town in the Western Cape, South Africa

Knysna[dead link], pearl of the scenic Garden Route, sits between George and Plettenberg Bay. Perennially green thanks to a Mediterranean Maritime climate with rain falling throughout the year, Knysna is mantled by indigenous forests extending into the Tsitsikamma National Park area. Nestled between the impressive Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian ocean, the culinary capital of oysters and other delectable seafood is a compulsory stopover on every traveller's itinerary. At the heart of Knysna is a lagoon protected from the sea by the monolithic sandstone "Heads" Webcam– best explored on board a catamaran or from along hiking paths in the Featherbed Nature Reserve. A hotspot for art and craft, as well as adventure activities such as tree canopy gliding, kloofing and abseiling, Knysna offers something to everybody.

Map of Knysna
The Heads
The Western Head
Knysna lagoon

The peculiarity of the origin of the place-name Knysna is commonly explained with a light-hearted joke of two German tourists travelling to Knysna, and upon reaching the lookout point on the eastern Knysna Head, the one says to the other: 'Nice, na?'. On a more serious note, Knysna is believed to be derived from a Khoi word for place of wood, or fern leaves, but most probable straight down or hard to reach - referring to the steep Knysna Heads.



Knysna hosts a variety of events annually, which draw local and international visitors alike. Such events include the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival (late June/early July); the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras (end of April/beginning of May); Gastronomica lifestyle festival, which promotes healthy eating and organic principles(September); and the Rastafarian Earth Festival held at the end of July, celebrating Rastafarian religion, culture and lifestyle.

Knysna Oyster Festival


The Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival, held annually in late June/early July, is the town's biggest event. The duration of the festival is ten days, first held in 1983. Oysters, the festival's namesake, are a large component, and approximately 200, 000 are consumed over the 10-day period.

Many sporting activities take place too, such as rugby, golf, bowls, squash, cycling and marathons.

The Knysna Forest Marathon and Half Marathon, and the Rotary Cycle Tour draw many sporting enthusiasts to the town.

Get in


By car


Located in the middle of the Garden Route Knysna is easily accessible from Cape Town (about 500 km) and Port Elizabeth (about 270 km).

By bus

  • The major bus companies serve Knysna on their run from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.
  • City to City has the lowest fare from Knysna to Cape Town at R230.
  • Intercape has a sleepliner bus from Knysna to Johannesburg/Pretoria every day 3PM.
  • The Baz Bus stops in Knysna.
  • There are Minibus taxis from Knysna to George R50. and from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay R25. The minibus station is outside the Shoprite supermarket Nelson street.

By plane


The nearest airport is in George, while for international flights you have to go through Cape Town.

By train


There is no passenger train service to Kynsna. Classic Rail is working to restore service on the steam train line to George. The old railway station is adjacent to the waterfront shopping and restaurant complex, a couple of blocks from the centre of town.

There is a railway heritage museum in George, alongside the train station.

Get around


Walking around is the best option or rent a bicycle for longer distances. Except the minibuses there is no public transport so you have to take a taxi if you want. Traffic can become extremely busy during the tourist high season and long queues in and out of Knysna are common.

  • The lagoon: about 18 km² and home to at least 200 species of fish is connected with the Indian Ocean through a turbulent channel between "The Heads", two sandstone cliffs. Tour around on one of several boats or just take a coffee at "the Heads".
    • Take a boat across to the Featherbed Nature Reserve (on the Heads), +27 443 821 693. This is a 4-hour organised tour because it's a private reserve, but it's a good way to spend some time on the lagoon then take a walk in the reserve. The eco-experience tour includes the boat trip across the lagoon, a bus up to the top of the hill for a beautiful view, with a guide's commentary, a 2.2-km easy walk through the reserve, and a very good buffet lunch before returning to the harbour. You can also choose to ride the bus back to the restaurant. With lunch: R1100 adult, R450 child (4-12); without lunch: R865 adult, R350 child (4-12).
  • The Knysna Forest: about 80,000 ha are now under conservation. The 'King Edward VII' tree (at Diepwalle forest station) is an estimated 600 years old, 39 m at height, and has a circumference of 6 m. The most famous animals are the Knysna elephants. Research involving DNA testing of dung is being done to see how many of them may still rumble in the jungle, please report any "dung" sightings! Remember to always take care. There are several hiking trails but you need a car to access the forest. Don't forget the conservation motto "Take only photographs, leave only footprints!".
  • Pledge Nature Reserve: offers 3½ km of pathways through scrub forest and hillside fynbos with fine views over the lagoon and is 500 m from the town centre. A nice place for a walk in the afternoon.
  • Millwood Gold Fields: Site of one of the first gold rushes in South Africa, the Millwood Museum and Materoli Tea Room (be sure to try a piece of Jayne's World Famous Chocolate Cake) offers a unique and fascinating view of the greed, entrepreneurship, energy, and ultimate failure of the first gold discovered in South Africa during the late 1800s. Tours through the old gold diggings are available.
  • 1 Jubilee Creek, +27 44 302 5600. Picnic site in forest.
  • The Kaaimans River bridge, near Sedgefield, used to be the most-photographed railway bridge in the world. The steam train that used to run between George and Knysna via Sedgefield and Wilderness was known as the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe. It was the last remaining scheduled steam-hauled train service in South Africa. The track was closed after flooding in 2006 and 2007.
  • Knysna Houseboats, First Floor, TH34, Thesen Islands, +27 44 382-2802, . Hire a fully equipped self-drive Knysna houseboat and spend your holiday gently floating along on Knysna's tidal lagoon. No experience or skipper's licence is required. From R1,185 for two nights.
  • Walk along the lagoon, take a coffee at one of the many shops at the waterfront and head straight on for The Heads.
  • There are many golf courses around, often with stunning settings or views. Pezula Championship Course and Golf Club Simola Golf and Country Estate, and Knysna Golf Club.
  • Knysna Elephant Park (Halfway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay on the N2), +27 44 532-7732, . Offers the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with African elephants. The elephants here are orphans from various SAN Parks and further afield, and they are so used to humans now that it is possible to feed them and actually touch them! Buy a bucket of fruit at the entrance and the elephants will pick up bits of fruit that you offer to them in your hands, or far more likely, they will take it straight from your bucket when you're not looking! You can also (if you book well in advance) take an evening or morning walk with the elephants. If you have the time, this is an experience not to be missed.
  • [formerly dead link] Orbit Day Trips, +27 44 382-1546, +27 72 377-3563, fax: +27 44 382-1549, . Departures daily from Knysna at 8:30AM. 4 Safaris in the Knysna and Plettenberg bay area. Safari 1: Monkey, Bird & Elephant Safari. Safari 2: Game, Whale & Dolphin Safari. Safari 3: Site-seeing Day Tour (ideal for rainy or drizzly weather days). Or a customised tour (minimum 6 people).
  • GoVertical Mountaineering Adventures, Waterfront Knysna, +27 82 731-4696. Abseiling, rock climbing, kloofing, trekking, hiking and slackpacking adventures in the Garden Route Knysna.
  • Millwood Mine walk.
  • Forest Walks.
  • Mountain bike in one of the beautiful forests.



Knysna has two shopping malls, and there are shops along the Main St. and at the Waterfront.

  • Pep Store, St Georges Street. 9AM-6PM. Low-cost clothing, shoes & cell phones. low price.


  • Spar, Main Road. 8AM-7PM.
  • Checkers, Rawson Street. 8AM-7PM.
  • Shoprite, Crn Grey & Nelson Streets. 8AM-7PM.
  • Savers Lane, 1 Nelson Street (over the street from Shoprite). 8AM-7PM. Low cost supermarket.
  • Pick N Pay, Woodmill Lane. 8AM-7PM.
  • Game, Main street. 8:30AM-5PM. Part of Wal-mart USA.

Many restaurants line the main street and the waterfront area.

Knysna waterfront

There are so many good restaurants in and around Knysna that you will be spoilt for choice!

  • The Dry Dock, Waterfront. Great ambiance and delicious food.
  • Ile de Pain, Thesens Island. Delicious dishes with various kinds of home-made bread.
  • Zachary's Bistro, Sparrebosch, +27 44 302 3410, . The highly acclaimed Zachary's is a sophisticated world-class gourmet restaurant under the helm of Executive Chef Geoffrey Murray, who delights in serving up local ingredients inspired by global influences.
  • Persello's Pizzeria, Memorial Square (By Knysna Public Library), +27 44 382-2665. Italian pizzeria with wood-fired ovens, home-made pasta, lasagne, cannelloni, crostoli, crisini and other gourmet treats all under a charming atmosphere.
  • [dead link] Freshline Fisheries, +27 44 382 3131. Open from 11:30AM – kitchen closes at 8PM – restaurant closes at 10pm.. Probably the best value for money seafood in Knysna.
  • Tapas and Oysters Knysna, TH 29, Thesen Island, Knysna, +27 44 382 7196. M-F 11AM-10PM, Sa Su 11AM-10PM.
  • 34 South, Shop 19, Knysna Quays, +27 44 382 7331.




This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under R300
Mid-range R300 to R1000
Splurge Over R1000

Many Backpackers hostels, guesthouses, hotels and B&Bs compete for the visitor in off-season, but in high season prices rise and places fill early so book ahead. There are also several nice options out of town (like Brenton-on-Sea and Buffalo Bay) for those with their own transport.









The town has rolled out municipal wifi provided by Uninet. Access is restricted to 45 minutes per user per day.

Go next


Hike in the Kynsna forest or take a tour in the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam-train to Knysna. Other options are a day tour to Oudtshoorn or the Noetzie castle a few km north east of town.

  • Noetzie Castle - East of Knysna some Britons lost their castles on the beach. Worth some hours or more if you like the beach.
  • Brenton-on-Sea - Less crowded than Knysna this sea-side village offers endless beaches
  • Continue up the Garden Route to Plettenberg Bay or down towards Wilderness
This city travel guide to Knysna is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.