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Knysna Snapshot

A certain travel brochure puts it thus: "Every visit to Knysna is an adventure." And so it is, especially in peak season when bumper-to-bumper Gauteng traffic and shuffling crowds can trigger an adrenaline rush second to none. First things first, then: Knysna (495km from Cape Town) is no longer the drowsy village it used to be, a refuge for rat-race escapees, tie-dye T-shirt makers and aspiring artists – the Garden Route's tourist boom has put an end to that illusion. Although there's no immediate beach to call its own, Knysna reigns as the undisputed capital of the Garden Route. What the town lacks in sea frontage it makes up with an ethereal lagoon and ancient forests, and a Georgian and Victorian atmosphere you won't find in other Garden Route towns. Although the town has outgrown itself, the surrounding area still offers tranquillity. If this is what you're looking for, the best self-catering beds can be found away from the centre, either along or above the lagoon, or buried deep under the forest canopy.

Things To Do

  • Ease into Knysna by paying a visit to the tourist office on Main Street and collecting your free Information Guide, a useful and detailed brochure containing a map, town background info, as well as restaurant and activity listings.
     
  • Don't come to Knysna for a languid beach holiday: the closest waves are at Brenton-on-Sea, 20km away. However, for families with young children, the wave-free Knysna Lagoon is perfect. Leisure Island in particular has excellent swimming and a glimpse of ocean through the Knysna Heads. For a closer view, there's a dramatic little beach at Coney Glenn on the eastern Head, popular for picnics and fishing. Work your way up to the top of the Head and you'll be rewarded with a fantastic view out to sea and across the lagoon.
     
  • Knysna is synonymous with indigenous forests and the reason to prolong your stay. Although only a splinter (65 000ha) of their former glory (200 000ha) and no longer home to Khoi clans and a vast array of wildlife (including elephant herds), the forests remain unique and are best experienced on foot along a number of marked walks. And yes, while you have more chance of winning the Lotto than spotting a famed Knysna Nellie, you could well see vervet monkeys, bushbuck, blue duiker and the Knysna lourie.
     
  • Thanks to the devastating success of 19th century timber merchants, the forest reserves are some distance from town. About 30km away, the Goudveld Forest harbors the deserted mining town of Millwood (with its old mine shafts and rusty equipment), several hikes (Jubilee Creek is the most satisfying) and the 19km Homtini mountain bike trail. Diepwalle State Forest lies closer to Knysna (20km) and has an impressive number of huge trees, especially yellowwoods, which you can view close up on the circular Elephant Walk.
     
  • Despite its interesting past as a timber town, Knysna falls a little short on the museum front. The Millwood House Museum has a display of old photographs; originally built for convicts, the Old Goal Complex houses an art gallery and a Maritime Museum; Belvidere’s Holy Trinity Church (circa 1855) is a fine example of 12th century Norman architecture, while St George's Church (1855) features broad yellowwood floorboards and other attractive timber touches.
     
  • With close to 100 restaurants and coffee shops (we're thumbsucking here but you get the point), Knysna has something for every taste bud. Oysters are an obvious choice, with the Knysna Oyster Company holding marketshare, but trading more on name than quality and service, which we found shoddy to be quite honest. Most eateries are concentrated in the centre of town, or around the Knysna Quays Waterfront - head to the latter for that elusive holiday-by-the-sea vibe.
     
  • Knysna offers a variety of outdoor pursuits, from the tame to the terrifying. Again, your best bet is a stroll to the local tourist office and grab a fistful of brochures. 
     
  • Join the icecream-lickers from Gauteng and trawl the craft and woodwork shops lining Knysna's main drag (Main Street). The Waterfront at Knysna Quays is slightly more relaxed, with a pleasant outlook and several decent restaurants.
Getaways in and around Knysna
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From
R480pp

Homtini Guest Farm

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Three forest cottages, a renovated parkhome and four safari style tents on the edge of the Knysna forest - 22km from Knysna

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From
R350pp

Lazy Leopard Forest Retreat

Knysna, Western Cape

Forest setting with two romantic 'bush huts' and a house - 15km from the centre of Knysna

Situated just off the scenic Rheenendal country road, Lazy Leopard offers three very appealing options: two romantic 'bush huts' called Forest Moon and Starry Forest and the larger Blue Hills Cot...

From
R2000
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Trail House

Knysna, Western Cape

Renovated farm cottage with access to Garden Route Trail Park - in Barrington (28km from Knysna)

Listen up ye mountain bikers and trail runners... Here’s a getaway where nature and the open trail go hand in hand. Sitting against a backdrop of Outeniqua Mountains, Trail House is a...

From
R200pp

Tree Spirit Cottage

Knysna, Western Cape

Organic farm with two rustic-luxury cottage overlooking a dam - 15km from Knysna

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From
R400pp

Syringa Tree Cottage

Knysna, Western Cape

Nicely decorated double-storey cottage above the town centre - in Knysna

Set on the lush tree-lined street in an older part of Knysna, this double-storey home is fit for a fabulous family vacation. Starting upstairs, you'll find the open-plan kitchen and the bits and bobs...

From
R100pp

Monks Holiday Chalets and Caravan Park

Knysna, Western Cape

Budget friendly campsite and chalets - in Knysna

Rooted at the edge of the Knysna Lagoon is where you will find Monks Holiday Chalets and Caravan Park. If you are a keen camper, then Monks is your go-to holiday spot. Not only is it easy on the pocke...

From
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Velvet Moon Cottage

Knysna, Western Cape

Character cottage within the Simola Golf and Country Estate - in Knysna

Hidden between trees on the banks of the Knysna River, Velvet Moon Cottage lies within the appealing Simola Golf and Country Estate. Described by a recent guest as a "little gem of a cottage", i...

From
R300pp

Lolly's Cottage

Knysna, Western Cape

Secluded off-the-grid timber cottage with valley and lagoon views - in Knysna

If you are looking for a special place to spend some time with a special someone, look no further than Lolly's Cottage. Lolly's is a private one-bedroom cottage in a beautiful setting spilling magnif...

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Protea Guest House

Knysna, Western Cape

Three private timber cottages set in a tropical garden with lagoon views - in Knysna

You'll find this spot rooted in a bright tropical garden in one of Knysna's most heavenly corners. Protea Guest House is made up by three timber cottages, all exhibiiting individual flair. Cottage O...

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