers, there is no other way to explore the forests than by horseback.
Of course the Knysna Forest is not the only place to explore on horseback. A ride along the famed estuary is a freeing experience, which is made even more special when taken at sunset. For those who are less horsey inclined, the warm Knysna Lagoon still offers plenty to do. A picnic and swim is an idyllic way to spend your day. And for those with an adventurous spirit (and a diving permit), a day spent underwater will offer you the chance to see a world exclusive to the estuary - as it homes 43% of South Africa’s Estuarine life; as well as the endemic, and the world’s most endangered seahorse, the Knysna Seahorse.
The Knysna Lagoon can also be explored on boat or kayak; in summer there will be as many as 500 boats on the water, taking in the peaceful surrounds and catching the sun. While fishing is not permitted in the Estuary, a short trip out beyond the Knysna Heads, into the open ocean will give fishing enthusiasts a chance to spend some quality time doing what they enjoy.
If you’re more of a land baby than a water baby, take some time to experience a once-in-a-lifetime elephant encounter at the Knysna Elephant Park. The Park was the first in the country to house and care for orphaned elephants - and you can meet their two very first orphans, Harry and Sally. The start of your elephant encounter, however, begins with learning a little more about these majestic creatures, and what the KEP does. From here you are taken to meet the elephants in their controlled, free-range environment. Want to spend more time with them - book an elephant-back ride, sunset walk or sundowner tour.
Continue your land-based Knysna adventure with a trip to the Knysna Millwood Goldmine. It was the discovery of Gold in the Millwood forest that put Knysna on the map. Within a week of first gold discovery, the town virtually blossomed. The Millwood mine tour starts with the Millwood Gold Museum, where you’ll have the chance to learn a little more about the discovery, and what came after. From here you’ll leave to do the mine walk - through the gorgeous Millwood forest. The 5.6km round walk takes you through the forest and to several key mining spots, including the Bendigo mine. The mining history isn’t the only reason to do the walk. The majestic natural beauty of the forest and spectacular views of Knysna, alone make the walk worth it.
Where to eat
Knysna offers a delicious myriad of choices when it comes to it’s dining experiences, but it’s seafood offerings that capture the attentions of most. Take your pick (or try them all) of the top ten best restaurants, cafes and coffee shops in Knysna.
For the ultimate Knysna Oyster experience head down to 34 South at the Waterfront. Not an Oyster fan - don’t worry, their seafood and landlover selections are mouth watering.
Stunning views, a divine seafood menu and a relaxed ambiance, make a visit to East Head Cafe the perfect place to enjoy the best Knysna has to offer.
The ultimate fine dining experience can be found at the uber stylish Zachary’s. The restaurant uses only the freshest ingredients, often from their own organic garden, in their seasonal menus. Booking is a must for this one.
Enjoy the taste of wholesome homemade food, and enjoy the relaxed vibe at The Olive Tree. It’s a favourite amongst locals and visitors for lunch.
For freshly baked goodies and tasty breakfasts, make sure you make a turn at Ile de Pain - famed in Knysna for their sumptuous treats.
A touch of Mediterranean flavour and tnd a smart-casual vibe, Pembrey’s is the place to go for those looking for a refreshing menu selection for lunch or dinner.
If you’re visiting the Featherbed Nature Reserve, make sure you book a meal on the John Benn - their floating restaurant. The boat takes you on an hour and a half cruise across the Lagoon, as you tuck into either their delicious Lunch or Dinner menu.
Teatimes should be spent indulging in the home baked treats at the Tin House on Cuyler. If you don’t have a sweet tooth there is a selection of light savoury delights to choose from.
Get your taste of South Africa at Caroline’s Bistro. This small, yet elegant restaurant offers a delightful menu featuring South African game and must-try traditional dishes.
Don’t leave Knysna without taking in a spectacular sunset, while sipping sundowners on the deck of Cornuti Al Mare. Their delish drinks and nom menu will keep you there well past sunset.
Where to stay
Knysna offers more than just places to spend a night, they offer you the chance to make your accommodation part of your Knysna experience! Houseboats/Floating Chalets allow you to truly get away from it all. Stay in one of the anchored floating chalets or charter your very own boathouse, either way, this style of accommodation will only add to your stay.
If water accommodation isn't for you then you'll find a variety of accommodation types, including self catering; B&Bs; guesthouses and camp sites, that are close to most activities and restaurants. It’s ideal for those who enjoy a vibey, friendly atmosphere.
Air: Knysna itself doesn’t have an airport. However, you can fly into George airport and drive the 70kms into Knysna. There are car rental agencies available at the airport, and most can be booked online.
Car Rental: Getting around Knysna is easiest by car. There are plenty of car rental agencies in the town, and most can be booked online.
Taxis/cabs: There are taxi services available in Knysna. These tend to be quite pricey if you intend to travel further that a few kilometers in them.
Did you know?
Knysna is commonly misspelt as nysna or Knisna.
The name ‘Knysna’ is thought to be a KhoiKhoi word which roughly translates to ‘Ferns’.
The Knysna Forest Elephant is the last bush elephant in Africa.
The Knysna Turaco, a bird endemic to South Africa, is usually called the Knysna Lourie by the locals.
The endangered Knysna Seahorse is endemic to only three estuaries in South Africa - with the Knysna Estuary being the biggest.