Knysna, Garden Route
Once you've booked your Knysna accommodation explore our pages for info on attractions and what to do in Knysna.
Knysna is a natural paradise of lush, indigenous forests, tranquil lakes and golden beaches. She nestles on the banks of a breathtakingly pretty lagoon, now a protected marine reserve that is home to the extraordinary sea horse and over 200 species of fish.
Beaches, lakes, mountains and rivers provide endless opportunity for leisure and outdoor adventure. Within the town, craft shops, flea-markets and cosy cafés beckon with small-town charm and hospitality. The area around Knysna is a veritable Garden of Eden. This is home of the only forest elephant in South Africa, the rare Pansy Shell, the brilliantly coloured, and elusive, Knysna Loerie, a plethora of waterfowl and forest birds, dolphins and visiting whales.
The indigenous forests in Knysna constitute the largest complex of closed-canopy forest in southern Africa, whilst the remarkable richness of the Fynbos vegetation contributes over 8000 plant species to the Cape floral kingdom. Exploring the Knysna forests, along demarcated walks, with the occasional call of the Loerie, provides a complete escape into a former time when many elephants trod these paths, particularly if you’ve read Dalene Matthee’s ‘Circles in a forest’.
Today a mere three elephants are reputed to still roam the forest. The Knysna Elephant Park has brought the elephant back to Knysna and all the elephants are former orphans rescued from culling operations in the Kruger National Park, except for Thandi who was born in the park.
The main street of Knysna, lined with small boutiques and shops, is actually a part of the N2 highway, which passes directly through the center of the town en route to the Eastern Cape and beyond. Reached from the Cape Town direction by a narrow causeway, and built on a natural lagoon, virtually enclosed by the famed Knysna heads, this small town is bound on all sides by hills and mountains, covered with indigenous vegetation. Taking advantage of this lagoon setting are the houseboat operators, who offer these leisure vessels on lease to the public. Renting a houseboat ensures both a unique accommodation experience, and an opportunity to explore the town and surrounds in an entirely different way.
A part of the migratory route of the Southern Right and other whale species, it is possible to view these marine mammals during the months of August and September, while dolphins are year round visitors. For thrillseekers, options abound, with everything from paragliding over the coastline, abseiling and skydiving, to scuba diving and tree top canopy tours within easy reach of the town.
In times gone by, the area was home to large family groups of elephants. These herds have since disappeared, however, a visit to the elephant sanctuary will give visitors the opportunity to view these majestic beasts in their natural element. Another sanctuary that will attract animal lovers is the wolf sanctuary, located on the N2 heading out of town, towards Plettenberg Bay.
Along this same stretch of highway, several local crafters and artists have set up studios and galleries that are well worth a visit. For lovers of the good life, a visit planned during the annual Knysna Oyster Festival will provide opportunities to sample these locally farmed delicacies, however, during the year, these and other delights are still available from various eateries located in the harbour and elsewhere in town.
The harbour area and the Knysna Waterfront is also home to most of Knysna’s nightlife, with several bars, restaurants and clubs where patrons can enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset over the heads. Golf enthusiasts will find the area a treat, with several world-class courses on offer both in Knysna itself, and in neighbouring towns. Fancourt in George is within easy reach, and Simola, Pezula and the Knysna golf course are all located in the town itself.
One of the top attractions on the entire Garden Route, the Choo-Choo steam train provides some of the best views of the coastline and hidden valleys inaccessible by car. First opened in 1928, the 68km Choo-Choo is the last fully operational steam train in South Africa and chugs across the Knysna lagoon into the verdant valleys and lakeside settings that lead to Wilderness, where it traverses the Kaaimans River gorge, past Victoria Bay to Knysna. Most locomotives date back to 1948 (though some are over a century old) with timber-and-leather-fitted carriages dating from 1903 to 1950. Grab a window seat, the views really are spectacular.
Knysna Elephant Park - This safari is undertaken in four-wheel-drive vehicles that depart from reception every half-hour. You are guaranteed an opportunity to touch the three elephants that roam the 75 hectare reserve. There are now seven elephants, most of whom were born in the Kruger Park, and have now been returned to "the home of their ancestors." You can walk with the elephants through the forests.
For more info see some of our articles about the town of Knysna on the SA Travel News Blog:
• A few reasons to visit Knysna ...
• 10 Great things to do when next in Knysna
• Knysna, South Africa's favourite holiday destination
• A visit to Featherbed Nature Reserve
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"Knysna is a must to visit, it is beautiful and there is so much to ..." - Amy, Cape Town
Visitorials: We Love South Africa
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We’ve asked those in the know to share their favourites things about Knysna. Find out where locals go for the best cup of coffee, lunch suggestions and much more. We’re letting you in on all of their secrets ... I Love Knysna because ...
Featured Attractions in (or near) Knysna
The world’s largest single span aviary, just a few kilometres east of Plettenberg Bay in the Garden Route, where birds are free to fly free provides an incredible experience for those who visit, and a wonderful way of life for over 2000 previously caged birds.The completely unique venture of Birds of Eden is... more information
The Eden to Addo biodiversity corridor connects the Western Cape and Eastern Cape with a far reaching dream that underlies the project – that of restoring the ancient elephant migration paths across the Cape, and the effects this would have on the ecological balance of the region. The corridor links the Garden Route National ... more information
A Natural Heritage site, the Featherbed Nature Reserve in Knysna is an utterly unique privately owned reserve that lies on the Western Head of the famous landmarks known as 'The heads' in Knysna, accessible only by ferry. Many people make a day of it, catching the ferry across the lagoon, going on a drive or walk ... more information
The new Garden Route National Park, established by SANParks and also known as GRNP, spans an impressive 121 000 hectares and includes the existing Wilderness and Tsitsikamma national parks, the Knysna Lakes area and roughly 52 000 hectares of newly proclaimed land. Still regarded as 'new' the ... more information
The Garden Route produces some fantastic wines. The cool, wet winters and temperate summers (with their own fair share of rains) make for the perfect conditions in which to cultivate a range of red, white and rosé wines. Popular wine farms include Jakkalsvlei Vineyards in the Langeberg ... more information
The glorious Goukamma Nature Reserve is one of those unrivalled hideaways that, despite being on the popular Garden Route, manages to remain relatively obscure and unknown - a treasure trove near the mouth of the Goukamma River. Goukamma Nature and Marine Reserve, just 20 kilometres west of Knysna... more information
The Kaaimans River Pass connects the towns of Knysna and George on the Garden Route. It lies on the N2, a tarred pass that during the 2006 heavy rains in the area was placed under severe strain when a huge chunk of the pass slipped into the sea, forcing the N2 to close between the two major towns... more information
Head off towards Nature’s Valley from Plettenberg Bay on the N2 and Keurbooms River Nature Valley lies roughly 8 km along the major route of the N2. The beautiful Keurbooms River nature reserve that stretches over a distance of 2500 hectares, is bisected by the Keurbooms River and overlooks the estuary... more information
Get up-close-and-personal with nature at Knysna Elephant Park. With the help of our resident African elephants and our well-informed guides- you will learn about the sad and mystical story of the Knysna Elephants. The park offers a rare opportunity to get close to these gentle giants... more information
The Knysna Golf course is probably the only golf course in South Africa which can boast holes that are below sea level. The Knysna Golf Club is situated on the eastern shores of the tranquil Knysna estuary one of the most beautiful regions of South Africa. Nestled on the shores of the Knysna Lagoon... more information
The town of Knysna is exquisite, perched conveniently on the Garden Route. It is situated on the banks of a magnificent lagoon, which stretches out to the Indian Ocean at a dramatic point between the towering twin peaks known as The Heads. In the heart of this scenic beauty is the... more information
Formerly this national park consisted of the Wilderness National Park and Knysna National Lake Area. Because of their proximity and similarities they are currently managed as a single unit. The Knysna National Lake Area is home to the endangered Knysna seahorse and a large diversity of marine... more information
Monkeyland is the worlds first free roaming multi-specie primate sanctuary. Monkeyland, is unique in that the sanctuary caters for several species of primate, and they are not caged, they are free to move about the forest, and do so in harmony. Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary is a modern primate sanctuary... more information
It is with great sadness that we need to report that the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe is no longer in operation. Information supplied here for historical purposes only: One of the few remaining steam trains in the country. Steam enthusiasts are in their element and everyone enjoys the splendid views of lakes, forests, beaches ... more information
Situated in the very heart of the Garden Route, on sweeping coastal cliffs, east of the charming town of Knysna, Pezula encompasses a world-class Championship Golf Course and Club. The Championship Golf Course lies high above the Indian Ocean and the vast Knysna lagoon... more information
This 10 hectare local nature reserve functions as something of a green lung in Knysna, lying as it does just behind Main Road. Made up of forest, wetland and fynbos, Pledge Nature Reserve it is not only beautiful - filled with indigenous plants, cool ponds and streams and a ... more information
The Prince Alfred Pass is another built by the indefatigable Thomas Bain, between 1860 and 1867. It was to be one of his biggest challenges, as the road cut through dense forest and climbs 700 metres in just 14 kilometres. The pass links Knysna with the little town of Avontuur on the R62. It is also fairly difficult ... more information
Just outside Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route is a beautiful, remote rocky peninsula touted as the most popular walking destination in and around Plettenberg Bay. Robberg Nature Reserve is a charged booster of outdoor living - incredible scenery, views over shoreline and sea, a thriving Cape fur seal colony... more information
Keeping your head down at Simola can be a challenge; simply because the views around the course are awe-enspiring, and with this, it is clear to see why Simola takes its place as one of South Africa's premier golfing destinations. It's also the first Jack Nicklaus Signature course on the... more information
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