Things to do in Knysna
Knysna is a holiday paradise, hence owning property in Knysna is an excellent investment opportunity - whether it be a holiday home or a permanent residential property.
The town with it's special attractions, good food, outdoor activities and shopping opportunities to please every temperament. The Heads offer panoramic views of the town and Knysna lagoon from various viewsites, whilst a ferry ride across the water promises an enjoyable day at Featherbed Bay Nature Reserve, on the Western Head. The Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam train delights visitors and train lovers on its daily journeys through lyrically beautiful countryside. Enjoy Knysna’s famous oysters at one of many rustic taverns, along with our own, locally brewed Mitchell’s draught beer.
Knysna’s creative spirit is well manifested in a wide selection of craft shops, galleries and woodcraft businesses, whilst a host of modern boutiques jostle alongside flea-markets and street traders with offers of colourful wares. Good restaurants and cosy coffee shops abound. Knysna’s own waterfront, the Knysna Quays, features shopping facilities, restaurants and a small-boat harbour alongside the gently lapping waters of the lagoon. The Woodmill Lane Shopping Mall, in the centre of town, offers a plethora of craft, gift and clothing shops, street cafe’s, buskers and activities.
With beaches, forests and mountain ranges as a playground, action enthusiasts can choose from a dizzying variety of extreme activities in this region. Knysna is an adventure seekers paradise – with every type of hard or soft adventure experience available. From seasoned adrenaline junkie to gentle ethereal nature-lover – there is something for everyone. Abseiling to quad biking, canoeing to scuba-diving, the choices are endless.
A pair of prominent sandstone cliffs known as The Heads flank the channel through which the sea pours into Knysna’s lagoon. The eastern Head is densely covered with luxury houses. On the lagoon, a small beach offers safe swimming waters, showering facilities, and access to the NSRI aquarium. A walkway leads to the end of the head, offering breathtaking views of the stormy sea channel and the opposite shore. Several caves lie along this path. A restaurant and coffee shop are conveniently situated to provide good food and refreshments to visitors. A viewsite on top of the eastern Head offers spectacular views over Knysna, the lagoon, the sea and the channel between the Heads. The western Head is largely undeveloped and encompasses the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Ferry trips and guided trails to the reserve are available.
The seaside settlement of Noetzie is famous for its ‘castles’ - stone holiday houses complete with battlements and parapets, built within the past sixty years by imaginative homeowners. The gravel road to Noetzie meanders through Eucalyptus plantations, offering fine views of the Knysna lagoon. The name Noetzie, meaning ‘black’, refers to the dark waters of the Noetzie River. This river forms a pretty lagoon before flowing out over the small sandy beach into the sea. The little lagoon and the river afford safe swimming opportunities.
A fleet of beautifully restored vintage steam trains ply the Garden Route’s narrow gauge rail network, offering holidaymakers and steam-train aficionados an unique opportunity to relive the romantic and adventurous train journeys of yesteryear. Travelling from Knysna to George, the scenic route takes passengers through a wonderland of panoramic views and natural beauty. The
Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe offers daily, local outings, whilst The Union Limited and Rovos Rail offer packages departing from Cape Town.
The OUTENIQUA CHOO-TJOE is South Africa’s last scheduled daily steam train service. It operates between George and Knysna, using class 19D and class 24 steam locomotives. Reservations may be made at the Tourism Bureau, at stations or with specific tour companies. The Choo-Tjoe operates twice daily, excepting Sundays and certain public holidays. Tel. (044) 382-1361.
THE UNION LIMITED is Transnet’s beautifully restored vintage steam train, offering a 6-day ‘Golden Thread’ tour from Cape Town through the Boland winelands, the coastlands of the Garden Route, and the Little Karoo. The train boasts first class accommodation, a serviced lounge to relax in and meals served in a magnificent wooden dining car. Reservations: Tel. (021) 405-4391 Fax. (021) 405-4395
ROVOS RAIL offers a 24-hour journey between Cape Town, the winelands and the Garden Route in their ‘Pride of Africa’ train. Luxury accommodation combines the opulence of pre-war travel with subtle modern innovations, and an elegant ambience prevails. Between George and Knysna passengers will board two Rovos Rail carriages which will be added to the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe. Reservations: Tel. (021) 21-4020 / 1 Fax. (021) 21-4022.
A panoramic cruise on the Knysna lagoon is an essential part of the Knysna experience. Knysna Ferries offer a round trip to the Heads and the waterfront, lasting 1½ hours, as well as sundowner cruises from 17h30 - 19h00 (summer). A full bar, fresh Knysna oysters and a light meal are also available. Ferries depart from Thesen’s Jetty. For reservations and inquiries tel. (044) 382-5520. The Featherbed Nature Reserve provides scenic views of Knysna and The Heads from the opposite shore of the lagoon. Ferries depart daily. On arrival at the reserve, guests are taken by 4x4 vehicle to the top of the Western Head. A wonderful foot trail leads through 2 km of coastal forest and along the water’s edge back to the Featherbed tavern, where a delicious lunch of grilled, fresh linefish may be enjoyed. Reservations and inquiries at tel. (044) 382-1693/7 The m.v. John Benn is Knysna’s own pleasure boat, offering luxury cruises to the famous Heads, including a sundowner cruise. Departing from the municipal jetty twice a day, the John Benn features a fully licensed bar and live entertainment. Rivercat cruises into the Heads lasting 1 ½ hours are available. Reservations and inquiries at tel. (044) 382-1693/7
No visit to Knysna is complete without a feast of delectable oysters, freshly harvested from the lagoon. The Knysna Oyster Company welcomes visitors at their Oyster Tasting Tavern on Thesen’s Jetty. Fresh oysters and mussels are available to eat there, or to take out. The tavern is open daily, including weekends. Tel. (044) 382-6942/1
Knysna is steeped in its colourful past. Woodcutters, golddiggers, merchants and sailors, colonial landlords, craftsmen, ordinary folk - all have left their mark and contributed to its history. Many historical buildings and sites offer a glimpse of bygone times.
Some are within the town, like Millwood House and the Old Gaol; others, like the Holy Trinity Church, Belvidere, or the Millwood goldmining village, oblige the visitor to take a short, scenic drive to enjoy their attractions.
A booklet, ‘A Walking Tour of Knysna’, features significant historical buildings within the town. It is available from the Tourism Bureau.
The Old Gaol was constructed in 1859 by convicts assigned to the engineer Thomas Bain for the construction of the Prince Alfred Pass. The building now houses an Angling Museum, the Maritime History of Knysna display, an Art Gallery, a coffee shop and a curio shop.
Millwood House and Parkes Cottage are quaint little wood-and-iron buildings typical of the dwellings constructed in the goldmining village of Millwood. Several of these houses were transported to Knysna in sections and re-erected. The walls are constructed of yellowwood planks. These buildings are National Monuments and house a museum of local history and displays on George Rex and the goldfields. Behind Parkes Cottage is the shop originally owned by the firm Geo. Parkes & Sons, which houses a timber display.
St. George’s Church was completed in 1855 on land set aside for this purpose by George Rex, the ‘Founder and Proprietor of Knysna’. It features exposed hammer trusses, a timbered ceiling and lovely wide yellowwood floorboards. In time, the little church became too small for the growing Knysna community, and a larger church was added on the same property.
George Rex’s Grave: George Rex (1765-1839) is described on his gravestone as the ‘Founder and Proprietor of Knysna’. He was a leading landowner, timber dealer and agriculturist in the district, and it was largely due to his persistent representations that the Knysna lagoon was opened as a harbour in 1817. His descendants erected the gravestone in April 1893.
The Holy Trinity Church in Belvidere, built by Thomas Henry Duthie is a beautiful example in miniature of the Norman style of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It was planned according to the English custom, as a place of worship for the Duthie family, their friends and their servants, and has retained much of the intimate character of that period. The entire pulpit, except for the parapet, was carved out of a single block, known as the ‘Monster Stone’. The bell was cast in England in 1854. The church is now a popular venue for weddings. Millwood: In 1876 gold was discovered near Knysna. Hundreds of aspirant fortune hunters flocked to Millwood. A town mushroomed within weeks. Six hotels sprang up, together with houses and shops. By 1888 there were 1400 claims being worked. However, not enough of the precious metal was recovered to sustain a town and its people. Mining machinery was abandoned where it stood and Millwood became a ghost town. The goldfields were deproclaimed in 1924.
Today, Millwood still maintains a mystical aura. There are remains of old foundations, street signs, a forlorn graveyard, tunnels and mine shafts. Some old stamp batteries and steam engines have been restored. The ‘Materolli’, or Monk’s Store houses a museum where visitors can obtain a pictorial background of the area and its mining heyday. The Millwood hiking trail covers 5,6 km in this area.
The National Sea Rescue Institute of Knysna maintains a small aquarium featuring local and foreign sea fauna: Moray Eels, turtles, Clown fish, Oscars, Discus, Angel fish and the famous Knysna seahorse.
The tiny Knysna seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) is found only in the estuaries of the Garden Route. Referred to as the chameleon of the lagoon, it is able to change colour, and moves its eyes independently in its search for prey. During its unusual reproductive process, the female deposits her eggs in the male’s breeding pouch, where the eggs are fertilised. The male carries the embryos for 100 days and experiences contractions to expel the 30-120 miniature seahorses. Pollution and silting up of the lagoon (a result of excessive development in Knysna) are proving serious threats to the seahorse’s habitat. The aquarium is open from 9h00 to 18h00 daily.
KNYSNA COUNTRY ROAD
A beautiful, scenic route in the rural Rheenendal area, recapturing country pursuits and pastimes. A map is available from the Tourism Bureau.
KNYSNA TIMBER ROUTE
The Knysna Timber Route visits various woodworkers, timber yards and crafters, bearing witness to the importance of the timber industry in Knysna’s economy, and giving visitors an insight into the wealth and beauty of this precious raw material.
PLEDGE NATURE RESERVE
In the heart of the bustling little town of Knysna lies a haven of unspoiled natural tranquility. The Pledge Nature Reserve consists of 10 hectares of natural Fynbos vegetation and harbours a joyful, abundant population of birds. Splendid views of the Knysna lagoon may be enjoyed from certain points of the Reserve. Situated just above the Tourism Bureau’s offices, Pledge Nature Reserve is easily accessible by foot from the centre of town.
There are three scenically beautiful golf courses situated within 10 minutes of each other.
- Simola : a Jack Nicklaus designed course.
- Pezula : situated on cliff-edges with spectacular sea & lagoon views.
- Knysna Golf Course : situated on the edge of the lagoon. Easy walking course with no hills