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Knysna Travel Guide

Knysna, South Africa
Knysna, South Africa © michael clarke stuff

The beautiful town of Knysna is clustered around a vast tidal lagoon which opens to the sea through a narrow inlet guarded by two sandstone cliffs known as 'The Heads'. Arguably the most popular holiday hub of the Garden Route, Knysna draws more visitors than it can cope with, particularly during the peak summer holiday season.

The town has an interesting history, having started as a point of export for timber cut from the surrounding dense forests (which have been badly denuded as a result). In the early 19th century, Knysna was almost solely owned by the enigmatic character George Rex, who was believed to be the illegitimate son of King George III of England. Rex fathered 13 children and is a legend in the Knysna area.

The town features some quaint Victorian houses, a modern commercial waterfront development, a lovely sandy beach at Leisure Isle on the east side of the lagoon, and some good shopping for local arts and crafts in the crowded town centre. There are some lovely scenic drives and walking trails through the remaining indigenous forests in the area, and sampling Knysna oysters and locally-brewed Mitchell's beer while on holiday here is highly recommended. The best time to visit Knysna is during its annual Oyster Festival, held every July, which includes live music, food, sporting events, and of course oysters!

Knysna's three shopping malls have a variety of shops, and there are numerous local art, craft and curio shops in and around the town centre.

In and around Knysna one will find a selection of fine restaurants, seafood taverns, pubs, coffee shops and eateries. The waterfront has a variety of restaurants, serving food like oysters and seafood as well as traditional South African fare. There are fine dining options and international fare includes Mexican, Italian, Moroccan and Asian.

As evidenced by its popular food and music festivals, Knysna is an entertainment hub on the Garden Route and boasts a vibrant nightlife. This picturesque small town is home to more than 50 restaurants and pubs. There are also a handful of vibey dance clubs and live music venues. December and January is peak season in Knysna, with crowds of night-time revellers descending from along the coast; in the winter off-season the town is significantly quieter.

Knysna's location on the lagoon, near to forests, the sea and the mountains, means that there are a range of holiday activities on offer, from paddling to hiking, mountain biking and horseriding. The Heads Adventure Centre specialises in a variety of activities including abseiling and scuba diving. A really fun way to experience Knysna is to hire a house boat for a few days and sleep on the water.


In the peak summer holiday season, Knysna gets very crowded and accommodation is difficult to find. The national highway N2 passes through the centre of town and traffic jams are common.