Knysna had to feature on my series of smaller South African towns that are must-sees because it is 1) stunning and 2) my new nest. Millions of tourists have visited this coastal gem and agree. In fact, tourism keeps this little hotspot going, and I love stopping at the traffic light and watching as hordes of people cross the street – Indians in their colourful garb, Germans in their shorts and sandals, Chinese weighed down by cameras and phones, and British folk nursing their sunburn. This makes my little town so vibrant and multi-faceted, and I love seeing it through the eyes of our guests.
Knysna is my new ‘hood. I’ve been here since January 2015. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about moving from Port Elizabeth to such a small town (you know, because PE is such a major metropolis; the epicentre of all things cool), but it ended up being absolutely the best decision ever. With a population of around 70 000, it has all the small-town charm you’d come to expect. And I got married and started my new life here, but I’m convinced you don’t have to do that to love Knysna.
So, here are a few reasons I love Knysna:
Knysna corners that “quiet, seaside village” vibe. But, what has continued to surprise me is that there’s always something to do and see here. We’ve never been bored. There seems to be a sense of celebrating the beauty and encouraging you to get out of the car and explore it, no matter where you go. So, almost all of the restaurants showcase some stunning view of the lagoon or the forests or the golf courses or the rivers. Shopping centres have water features and historical remnants of when this was a wood-milling hub, and neighbourhoods are verdant and lush. This all contributes to a vibe that is completely chilled and always alive with possibilities.
Let me just paint the picture for you. Knysna is on the Western Cape coast. It has a massive lagoon that is a watersporting dream and an unbelievable backdrop to any cocktail or boat trip. This lagoon opens between two cliff faces that are the gateway to the Indian Ocean. They’re known as The Heads and are spectacular. Just dreamy. On the other side of one of the hills is the sprawling ocean and beaches that stretch for kilometre after pristine kilometres – all the way from Brenton-on-Sea to Buffalo Bay.
Inland, there are mountain ranges, deep valleys with dense greenery, and forests that are STILL roamed by shy wild African elephants. One of my favourite places to go for a walk through the forest and a swim in a very small waterfall is Jubilee Creek. There are braai and picnic spots, basic ablutions, a river, and easy trails through the forest (complete with log crossings over little gorges). It’s magical.
So, before I married a man that has ocean water for blood, I was more of a look-at-the-sea-while-sipping-a-cold-beer kind of girl. It’s pretty. I like it. I also liked being warm and dry. Enter my merman. He got me into the water. In a wetsuit. Carrying my own SUP board. Miracles do happen. Now, I like it. And Knysna is perfect for watersports because it has the massive lagoon, which is calm and ideal for waterskiing, stand-up paddling, canoeing or kayaking, sailing, fishing and snorkelling. And it has the sea, which is perfect for surfing, kiting, body-boarding, hydrofoiling, and SCUBA diving. The dolphins (bottlenose and humpback) are residents at Buffalo Bay Beach and the whales (humpback, southern right and, occasionally, killer whales) come to visit every year between July and November. So, dolphin- and whale-watching tours are awesome.
Knysna Sundowner Spots
Because there is such a strong tourist component, Knysna offers so many great spots for the perfect sundowner and a meal to impress. Almost all of these places have incredible views, so just about anywhere is transformed from an ordinary eatery to a place of breath-taking proportions. Our favourite spots are:
- Butterfly Blu (really outstanding food, excellent service and views that just won’t quit)
- JJ’s (try the crocodile carpaccio, zebra fillet, or fresh seafood for something special)
- The Orchid Room at Simola Golf Estate (a simple menu with outstanding dishes, service that makes you feel like royalty, and views of the golf estate and lagoon from the top of the hill)
- East Head Cafe (they’re more for breakfasts and lunches, but they’re perched RIGHT at The Heads, so the views are spectacular. They also do excellent cocktails)
- It’s on the Garden Route, about three hours from PE and six hours from Cape Town. So, it’s central and perched on one of the prettiest routes on the planet.
- It’s close to Plettenberg Bay, Mossel Bay, George and Wilderness.
- The whole of the Garden Route is magnificent too, so Knysna is a great base from which to explore it.
- The weather is fantastic. It isn’t as windy as the Eastern Cape or as hot and humid as KZN. Perfect.