If you decide to travel along the Garden Route on your South Africa vacation, you will probably stop over in one of three or four places. One of my choices would be Knysna. It is located in an attractive lagoon, has a great selection of accommodation, offers a variety of restaurants, and is the gateway to a visit in the surrounding countryside.
The lagoon is a protected marine reserve and home to over 200 species of fish and the unusual sea horse. It is almost essential to take a cruise to the Heads, a striking landmark made up of two brightly-coloured cliffs at the mouth of the lagoon where the ocean waters flow in. Enjoy beautiful views of the lagoon as well as Knysna from the Eastern Head. The Western Head is a privately-owned nature reserve called the Featherbed Nature Reserve. If wishing to spend time at the reserve, you can take a ferry directly from Knysna. On arrival at the reserve, you can join a 4-wheel drive vehicle which takes you to the top of the Western Head. From there, a trail leads through 2 kilometres/1.2 miles of coastal forest, back to the Featherbed Tavern, where you can enjoy lunch. Dolphins are often spotted offshore here while southern right whales pay seasonal visits. You should also consider a dolphin-spotting boat trip which can include a stop at the Robberg Peninsula, near Plettenberg Bay, to visit a seal colony.
Turning our attention to the town itself, Knysna is surrounded on all sides by hills and mountains covered in lush vegetation. The main street is lined with small boutiques and shops, and the lively colourful waterfront is home to many restaurants and bars where you can dine while watching the sunset over the Heads. You can also spend time in the craft shops, flea-markets, and cozy cafés with their small-town charm and hospitality.
One pastime that is well catered for in Knysna is golf. There are several world-class courses available, not only in Knysna itself but also in the neighbouring towns. The well established Knysna Golf Club is situated right on the lagoon.
The surrounding area of Knysna is home to the only forest elephant in South Africa, and the coloured and elusive Knysna lourie bird. Unfortunately, today a mere three elephants still roam the forest. However, the Knysna Elephant Park has brought more elephants back, all of which are rescued orphans. You can enjoy a safari in a four-wheel-drive vehicle and are guaranteed an opportunity to touch the three original elephants that roam the reserve. You can walk with the elephants through the forests.
For hikers, there are some excellent trails close to the town which will lead you into dense indigenous forest. The Circles in the Forest is a pleasant circular trail where you can choose between a 3 kilometre/1.8 mile route and a 9 kilometre/5.5 mile route. Or, you can consider a walk along the beach from Brenton-on-Sea to Buffels Bay 5.5 kilometres/3.5 miles one way.
Knysna hosts a variety of events annually, attracting both locals and international visitors. These include the Knysna Oyster Festival, held in late June and/or early July, when approximately 200,000 oysters are consumed over a 10 day period. There’s also the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, held at the end of April and/or early May, the Gastronomica Lifestyle Festival in September, and the Rastafarian Earth Festival held at the end of July.
All in all, Knysna will prove to be a satisfying stop on your journey along the Garden Route.