The picturesque town of Knysna falls into the Garden Route District in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. Knysna is often mentioned synonymously with places like Brenton-on-Sea, Rheenendal, Buffalo Bay and Sedgefield, all these picture-perfect holiday towns lie along the coast of South Africa overlooking the Indian Ocean.
* This post includes affiliate links and any purchases made through these links will earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you. *
The coastline is easily accessible from George Airport which is only 70km away. The town lies on the edge of a vast estuary which flows into the Indian Ocean between two large sandstone heads.
Click below to download the best map of the surrounding areas from the Visit Knysna website.
1. Featherbed Nature Reserve
This private nature reserve lies on the Western Head. It is a large nature reserve covered in indigenous fynbos and coastal forests, known for its beauty, bird sighting and magnificent view of both Knysna Heads, the Knysna Estuary and the Indian Ocean. The Featherbed Nature Reserve is only accessible via ferry. Tours are booked through the Featherbed Company who daily tours to the Nature Reserve as well as other great outings.
A trip to Featherbed Nature Reserve last around 4 hours. It includes a ferry trip to the Nature Reserve, a 4×4 ride to the view point, followed by a 2.2km walk down the reserve along the sandstone cliffs. Along the way you stop to explore sea-caves and the trip ends with a delicious buffet lunch at the newly renovated restaurant.
In 2017, a fire devastated many areas of Knysna including the Featherbed Nature Reserve, after the past two years of regrowth it was amazing to see how nature recovers and how the fire was part of the natural process allowing the fynbos to bounce back beautifully.
- Where: Featherbed Ferry Terminus at Cruise Cafe Restaurant
- When: Seven days a week, year round, subject to availability.
- Remember your walking shoes, a warm jacket, a hat, sunscreen and camera!
Lying on the opposite side of the Western Head is the scenic, seaside town of Brenton-On-Sea. This beautiful town overlooks the endless stretch of beach with sandstone cliffs overhanging the Indian Ocean. The view points allow for the perfect spot to sit and try spot dolphins and whales, sometimes catching a glimpse of a pod of dolphins numbering more than one hundred!
- Where: 14km from Knysna CBD. Traveling from Knysna, turn left off the N2 after the White Bridge toward Brenton-On-Sea.
- When: Anytime!
3. Knysna Elephant Park
Established in 1994, the Knysna Elephant Park is the first facility in South Africa to house and care for abandoned elephants – some are orphaned calves, others ex-circus animals and others are in the process of relocation. The elephants are cared for and over time they either become part of the residential KEP herd or are moved to other reserves in the country. The Knysna Elephant Park offers various options when visiting the Park. The most common option is the daily ‘Be Touched by an Elephant’ tour. The tour involves a brief video introduction to the elephants and the Knysna Elephant Park’s efforts then a walk in the field with the gentle giants. You can interact with them and feed them snacks, you can chose to stay with the elephants as long as you’d like! The tours require no reservation and happen every half hour.
- Where: Just off the N2 between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
- When: 365 days a year. Any time between 9:00 and 15:00.
4. Seven Passes Road
Seven Passes Road is the oldest mountain pass between George and Knysna in Western Cape, South Africa. The pass was built by Thomas Charles John Bain and completed in 1883 just south of the Outeniqua Mountain. The route as described by 7passes.co.za:
Drive or ride the Seven Passes: The route from Knysna to George
- Drive westwards from Knysna on the N2 towards George
- Cross the White Bridge over the Knysna Lagoon, and take the first turning to the right; keep left and follow the road to Phantom Pass.
- You’ll come to a T-junction with the road to Rheenendal. Turn right and drive through Rheenendal village.
- The tar gives way to gravel, follow this road past Karatara.
- Gravel gives way to tar again.
- There’s a detour at Woodville: turn right onto the gravel road to the ‘Big Tree.’ When your visit is over, return the way you came and turn right onto the tar again.
- About 3 km after the turn-off to the Big Tree, turn right onto the gravel road to Saasveld. And cross the Touw River, the Silver River, and finally the Kaaimans River.
- Arrive in George
- Where: Travelling from Knysna, turn right off the N2 onto Phantom Pass.
- When: Aim for good weather days and definitely during daylight hours.
5. The Big Tree (Dalene Matthee Memorial)
This old Yellowwood tree is estimated to be more than 880 years old. It is 40m tall and it has a diameter of 1,72m. It is breathtaking to marvel at this giant tree and think about what it has witnessed over its many years. There is a 3km walk through the forest to many other giant trees starting just after the Big Tree or a 9km hike starting at the same place.
- Where: Traveling from Knysna on the N2, after 8km turn right towards Rheenendal, follow the road for 12.6km until the Bibbyshoek turnoff. Turn to the right here and follow the dirt road until you reach a four-way stop. Continue straight until the four way crossing, gate and pay point. Krisjan-se-Nek is about 4km further on. Find it on the Visit Knysna Map
- When: Anytime during daylight hours.
6. Picnic in the Jubilee Creek Nature Reserve
This beautiful part of the Knysna Forest boasts a large picnic area on the banks of the Millwood Creek. The beautiful picnic site and the shallow creek make for the perfect shady spot for lunch and for children to splash in the waters. The water is very clean despite its colour, the red colour is from the tannins and humic acids from the leaves on the forest floor.
- Where: Following the same route to the Big Tree but continue ahead until you reach a four way crossing with a boom, sign in and pay here. Follow the Jubilee Creek directions to the Jubilee Creek picnic site for 10km.
- Find it on the Visit Knysna Map
- When: Spring or Summer for the best weather. It does get rather humid under the forest canopies on a hot day.
- Remember your walking shoes, swimming costume and a towel.
7. Forest walk and swim under a waterfall
This 3,6km walk starts at the Jubilee Picnic Site mentioned above and ends at the swimming pool under the waterfall. This walk allows for a beautiful scenic walk through the Knysna Forest and an opportunity to grab a quick glimpse at the beautiful, colourful Knysna Touracos. Along the walk you may spot a few old mines and mine shafts from when Jubilee Creek was the site of gold mining in Knysna. The walk is mostly level but be careful of the mud, it is quite slippery in some places. Take some snacks and enjoy the view (and a swim) at the waterfall before making your way back.
- Where: Starting at the Jubilee Creek Picnic Site follow the path along the creek and through the forest for 1,5km where you will reach the sign for the “Pool/Swemgat 80m” sign. After you’re done at the waterfall, retrace your steps back to the picnic site. Find it on the Visit Knysna Map
- When: Spring or Summer for the best weather. It does get rather humid under the forest canopies on a hot day making the swim very rewarding.
- Remember your walking shoes, snacks, swimming costume and a towel.
8. Buffalo Bay
This small village offers the perfect beach holiday. The long stretch of white sand beaches with clear blue waters. There is not much to say about this tiny seaside village but it is a must-see!
- Where: 21km from Knysna. Traveling from Knysna, turn left off the N2 a few kilometres after passing the right turnoff to Rheenendal.
- When: All day, any day!
9. Riverdeck Restaurant
This lodge, backpackers and restaurant is a great spot to have lunch or a slice of lemon meringue and some coffee. The view of the river on its way to the Indian Ocean and some lazy canoes passing by is a great place to hang out after a busy morning at the beach.
- Where: Just off the N2 before Buffalo Bay
- When: Anytime but especially lunch time!
10. Knysna Waterfront
The Knysna Waterfront overlooks the marina filled with luxury yachts. This area of the Knysna is the shopping capital and contains boutiques, curio shops and jewellery stores. If you’d rather like to spend some time relaxing, you will be sure to find a restaurant to share a meal and a bottle of wine with friends, family and loved ones.
- Where: 21 Waterfront Dr, Knysna Central
- When: Anytime! Shop and Restaurant open times vary.
Knysna and the surrounding Garden Route allows for the best of both worlds; forests and beaches. This pristine, adventurous and absolutely affordable. This holiday destination should be on everyone’s list!
Share any of your memories from Knysna and make sure you tag us!
Check out the Visit Knysna map and website for more information about other great places to see.