Reviews and Visitors' Perspectives / The Garden Route

Knysna – South Africa’s favourite holiday destination

Updated Monday, 18 April 2022

Note to self: When next going away on a romantic holiday getaway, make sure you go somewhere without baboons. Coming back to the tree-top cabin that I had romantically, thoughtfully and spontaneously rented outside Knysna, my girlfriend and I found our food supplies decimated.

Knysna Waterfront

Not only eaten, but flung around the room, smeared on the walls and generally treated with complete and utter disdain. It looked like we had been the victims of a wanton act of animal terrorism, however the staff assured us that ‘this was normal.’ Well, maybe for some, but not for us. However despite this little bit of primate vandalism, we managed to get on with our holiday and ended up throughly enjoying Knysna and the surrounds.

Knysna is located in the heart of the scenic garden route, nearing the border of the Western and Eastern Cape Regions lies the town of Knysna. Founded in 1804, by George Rex, the original owner of the farm that later became the town of Knysna, and often voted as South Africa’s favorite holiday destination by locals, the town is a curious mix of old world charm, wealth and elegance, and nature loving hippy communities.

Knysna Heads

The main street, lined with small boutiques and shops, is actually a part of the N2 highway, which passes directly through the center of the town en route to the Eastern Cape and beyond.

Reached from the Cape Town direction by a narrow causeway, and built on a natural lagoon, virtually enclosed by the famed Knysna heads, this small town is bound on all sides by hills and mountains, covered with indigenous vegetation. Taking advantage of this lagoon setting are the houseboat operators, who offer these leisure vessels on lease to the public. Renting a houseboat ensures both a unique accommodation experience, and an opportunity to explore the town and surrounds in an entirely different way.

A part of the migratory route of the Southern Right and other whale species, it is possible to view these marine mammals during the months of August and September, while dolphins are year round visitors. For thrillseekers, options abound, with everything from paragliding over the coastline, abseiling and skydiving, to scuba diving and tree top canopy tours within easy reach of the town.

Knysna Heads

In times gone by, the area was home to large family groups of elephants. These herds have since disappeared, however, a visit to the elephant sanctuary will give visitors the opportunity to view these majestic beasts in their natural element. Another sanctuary that will attract animal lovers is the wolf sanctuary, located on the N2 heading out of town, towards Plettenberg Bay.

Along this same stretch of highway, several local crafters and artists have set up studios and galleries that are well worth a visit. For lovers of the good life, a visit planned during the annual Oyster Festival will provide opportunities to sample these locally farmed delicacies, however, during the year, these and other delights are still available from various eateries located in the harbour and elsewhere in town.


The harbour area is also home to most of Knysna’s nightlife, with several bars, restaurants and clubs where patrons can enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset over the heads. Golf enthusiasts will find the area a treat, with several world-class courses on offer both in Knysna itself, and in neighbouring towns. Fancourt in George is within easy reach, and Simola, Pezula and the Knysna golf course are all located in the town itself.

The Outeniqua Choo Choo offers another experience unique to the area. This old-fashioned steam train hugs the coastline along its route to nearby George, and offers views of otherwise inaccessible or difficult to reach, yet nonetheless beautiful, unspoiled sections of coast.


If you are looking for a destination where you have the choice of slowing down and taking it easy, or where you can indulge your inner adrenaline seeker, Knysna is well worth considering. Just watch out for baboons.

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