Travel tips: visiting Knysna

springtide sailing knysna

Springtide Sailing Charters yacht Outeniqua at her berth at The Waterfront, Knysna

Want to visit Knysna and its famous Estuary on the Garden Route Coast of South Africa? Here’re some tips for the newbie:



When you’re on holiday. (What? You expect us to tell you to come in spring or autumn when the air feels like champagne on your skin? In winter, when the migrant whales begin to arrive? Or in summer when the beaches beckon? Nah. Come when you can: our weather – as much as anyone can predict the weather these days – is pretty mild throughout the year.) Bring your bathing suits, a warm jumper, a big appetite, and a fat smile. Who needs anything else?



The wild places: the Indian Ocean (we’ll take you there); the Knysna Estuary (some people still call it the Knysna Lagoon. We’re not fussy – and we’ll take you there, too); the evergreen and mysterious Knysna Forests; the fynbos of the Outeniqua Mountains; the dune forests of the Goukamma Nature Reserve; and, of course, the Garden Route National Park (about 160,000 hectares; South Africa’s first unfenced National Park).



Knysna’s situated about 500 km west of Cape Town, and 280 km east of Port Elizabeth (on the N2 national highway. We call it the Garden Route). Drive, ride, or cycle here: the road is great and very, very scenic.

If you prefer to fly, you’ll find airports in George  (about 70 km to the west – it’s served daily by most large domestic airlines), and Plettenberg Bay (30 km east).


TOP 10

In no particular order:

  • Sailing trips and scenic sunset sailing cruises with Springtide Sailing Charters. Of course.
  • Boat-based whale watching with Ocean Odyssey – official whale watching permit holder for the Knysna area. Although some species of whales live on our coast throughout the year – Bryde’s whales, orcas, etc. – the migrants (southern right whales, humpback whales) arrive in about May or June, and stay till October or November, which is when you can expect the best sightings. (ps.: we’re allowed to get really close to them!)
  • SUP  – stand-up paddle boarding. It’s a fun, not always wet way to explore the canals of Thesen Islands. We rent them (the SUPs, not the Islands).
  • Drive out to Jubilee Creek – a tranquil picnic spot in the Knysna Forests. And while you’re there, take tea at Mother Holly’s, and explore the Millwood Gold Fields – site of the earliest gold rush in South Africa
  • Beaches. Duh.
  • Sea seahorses: in a little aquarium in SANPark’s Knysna Offices on Thesen’s Jetty. Afterwards, visit the NSRI museum (which is also the Thesen Islands Blue Flag Marina), meet the fisher-folk on the Jetty, and look for the tiny railway tracks in the concrete – they’re all that’s left of the old Coffee Pot Railway that used to bring timber down to the ships in the days when this was our harbour.
  • Get cultured. Knysna Fine Art in the historic Thesen House is possibly the top contemporary art gallery in South Africa. We’re proud to be its nearby neighbours.
  • Drive to The Heads for breakfast or lunch on the water’s edge, and to take in the views of the Estuary and the Ocean from the top of the cliffs (follow George Rex Drive onto Coney Glenn Road)
  • Markets: Meet the locals at the Friday Market (from 16h00 to 20h00, September to May), or on Saturday mornings at the Sedgefield Market, or the Harkerville Market.
  • Seafood. You know: oysters and stuff. Knysna’s famous for that. Best destinations? The Waterfront Knysna Quays and Thesen Harbour Town. (Important note: great shopping, too!).


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21 Waterfront Drive Knysna

21 Waterfront Drive

+27(44) 382 0321
+27(44) 382 0421
+27(82) 470 6022

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Humidity: 82%
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