photo by robertsharp

Knysna, , pearl of the scenic Garden Route, is situated between George and Plettenberg Bay. Perennially green thanks to a Mediterranean Maritime climate with rain falling throughout the year, Knysna is mantled by indigenous forests extending into the Tsitsikamma National Park area. Nestled between the impressive Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian ocean, the culinary capital of oysters and other delectable seafood is a compulsory stopover on every travelers’ itinerary. At the heart of Knysna is a lagoon protected from the sea by the monolithic sandstone "Heads" Webcam – best explored on board a catamaran or from along hiking paths in the Featherbed Nature Reserve. A hotspot for art and craft, as well as adventure activities such as tree canopy gliding, kloofing and abseiling, Knysna offers something to everybody.

The peculiarity of the origin of the place-name Knysna is commonly explained with a light-hearted joke of two German tourists travelling to Knysna, and upon reaching the lookout point on the eastern Knysna Head, the one says to the other: 'Nice, na?'. On a more serious note, Knysna is believed to be derived from a Khoi word for place of wood, or fern leaves, but most probable straight down or hard to reach - referring to the steep Knysna Heads.

Getting there

By road

Located in the middle of the Garden Route Knysna is easily accessible from Cape Town (about 500 km) and Port Elizabeth (about 270 km).

By bus

The major bus companies serve Knysna on their run from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The Baz Bus stops here too.

By plane

The nearest airport is in George, while for international flights you have to go to Cape Town.

By train

The railway station is adjacent to the waterfront shopping and restaurant complex, a couple of blocks from the centre of town. Up until 2006 there were two or three trains a day to George via Wilderness and Sedgefield ; however, heavy rainfall and severe flooding in 2006 and again in 2007 caused major damage to the railway route resulting in this train service being suspended until further notice.

Known as the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe, the above-mentioned train was the last-remaining scheduled steam-hauled train service in South Africa, and a not-to-be-missed experience. The scenery along the route is stupendous, and includes the Kaaimans River bridge (the most-photographed railway bridge in the world) and the bridge over the Knysna lagoon. This train train now runs between George and Mossel Bay, and will continue to do so until such time as the railway tracks between George and Knysna are repaired.

There is a railway heritage museum in George, alongside the train station.

Traveling around

Walking around is the best option or rent a bicycle for longer distances. Except the minibuses there is no public transport so you have to take a taxi if you want.

Traffic can become extremely busy during the tourist high season and long queues in and out of Knysna are common.


  • The lagoon: about 18 sq. km and home to at least 200 species of fish is connected with the Indian Ocean through a turbulent channel between "The Heads", two sandstone cliffs. Tour around on one of several boats or just take a coffee at "the Heads". Take a boat across to the Featherbed Nature Reserve on the Heads (this is an organised tour because it's a private reserve, but it's a good way to spend some time on the lagoon then take a walk in the reserve).

  • The Knysna Forest: about 80.000 ha are now under conservation. The ‘King Edward VII’ tree (at Diepwalle forest station) is an estimated 600 years old, 39 m at height, and has a circumference of 6 m. The most famous animals are the Knysna elephants. Currently research, involving DNA testing of dung, is being done to see how many of them may still rumble in the jungle, please report any "dung" sightings! Remember to always take care. There are several hiking trails but you need a car to access the forest. Don't forget the conservation motto "Take only photographs, leave only footprints!".

  • Pledge Nature Reserve: offers 3.5 km of pathways through scrub forest and hillside fynbos with fine views over the lagoon and is just 500 meters of the town centre. A nice place for a walk in the afternoon.

  • Millwood Gold Fields: Site of one of the first gold rushes in South Africa, the Millwood Museum and Materoli Tea Room (be sure to try a piece of Jayne's World Famous Chocolate Cake) offers a unique and fascinating view of the greed, entrepreneurship, energy, and ultimate failure of the first gold discovered in South Africa during the late 1800's. Tours through the old gold diggings are available.

Things to do

  • Walk along the lagoon, take a coffee at one of the many shops at the waterfront and head straight on for The Heads.

  • There are many golf courses around, often with stunning settings or views. Pezula Championship Course and Golf Club, Simola Country Estate, Golf Club and 5-Star Hotel and Knysna Golf Club. You can also book fully organised or self-drive golf tours in and around Knysna with Platinum Golf .

  • Knysna Elephant Park , +27 (0)44 532-7732, +27 (0)44 532-7732, Halfway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay on the N2, Offers the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with African elephants. The elephants here are orphans from various SAN Parks and further afield, and they are so used to humans now that it is possible to feed them and actually touch them! Buy a bucket of fruit at the entrance and the elephants will pick up bits of fruit that you offer to them in your hands, or far more likely, they will take it straight from your bucket when you're not looking! You can also (if you book well in advance) take an evening or morning walk with the elephants. If you have the time, this is an experience not to be missed.

  • Seal Adventures , +27 (0)44 382-5599 (+27 (0)83 654-8755), +27 (0)44 382-5599, Departures between 8:30AM and 1:30PM, Shop 1, The Waterfront, Knysna Quays, Canoe the Knysna river and lake

  • Orbit Day Trips , +27 (0)44 382-1546 (+27 (0)72 377 3563), +27 (0)44 382-1546, Departures Daily from Knysna at 8:30, 4 Safaris in the Knysna and Plettenberg bay area. *Safari 1: Monkey, Bird & Elephant Safari. *Safari 2: Game, Whale & Dolphin Safari. *Safari 3: Site-seeing Day Tour (Also ideal for rainy or drizzly weather days). *Safari 4: Customise My Tour (Minimum 6 people)


  • Knysna Oyster Festival , Mid July every year

  • Gastronomica Festival Knysna , End September - First week of October every year

  • Pink Loerie Mardi Gras , 1 May to 4 May


Many restaurants line the main street and the waterfront area.

There are so many good restaurants in and around Knysna that you will be spoilt for choice!!

  • The Dry Dock' , Waterfront, Great ambiance and delicious food.

  • Ile de Pain , Thesens Island, Delicious dishes with various kinds of home made bread.

  • Knysna Oyster Company , Thesens Island, The name says what you are going for. Mains from R30.

  • Limani Blue , Waterfront, Limani Blue is a Greek Restaurant situated in the beautiful Knysna Waterfront, in the Garden Route, South Africa. It's our pleasure to welcome you to Limani Blue Greek Taverna - where food is not a mere commodity, but a way of life.

  • Zachary's Restaurant' , The highly acclaimed Zachary's is a sophisticated world-class gourmet restaurant under the helm of Executive Chef Geoffrey Murray, who delights in serving up local ingredients inspired by global influences.

There are so many good restaurants in and around Knysna that you will be spoilt for choice!!


  • Mitchell's`s Brewery , +27 (0)44 382-4685, Arend Street, Offers tours around the brewery and tastings of their beer


Many guesthouses, hotels and B&Bs compete for the visitor in off-season, but in high season prices rise and places fill early so book ahead. There are also several nice options out of town (like Brenton-on-Sea and Buffalo Bay) for those with their own transport.


  • Bliss Self-Catering Units , +27 (0)44 382-4569, +27 (0)44 382-4569, 12 Faure Street, Westhill, Two self catering units and a bed and breakfast unit. Centrally located with stunning views of the Lagoon and the Knysna Heads. Bliss has well appointed accommodation and is ideal for couples.

  • Franverleigh Self-catering chalets , +27 (0)44 356-9022, +27 (0)44 356-9022, Towards Karatara and Ruigtevlei, A low-density resort with two identical log chalets set in their own secluded garden. We have named them after our resident birds - Hoopoe and Lourie.

  • Highfield Backpackers , +27 (0)44 382-6266, +27 (0)44 382-6266, 2 Graham Street, Central, A nice place with a pool a little bit off main street and offers dorms, private single and double rooms.

  • Monks Caravan Park and Camping , +27 (0)44 382-2609, +27 (0)44 382-2609, 1km from the centre of town towards the Port Elizabeth side of town, Monks Caravan park is situated on the edge of the lovely Knysna Lagoon and is in walking distance of the town. Affordable camping accommodation

  • Prospect Cottage , +27 (0)44 386-0152, 23 Agnar Street, Paradise, From the N2/Main Street turn into Short street, the second street left is Agnar Street and is a cul-de-sac., A charming three bedroom home suitable for up to 6 people. Sip drinks on the elevated wooden deck with panoramic views of the lagoon and the 'Heads'. Easy access to the Garden Route and Klein Karoo. A three minute walk to central Knysna and the lagoon.


  • Amber Guest Lodge , +27 (0)44 384-1478, +27 (0)44 384-1478, 11 Duthie Street, Rexford, Amber Guest Lodge offers four-star bed and breakfast or self-catering accommodation in Knysna.

  • Big Tree House self-catering , +27 (0)44 382-5604, +27 (0)44 382-5604, 56 Milkwood Drive, Upper Old Place, The Big Tree House is unique. You are invited to enjoy a memorable holiday in this timber frame double storey home

  • Forest Valley Cottages , +27 (0)84 606- 0813, +27 (0)84 606- 0813, Rheenendal, Rheenendal, Cottages sleep 4 to 8, with brilliant valley views.

  • Inyathi Guest Lodges , +27 (0)44 382-7768, +27 (0)44 382-7768, 52 Main Road, Westhill, A most unusual guesthouse: although they are situated right in the center of town, once you enter the premises you have the feeling of being in the middle of the African bush. 3 star.

  • Knysna Manor House , +27 (0)44 382-5440, +27 (0)44 382-5440, 19 Fichat Street, Central, Knysna Manor House is a 3 star, AA Highly Recommended Knysna guesthouse offering B & B accommodation on the Garden Route. The charming 100 year old Victorian mansion overlooks the Lagoon and is within walking distance to the centre of town.

  • Knysna River Club , +27 (0)44 382-6483, +27 (0)44 382-6483, Sun Valley Drive, Costa Sarda, Situated on the water's edge of the Knysna Lagoon, the multi-award-winning Knysna River Club is a private enclave of charming, self-catering log chalets. Surrounded by shady trees and well-tended gardens, the resort offers security, privacy and comfort for guests looking to unwind, and is the ideal venue from which to explore Knysna.

  • Knysna Terrace , +27 (0)44 382-6460, +27 (0)44 382-6460, 4 Star Guest House, just off the N2 from George, Guests can stroll leisurely from Knysna Terrace to the nearby picturesque village of Knysna which boasts a selection of shops and restaurants.

  • Lagoona Inn , +27 (0)44 382-4656, +27 (0)44 382-4656, 22a Dikkop Street, Every one of our bedrooms and apartments enjoys spectacular panoramic views of the mysterious beauty of Knysna.

  • Lazy Leopard, +27 (0)82 965-5765, +27 (0)82 965-5765, Rheenendal, Especially the 2 smaller cottages (just 2 persons) are very nice, both have bathrooms with lots of glass, as if you outside.

  • Log-Inn (3 Star Hotel) , +27 (0)44 382-5835, +27 (0)44 382-5835, 16 Gray Street, Central, The Knysna Log-Inn Hotel embodies an

  • Sandybanks , +27 (0)44 382-4904, +27 (0)44 382-4904, Thesen Island, On Thesen Island, take the first left turn to the gatehouse, Sandybanks is a self-catering holiday home built in the style of a contemporary boathouse on the edge of the Knysna Lagoon. Great views and bird watching. Swimming pool. Kayaks and bicycles available.

  • Saffron Self-catering Holiday House , +27 (0)44 382-0089, +27 (0)44 382-0089, Thesen Islands, The house has 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, lounge, dining room, kitchen, scullery, single garage and patio directly over the Knysna Lagoon.

  • Wayside Inn , +27 (0)44 382-6011, +27 (0)44 382-6011, Main Street, A very nice B&B in the centre of the town with charming rooms.


  • The GrayWood Hotel , +27 (0)44 382-5850, +27 (0)44 382-5850, Cnr Gray & Trotter Streets, Central, Exceptionally well positioned and within walking distance from the Knysna Waterfront and the popular town center. The three star Graywood Hotel opened its doors in mid-September 2004 and boasts 49 en-suite timber log rooms with a licensed bar, secure parking and a full breakfast available.

  • Hide-Away Guest House , +27 (0)44 382-3317, +27 (0)44 382-3317, 114 Keerom, Paradise, 4 Star Guest house. Two Executive Rooms located on the ground floor and Three Superior Rooms on the first floor offer spectacular views of the Knysna Lagoon and Heads.

  • House Hammond , +27 (0)44 384-1524, +27 (0)44 384-1524, 47 Howard Street, Hunters Home, 4 Star Guest house. Each custom built individual unit, with feature en-suite bathroom, is equipped with luxury bedding and stylish décor. A stone’s throw from local 18-hole Knysna Golf Course

  • Lightleys Holiday Houseboats , +27 (0)44 386-0007, +27 (0)44 386-0007, Phantom Pass Road, Offers 4 and 6 berth houseboats on the lagoon. A good way to explore the lagoon and have a place to sleep.

  • The Lofts Boutique Hotel at the Boatshed , +27 (0)44 302-5710, +27 (0)44 302-5710, Thesen Islands

  • Parkes Manor Knysna , +27 (0)44 382-5100, +27 (0)44 382-5100, 1 Azalia Street, Paradise, A four-star rated guesthouse set in tranquil surroundings overlooking the Knysna lagoon and well-known Knysna Heads.

  • Pezula Resort Hotel and Spa , +27 (0)44 302-3333, +27 (0)44 302-3333, Lagoon View Drive, Sparrebosch, Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa is Africa's first truly luxury resort, a sanctuary of privacy and indulgence created to reflect the natural beauty of its surrounds.

  • Tonquani Lodge , , Welbedacht Lane, Kanonkop, Rated best B&B/Guesthouse with Self-Catering in South Africa three times in a row. 5 Star accommodation at an affordable price and with excellent facilities.

  • Villa Afrikana Guest Suites , +27 (0)44 382-4989, +27 (0)44 382-4989, 13 Watsonia Drive, Paradise, All suites enjoy fantastic views over the Knysna Heads and surrounding Lagoon. Reputably they are some of the most spacious suites in Knysna and the Garden Route with combined sleeping and seating area averaging 32 square meters of living space.


Shops line along the Main St. and the Waterfront.


The town has rolled out municipal wifi provided by Uninet. Access is restricted to 45 minutes per user per day.

Get out

Hike in the Kynsna forest or take a tour in the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam-train to Knysna. Other options are a day tour to Oudtshoorn or the Noetzie castle a few km north east of town.

  • Noetzie Castle - East of Knysna some Britons lost their castles on the beach. Worth some hours or more if you like the beach.

  • Brenton-on-Sea - Less crowded than Knysna this sea-side village offers endless beaches

Contact & location

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robertsharp, Kyknoord, Damien du Toit, Annabel Symington

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This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Mart, Karol-Ann, Colin Jensen, Gail, Stefan Ertmann, Jessie ten Velde, Paul Kilfoil, Nick Roux, Tim Sandell, Mike Elliot, Brian Roberts,, Felix Gottwald and Michele Ann Jenkins, Burmesedays, Tatatabot, Morph, Lindap, Barbara Ulmi, Jelse, Yzerfontein, Nzpcmad and Tniehoff

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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