WELCOME TO KNYSNA

Knysna Tourism is the official tourism body in Knysna and is mandated by the Knysna Municipality to market Greater Knysna as a holiday destination.

The office, together with its satellite office in Sedgefield, can help you plan your getaway to the heart of the Garden Route.

  • The Knysna Tourism is a one-stop stop shop for information about things to do in Knysna and surrounding areas.
  • They provide a booking service for activities, restaurants, and accommodation establishments in the area.
  • The office can also assist you with timetables for shuttle services and Intercape busses.
  • Visitors can buy local art & crafts which are on display in our office
  • They provide information about upcoming festivals & events.
  • Their knowledgeable visitor centre staff have loads of general travel information for tourists.

Top 10 things to do in Greater Knysna

  1. Cruise the lagoon on a ferry, inflatable boat, yacht or kayak.
  2. Explore the indigenous forests by foot, mountain bike, non-motorised scooter or jeep.
  3. Enjoy the rush of adventure activities including whale watching, surfing, paragliding and bungee jumping.
  4. Indulge in local food and craft beer at numerous restaurants and markets.
  5. Play golf on three world-class courses.
  6. Participate in exciting annual festivals and events.
  7. Get up close to elephants and other animals at numerous wildlife sanctuaries.
  8. Soak up the sun on a pristine beach in Sedgefield, Buffalo Bay or Brenton-on-Sea.
  9. Learn about the rich culture and history of the area on a guided walk or tour.
  10. Book a community tourism experience for a home-stay or township tour.

Brenton

Brenton on Sea is a suburb about 15km’s from Knysna; travel along the N2 towards George and take a right after the White Bridge. The settlement cascades down sloping hills which eventually ends in a “far as the eye can see” white sanded beach. The settlement was named after Sir Jahleel Brenton, who declared Knysna a harbour in 1818. If you are lucky enough you may even be able to spot the endangered Brenton Blue Butterfly. With street names such as Agapanthus, Watsonia, Protea and Stinkhout the whole suburb is a testimony to the variety of both fauna and flora.

Adventure activities are countless at Brenton on Sea. Paraglide in safely off the top of a high hill (reachable only on foot) over the Indian Ocean or climb rocks that juts off the shore to fish for White Mussel Cracker, Garrick (Leerie), Kob and Grunter.

Brenton’s beach is not an ideal one for swimming and surfing because of the strong rip tides and rocks close to shore, but it is perfect for lazing on the beach or having a picnic. The kids will love looking for shells and might even catch a glimpse of jellyfish or blue bottles that have been washed up to shore.

If you’re feeling peckish after a fun-filled day, head up to Brenton’s choice of restaurants for a sundowner and snacks or a delicious pizza for something more substantial.

Are you travelling alone? Pack a picnic basket with cheese, biscuits and wine and sit on a wooden bench over-looking the Indian Ocean from one of the many spectacular viewpoints.

Only here for the Beer

Beer would not be beer were it not for the hop plant. While you can make a beer without hops (the word ‘ale’ is thought originally to have meant exactly that), it is the hops that give to beer the distinctive flavour that most drinkers would probably consider to be the essence of the brew. These are the soft green cones of the plant Humulus lupulus. Only the female plant produces cones, and the magic ingredients that the brewer seeks are found only in tiny glands at the base of each leaf-like bract within the cone.

The hops contribute to the making of beer in several ways, notably the addition of taste and smell. Bittering hops give the brew its characteristic bitter taste, while aroma hops give it its beery scent. Hops also act as a natural preservative, help to clarify the beer and to form and fix the frothy head.

Until the early decades of this century all the hops used in South Africa’s brewing industry had to be imported, but in the 1920s the brewers began to wonder if it would not be possible to grow their hops at home. The conditions for the plant’s growth, however, were stringent: a minimum number of daylight hours in summer, a six- to eight-week dormant period in winter when it needs to be chilled, and a plentiful water supply throughout the growing season. Only one small part of the country met these conditions: the rich farmlands around George, and one or two well-watered valleys in the Outeniqua Mountains. Today 480 ha are cultivated, enough for half of South Africa’s needs. A visitor cannot miss the hop fields in summer. The plant is a fast-growing climber that shoots up in spring, the specially erected trellises towering as much as 4 meters above the ground so that the fields look like giant vineyards. The rate of growth is so remarkable – up to 20 centimetres a day – that some farmers (the older ones, who have had time to sit down and study such things) insist that the patient visitor will actually see a plant growing taller before his eyes.

Voyage’s end at an ancient, evergreen land

The Southern Coast, after several hundred kilometres of low-lying sandy shores, reaches Cape St Blaize and curls into a gentle blue bay. The golden sand continues around the bay, punctuated by sleepy river lagoons, but now a high range of mountains comes into view and the sands give way to a gigantic coastal shelf that juts out into the sea.

The mountains are the Outeniquas, and they bring year-round rains to the land at their feet, keeping it constantly emerald green. Where the coastal shelf meets the sea, waves have ground it away into high cliffs of orange-red rock, and here and there have carved coves and inlets. Many a ship has come to grief on this violent shore, and legend has it that a chest of treasure lies caught here in the rocks amid the foaming surf.

A mere 110 kilometres, or one and a half hours drive, from Knysna lies the booming town; Mossel Bay where giant waves relentlessly punish the awesome, towering cliffs that line the southern shore of Cape St Blaize, baring the rock strata and gouging out huge caverns. And yet, just 3 km along the coastline, tucked away around the corner of the cape, the water in the sheltered little cove known as Munro’s Bay is as calm and gentle as an inland lake… which is why this spot was the first landing place of Bartholomeu Dias and his men. Today the calmness of the water in the bay, one of the most sheltered stretches of open sea along the entire southern African coast, attracts thousands of holiday-makers and water sport enthusiasts.

All along the Mossel Bay shore there are beaches sprinkled among the rocks. Even at the very point of Cape St Blaize there is a sandy channel set between two rocky ridges that have long been treated by locals as the town swimming pool – known to all as the ‘Poort’. Travelling around the great bay from here the first major inlet is the harbour, then comes Munro’s Bay, Santos Beach, a string of little beaches separated by rocky ridges and known collectively as Die Bakke, the Pansy Beach and the long golden stretch of Dias Beach, which in summer become the vibrant heart of the holiday town. The coast immediately behind the shore is kept tidy and attractive with green lawns and a succession of neat camping grounds, and caravan sites, interspersed with clusters of luxurious holiday chalets.

Anyone tiring of the lovely beaches will find the town itself has much to offer. Its history is well presented in a new museum complex near the old Post Office Tree where Pedro d’Ataide posted South Africa’s first ‘letter’ in 1500. A section of the museum is devoted to maritime history, another to a shell collection with fine specimens gathered from various seashores all over the world.

Also interesting is a drive or walk past the harbour to the Point at Cape St Blaize. You will pass a large number of sturdy stone houses: there are at least 200 of these, many of them built during the last century by immigrant Cornish stonemasons. The majority of the houses in the town are built in ranks that climb up the hillside, with the result that most residents wake in the morning and retire at night to magnificent views out over the little harbour and across the bay to the jagged blue-grey line of the Outeniqua Mountains in the distance. At the Point, directly above the sandy Poort, you will see a cave in the cliff face beneath the Cape St Blaize lighthouse; this was long the home of so-called Strandlopers. From the south side of the cave a narrow footpath zigzags up towards the base of the lighthouse then leads east for several kilometres along the clifftops, offering grand vistas down over the majestic cliffs.

Mossel Bay offers a variety of holiday accommodation and recreational activities. Especially popular is the range of opportunities for the angler, produced by the varied character of the shoreline and the extreme differences in sea conditions; Mossel Bay is also one of South Africa’s leading centres for powerboat fishing.

Recently the development of offshore oil wells in the region has begun to transform what was once a slightly sleepy coastal town into a bustling growth centre, but this is unlikely to mar the appeal of the place for holiday-makers. The town will remain blessed with an attractive blue-sky climate and there are so many beautiful beaches along the shore that they can absorb huge numbers of holiday-makers without being spoilt.

George, Western Cape

The English novelist Anthony Trollope praised George in 1877 as ‘the prettiest village on the face of the earth. Overlooked by the George Peak, and Cradock Peak of the Outeniqua Mountains, George nestles on a coastal plateau in a setting of parkland and garden. Flowers seem to bubble over the walls of every garden and trees grow wherever man has failed to cut them down. Only 8 kilometres from the sea and with an adequate rainfall, balmy climate and altitude of 226 metres, George has the best of several worlds. It is the principal town of the Garden Route.

Founded in 1811, it was named after George III. It grew as an administrative, communications and timber centre. One of the oak trees which were planted along the streets during these early years has been proclaimed a national monument. A chain, to which slaves are said to have been fastened and sold at auction, is embedded in the trunk of the tree.

Because of the widespread destruction of George’s wealth of indigenous forest, in 1936 the government prohibited the felling of trees in the town for 200 years. The decision has ensured the preservation of stinkwood and yellow-wood trees.

George became a municipality in 1837 and in 1850 Bishop Robert Gray, founder of the Diocesan College for Boys in Cape Town, consecrated the town’s St. Mark’s Cathedral. George’s Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1842, is the town’s oldest church. The Church of St Peter and St. Paul, built the following year, is the oldest Roman Catholic church in South Africa. Among other old buildings here is the Town House, built in 1847 at a cost of £478.

The George Museum has South Africa’s largest collection of old gramophones, all in working order. Other displays include the skeleton of a whale stranded on Buffalo Bay and 75 mounted horns of the antelopes of South Africa.

This is the only region of South Africa which produces hops – imported varieties have been successfully transplanted in recent years.

George has a flying club, 18-hole championship golf course, several hotels and caravan parks.

From the town tow dramatic steam train journeys can be taken. The main railway line from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth crosses the Outeniqua Mountains through what is widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful railway passes. In 25 kilometres the railway climbs by means of zigzags, tunnels and cuttings to an altitude of 715 metres before descending into the Little Karoo. The second railway journey from George is along the branch line to Knysna, through tunnels and forests, across lakes and cliffs overlooking the sea. The climax of the arrival in Knysna, with a long approach by bridge over the lagoon, is unforgettable!

The Heart of the Garden Route

The Heart of the Garden Route must be somewhere here among the lakes of Wilderness, hidden in the emerald green of the Goukamma valley or lurking in the waters of the lazy Knysna Lagoon. This is South Africa’s most popular holiday refuge, where pleasurable pursuits include paddling up the Touws River, trading softly through the Knysna forests in search of elephants, cruising serenely across the lagoon to the Knysna Heads, exploring the forest streams where gold was panned –  and where gold may still be found.

The name of the Kaaimans River, translated literally, would mean ‘cayman’ or ‘alligator’, suggesting that the river was once home to many crocodiles. The name is, however, more likely to be a corruption of Keeroms (turn around river). Three rivers join here, within just a few hundred metres of the coast – the Kaaimans River, the Swart River and one of its small tributaries – and each of the three runs through a steep-sided ravine. In the old days farmers and traders travelling by ox-wagon found it extremely difficult to cross the rivers, the Kaaimans in particular, and the track they followed twisted and turned around on itself many times – perhaps the origin of the unusual name.

Before reaching the sea the rivers form a small, romantic lagoon, notable for its unusually dark water and for the picturesque rocky walls of the narrow gorge that has formed where the Swart River twists away westwards from the Kaaimans. On the steep western bank of the lagoon there are several quaint holiday homes dating from the turn of the century, whose occupants still have to row across the water to reach their front doorsteps.

At the seaward end of the lagoon the opposing forces of outflowing river water and inflowing tides have formed an attractive sandy beach (scarcely visible as you drive past on the N2), and at the mouth there is a raised tail bridge, mounted on tall pylons, which carries the famed Outeniqua Choop-choo across the water twice a day on its round trip between George and Knysna. A short distance upstream there remains an old causeway, accessible from the N2, which crosses the Kaaimans just above the point where the Kaaimans and the Swart Rivers join. This leads to a small spit of land between the two rivers where members of the George Skiboat Club maintain a launch ramp under shady trees.

As you travel eastwards on the N2 you cross the Kaaimans on a broad, curving bridge, then you climb the coastal headland that forms the eastern bank of the lagoon. As you round the headland there are two parking areas alongside good view sites. Looking westwards from here you have a fine view down over the lagoon mouth and the rail bridge. Looking eastwards you are treated to a splendid vista: the holiday refuge of Wilderness, the Wilderness lakes in the distance, and along the coast as far as Walker Point.

Garden Route Lakes

South Africa can offer the traveler few vistas so serene and gentle as the view down from the coastal hills to the perfectly calm waters of Swartvlei, backed by rolling hills smothered in dark green pine forests, and with line after line of ever-higher hilltops stretching away into the hazy distance until the eye settles on the jagged blue-grey outline of the Outeniqua Mountains.

Swartvlei is the largest of a string of six lakes stretching for over 40 kilometres along the southern coast from Wilderness in the west to the Goukamma River valley in the east. From west to east they are the Touws River lagoon at Wilderness, Island Lake (also known as Lower Langvlei), Lanvlei, Rondevlei, Swartvlei and finally Groenvlei.

The lakes have existed in their present form only for some 2000 years, but they are a result of several million years geological vacillation, as the world swung back and forth between ice ages and interglacial warm spells. Each successive ice age saw a massive increase in the size of the polar icecaps, and as the water froze the level of the world’s oceans dropped dramatically. When the weather became warmer the ice melted and the level of the oceans rose again. Each movement of the sea built up a line of dunes along this stretch of coast, and the lakes were formed by various low-lying areas of land being blocked from the sea by the dunes. Langvlei, for example, is simply an inundated area caught between the dunes. Swartvlei is a drowned river valley. Rondvlei is thought to have been a shallow pan excavated by wind, which has gradually filled with water.

The lakes and the area surrounding them are now incorporated in the Wilderness National Lake Area, and the aim of the National Parks Board has been to zone the entire area in such a way that the goals of conservation and of holiday recreation are both adequately catered for, appealing not only to the nature lover and the conservationist but also to the angler, the board sailor and the yachtsman.

The Touws River lagoon and Island Lake have been set aside for predominantly recreational use. Langvlei and Rondevlei are zoned for wildlife conservation and together form the ‘conservation heart’ of the lake region. They offer an unspoiled world where coastal fynbos mixes with semi-aquatic reeds, sedges, rushes and water grasses, and they constitute one of thee richest refuges for waterfowl in the whole of South Africa: of the 95 species recorded throughout the country, 75 can be seen in this relatively tiny area. This is also one of the few places in the southern African region where both the marsh harrier and the grass owl are known to breed.

Swartvlei is not only the largest of the lakes but also the deepest – and many would judge it the most beautiful, having a distinctive grandeur of its own. Although the reed beds that fill the floodplain at its eastern end are zoned as a conservation area, the main body of the lake has been set aside for recreational use.

In some ways the most interesting of the lakes in Groenvlei. Several thousand years ago Groenvlei was linked to Swartvlei but the two were eventually separated by windblown sand. Groenvlei then converted gradually to a freshwater lake, the only one in the region. Algae growing in the freshwater environment give the lake a greenish tint – hence its name. It was formerly also known as Lake Pleasant. Another consequence of its being fresh water is that it has become home to a large population of the North American black bass, the prized quarry of local and visiting anglers.

At the western end of Groenvlei there is a stylish old hotel and a large holiday resort, both of which retain the old name of Lake Pleasant. Immediately behind the hotel you will find a gravel track that leads south over the coastal hills and that brings you after 4 kilometres to a small parking area overlooking a wild stretch of beach at Platbank – also known locally as Groenvlei Beach. Wooden steps lead down to the beach, which is especially popular with surf anglers.

The N2 runs along the crest of the huge dunes that separate most of the lakes from the sea, and it offers splendid views. But it is also possible to explore the region more intimately by following any of a network of mostly gravel roads leading among the lakes then climbing the forested hills behind them.

Exploring the enchanted depths of the high forest

Stretching for 177 kilometres between the mountains and the sea, the high forest of the Garden Route is one of Southern Africa’s richest botanical treasures. Slanting shafts of sunlight lance down into magic glades where trunks of ancient hardwoods rise like cathedral columns. More than 80 kinds of trees grow here, from venerable giants soaring towards the sky to exquisite small shrubs with dazzling blossoms and haunting perfumes. Many of the trees produce valuable timber used in building, the making of furniture and craft work. Elephants, leopards, monkeys and many birds have their homes in the forest’s enchanted depths. It is a place of beauty, mystery and, for those who wish to delve deeply into its secrets, a place to learn.

The high forest of the Garden Route is the largest indigenous forest in Southern Africa. Originally it covered more than 110 000 hectares, but fires and the predations of man have reduced this to around 40 500 hectares. This area of naturally growing trees is greatly enlarged by softwood plantations of pine and gum trees.

The name “high forest” refers to the height of the trees rather than the altitude at which they grow. The giant among them is the common Yellow-Wood, which can reach up to 50 metres and live for 1 000 years. In several areas, the forestry department has constructed special paths which take visitors to particularly impressive specimens. One of the most famous is a Yellow-Wood known as King Edward’s Tree, which is 46 metres high with a girth of 9,5 metres and thought to be about 700 years old.

The timber of the common yellow-wood, hard and handsomely coloured, is much in demand for furniture. Selected trees are auctioned before being felled and carted away by the buyers. The hard, pale timber of a slightly smaller species, the real yellow-wood, is also highly prized.

Many a pioneering railway has been laid on the hard, durable sleepers produced from another forest giant, the Black Ironwood tree. Today, railway sleepers are usually made of concrete, but Ironwood is often used for flooring and veneers. In March, the blossoms of the ironwood spread a creamy canopy over the forest.

South Africa’s history also owes much to the Stinkwood tree. Its timber was used to build the trek wagons, surely among the toughest vehicles ever built. This tree takes its name from the characteristic pungent odour of the wood when it is first cut.

Some of the smaller trees, while not so highly valued for their timber, nonetheless enhance the beauty of the forest, displaying attractively coloured foliage and sweetly scented flowers. Among these are the Keurboom, with its fragrant pink blossoms, the Wild Pomegranate, with its clusters of red flowers, and the mauve-flowering Cape Chestnut.

One of the best places for exploring the forest is an area known as the Garden of Eden, 16 kilometres from Knysna along the trunk road on the way to Plettenberg Bay. There is a picnic site with paths branching into the deeper parts of the forest, and many typical tree species are identified by numbers. The Garden of Eden is also a favourite haunt of elephants.

Wild pigs and small forest antelope such as the Blue Duiker can also be seen.

Because of almost permanent dampness of the forest floor, however, most of the wild life consists of tree-dwelling species, including monkeys, leopards, tree hyraxes, snakes and birds.

Many varieties of ferns and creepers decorate the forest, and the Dale of Ferns, is a happy hunting ground for specialists in this field. For all its marvels, Southern Africa has always been short of rain and the regions where forests flourish are comparatively few. This makes the great forest of the Garden Route more precious – a place of rare wonder.