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A microcosm of natural beauty, West Hill in the seaside town of Knysna on South Africa’s famed Garden Route is harmoniously surrounded by ancient dunes and cliffs, a pristine river with estuary, beaches and natural forest.
West Hill is separated from the Knysna Lagoon only by the national highway, the suburb’s thick vegetation acting as a natural sound barrier. The roads leading into the suburb rise gradually for residents to enjoy uninterrupted views of the waters and in the distance, the Knysna Heads guarding either side of the river mouth.
The region experiences mild temperatures throughout the year and although the rainy period occurs between October and December, is still considered a year round tourist destination.
West Hill is within easy walking distance of Knysna’s town centre, the estuary, vibrant Thesen’s Island and a nature reserve.
Top 8 reasons to visit West Hill
1. Knysna offers plentiful shopping at Woodmill Lane and Knysna Mall, both a short walk from West Hill. While in the town centre, check out the Old Gaol museum, which doubles as an art gallery, and the old Anglican stone church.
2. Spend a day at Bollard Bay beach on Leisure Island to soak up the sun and enjoy the calm safe water, ideal for families with young children.
3. Take a walk to the Pledge Nature Reserve to reach the highest point along the stream for excellent views of Knysna and surrounds. The reserve is home to vast birdlife and various small mammals. Full moon hikes are popular here.
4. Visit Thesen Harbour Town for a workout at the gym followed by a plate of fresh oysters – direct from the estuary – at one of the many restaurants overlooking the water.
5. Enjoy a sunset cruise to the Knysna Heads on board the John Benn luxury double-deck ferry. A superior meal is offered and there are bars on both decks.
6. Hire a set of clubs and visit the Knysna Driving Range where golf pros are on hand to provide assistance with your stance and swing. For the serious golfer, the facility offers video analysis of the swing.
7. A tour of South Africa’s oldest microbrewery, Mitchells Brewery, includes a walk through the brewing process and tastings of their beers, all made without preservatives.
8. Assemble a picnic basket and travel the R339 inland to reach the Valley of Ferns picnic site. The forests in the valley are scattered with huge tree ferns reaching 4m in height. Nearby is the Diepwalle Forest where short walks can be taken to view colossal, ancient trees.
West Hill is 75km away from George Airport. A number of car rental agencies are located in Knysna and at the George airport to hire a vehicle, or you could order a rental online. Several metered taxi companies operate in Knysna. Shuttle service operators transport visitors between George Airport and West Hill.
Did you know?
The yellowwood tree, commonly seen in the Knysna forest, is South Africa’s national tree. The tree grows to heights of 40m with trunks 6-8m in circumference. Some ancient examples can be seen in the Diepwalle area.
One evening in 2015, a transport company clearing alien vegetation had their parked (and expensive) logging vehicle overturned. The owners were delighted, knowing that the Knysna elephants are still roaming the forests. This breed of elephant is slowly nearing extinction and until this incident, was believed to have all but died out.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.