"JA Knysna, I sincerely thought that if God came back to earth he would settle there, you know?"- Nelson Mandela
Knysna has been voted South Africa’s favourite town so often, we have almost lost count and one of the best tourism destinations in the world!
With the risk of using too many cliches, Knysna really does have it all! A little town on the East Coast, in an area called the Garden Route, it lies approximately 500km from Cape town, a picturesque and easy drive to do in a day! As a local I’d love to share 5 must sees in our beautiful town!
The Heads View Point
As you head out of town towards Plettenberg Bay, on the N1 you will see a truning to you right onto George Rex Dr. Follow this road all the way down the causeway until you reach the wealthy suburb of the Heads. You can’t miss it! As you arrive in the suburb there is a left turn up the winding streets and past some impressive houses. Just be careful to keep your eye on the road beucase the view on the way up is very distracting!
You will get to a car park at the top. You can then walk a short walk to the view point. Here you can marvel at the lagoon and mountain view and then make your way over to the ocean side. For a spectacular view of the beach, impressive cliffs and Indian ocean, make sure to find very high viewing platforms tucked away to the far right of the path.
Other things to do in this area are to visit Coney Glen Beach (the beach you look down on from the viewing platforms), have a scrumptious breakfast or lunch at the East Head Café, and explore the rock pools and swimming area by the little light house.
2. Leisure Island
On your way back from the heads, turn left onto the causeway to the aptly named Leisure Island. This little natural island is quintessential Knysna! It has a circumference of approximately 3.5km which makes for an easy and very enjoyable morning stroll. To the right as you enter there is a WWF reserve with walkways and information boards about the Knysna Lagoon. As you head towards the South of the Island you will find a lovely beach called Bollards Bay – think white sand and turquoise water.
The lagoon is tidal so it is not always great swimming, unless the tide is high, but is is ideal for kids, kayaking, or long walks at low tide.
3. Thesen Island
Thesen Island is a relatively new development. Although it is a security estate, the shops and restaurants are open to the public. Stroll along the main road and browse the various galleries, boutiques and coffee shops. Don’t miss the boat shed, where you will find a small selection of up market shops, the lovely Isle de Pain bakery and restaurant. Don’t miss sundowners on the deck of The Nest, and in summer there is often a DJ too – they also do great breakfasts and cocktails!
Round the corner is Tapas restaurant, serving small platters of Mediterranean style food and half price sushi on Wednesdays! They also have a great playground for kids!
There are a few other great restaurants near Tapas, so something for everyone! Make sure you visit the Turbine hotel for industrial design and a little history on the island.
You can also hire paddle boards, take boat trips, oyster tasting tours and book day trips from various outlets on Thesen Island.
If you have time stop in at the San Parks jetty, learn about the Knysna Lagoon and spot some seahorses!
4. Town Centre
Knysna is a very walkable town. There are 4 main areas to focus on – the Waterfront and Grey Street, Knysna Mall and the Foundation, Twin Oaks and Queen Street.
At The Waterfront you will find a pretty harbour, a few good restaurants. Try 34 South for a vast menu, Dry dock for live music and good wine and Tai Shan for cheap sushi with a view!
You can then take a short walk up Grey street from the entrance to the waterfront towards town, and browse the unique boutique shops, health shops and coffee spots (we highly recommend stopping at the Sandwich shack for the best cruffin in town!
From the top of main street, turn left for the Knysna Mall, making sure to pull in at the Foundation (great lunch spot) as well as health spa, sustainable shopping options and just an all round great vibe.
If you turn right on main road, you will hit Twin Oaks, a lovely colourful spot to explore and chat to the locals.
Further down the road you will find Queen Street – home to a number of museums, galleries and coffee shops. Visit the Old Gaol, Knysna Museum and Art on Queen all in close proximity and The Knysna Gallery just round the corner!
5. Brenton on Sea
Technically Brenton is a separate little coastal town but it still falls under the Knysna Municipality. As you venture out of Knysna, you cross the lagoon over the white bridge. Take a right and continue under the bridge towards Brenton-on-sea. You will come up to Belvidere, an estate divided into Old Belvidere and New Belvidere. Both are great to explore on foot, bike or by car. Stop at Knysna’s smallest church the Holy Trinity Chapel, see the old rectory and get an idea of how the first Knysna settlers lived. In New Belvidere, visit the smallest pub in Knysna at Belvidere Manor, walk along the jetty and get another view of the lagoon and its amazing bird life.
The next stop if the magnificent view point at the top of the hill which showcases the whole of Knysna and the mountain range that surrounds us. This spot is most spectacular at sunrise!
If you take a drive through Brenton-on-Lake, a small neighbourhood on the left hand side of the road, you will be sure to see some local wildlife including bushbuck, tortoises and birdlife.
The drive to Brenton-on-Lake gives you the opportunity to pull over at a few more view points to see the Indian Ocean and beautiful stretch of beach – and the best sunsets. Park at the car park at the bottom of the hill and walk down to the gorgeous beach. The walk to Buffalo Bay and back is approximately 7km, but be careful if you decide to take a dip in the ocean as the currents on this beach are strong.
After your walk, enjoy a sundowner or pizza at the picturesque Butterfly Blu restaurant.
There are so many wonderful places to explore in and around Knysna, we couldn’t fit them all in, but feel free to follow us as we highlight other great adventures you can have on your Garden Route Holiday!