#TravelTuesday: Knysna, the pearl of the Garden Route

An areal view of the ocean flowing through the Knysna Heads into the Knysna lagoon.
An areal view of the ocean flowing through the Knysna Heads into the Knysna lagoon.
Image: Hoberman Collection/ Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Knysna is a destination of expansive lagoons and indigenous forests surrounded by the Outeniqua Mountain range in the heart of the popular Garden Route.

Its unique industry, oyster farming, speaks to the level of dining indulgence visitors to this quaint town can expect while its natural beauty caters to both travellers who want to unwind and those in search of fresh air, fun and a hint of excitement. 

When to travel

If you’re travelling in search of good weather, the hottest months in Knysna are between November and April. While Knysna does have an all-year temperate climate, you can experience rain at any time of the year.

If you want to avoid the throngs of visitors over the Christmas holidays, opt to visit between February and April.

Knysna is a cultural hub of festivals year-round. Some of the biggest include the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival which is happening from the 30th of May to the 1st of June this year, The Knysna Oyster Festival which is happening from the 21st to the 30th of June and the Leisure Isle Festival which encourages visitors to buy local and is happening on the 9th and 10th of November.

How to get there

Knysna is situated in the middle of the garden route and is just under an hour’s drive from George and half an hour from Plettenberg Bay. It can be accessed by car via the N2 in both directions.

The nearest international airport is Cape Town which is just over a five hour drive from Knysna. The closest local airports are Plettenberg Bay and George.

Knysna is serviced by all the major bus companies in South Africa mainly travelling between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. There is currently no rail service to Knysna so travelling to Knysna by road is recommended if you want to experience the wonders of the Garden Route. Bear in mind, if you opt for the scenic route this will add time to your journey.

Highlights you shouldn’t miss

1. Established in 1994, the the Knysna Elephant Park was the first in South Africa to house and care for orphaned African elephants. Promoting the ethics of responsible tourism, it has become a world-class facility where visitors can experience elephant interactions in an unspoilt environment. You can undertake a daily guided tour that departs from the reception area every half hour, every day between 09h00 and 15h00. Other interactions include a breakfast picnic walk, afternoon elephant walks or an exclusive interaction over sundowners. They also offer accommodation in their luxury elephant lodge built within the elephant sleeping quarters.

Get up close and personal with these majestic creatures at the Knysna Elephant Park.
Get up close and personal with these majestic creatures at the Knysna Elephant Park.
Image: Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

2. The Heads is a must-see viewpoint in Knysna. From the northern side of the viewpoint you can see the Knysna lagoon, Leisure Isle and Featherbed Nature Reserve. The name is derived from the two sandstone cliffs that make a notoriously dangerous passage through which the Indian Ocean channels into the lagoon.  

3. Hop on a boat cruise to explore Knysna’s lagoon and take a trip to the Heads with one of the various companies that offer family-friendly cruises. Featherbead Co. offers cruises of the lagoon on a variety of vessels. Their paddle cruiser is perfect for a sunset cruise on the lagoon. If you are more of an oyster and sparkling wine fan, take a trip on their double-decker floating restaurant, the John Benn. Otherwise, opt for a romantic cruise on a catamaran yacht or scrumptious meals on the Café Cruise experience. They also offer 4x4 trips of the beautiful Featherbed Nature Reserve.

Unwind at the Knysna Waterfront packed with shops and restaurants.
Unwind at the Knysna Waterfront packed with shops and restaurants.
Image: Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

4. Of course, a visit to Knysna would be incomplete without a visit to the Knysna Waterfront. The marina serves as a base for luxury yachts and cruises into Knysna’s lagoon. If you prefer to stick to dry land, take your pick of restaurants to dine at or watch the world and boats slowly go by.

5. If you fancy a trip to the Hoekwil Forest, pack a picnic basket or food for a braai in the picnic area and set out on the 2 kilometre circular hiking trail that leads to the 800-year-old, 33 metre tall Woodville Big Tree.

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