We had no plans to go to Knysna, no idea what to do in Knysna and no idea what to expect. A week later, following many adventures, we were completely sold!
Knysna is a picturesque coastal town and a key destination on the famed Garden Route of South Africa. Think dramatic coastlines, mountains, forests, cliffs and sunsets to die for!
Not only that, there are so many things to do in Knysna. Our days were jam packed, yet after a week there were still more activities we could have done.
In our ‘What to do in Knysna’ guide we have summed up the best things to do in Knysna, activities around Knysna, where to eat, where to stay and how to get there. This is your one stop shop for everything you need to know before you go!
We hope you find this guide useful and are inspired to make a stop in Knysna when you come to South Africa!
- 1 What to do in Knysna: Our top 12 things to do in Knysna
- 1.1 Knysna Hike and Bike
- 1.2 Forest Walks
- 1.3 Visit Knysna Heads
- 1.4 Springtide Sailing Sunset Cruise
- 1.5 Ocean Odyssey
- 1.6 Gin tasting at The Knysna Gin Distillery
- 1.7 Tapas and Oysters for a lively night out
- 1.8 Thesen Island
- 1.9 Leisure Island
- 1.10 Hotel Pezula Spa
- 1.11 Noetzie Beach Castles
- 1.12 Paragliding
- 2 What to do from Knysna: Our top 6 things to do from Knysna
- 3 Where to stay in Knysna? Our top accommodation choices
- 4 Where to eat in Knysna
- 5 How to get to Knysna?
What to do in Knysna: Our top 12 things to do in Knysna
Knysna Hike and Bike
We spent a total of 8 nights in and around Knysna but if you are short on time this is the perfect activity.
Knysna Hike and Bike offer walking tours, bike tours, walking food and drink tours, and hikes.
We went on the walking food and drink tour and loved it. We always find that if you only have one or two nights somewhere, deciding on places to eat can be tricky – with this tour we went to seven places in a few hours!
The tour starts at the waterfront and our guide Mandy explained a little about the area before walking us along to the end of the pier for some lovely views.
From here, we worked our way along seven restaurants from the waterfront through to Thesen Island.
Each restaurant provided some ‘tapa style’ nibbles to show what they offer and drinks. Some had wine tastings and some offered cakes with tea and coffee. There was a great variety and it was honestly the most efficient way to experience what was on offer!
Take a look at the different tours offered, but if you are in Knysna for just a few days, make sure you do the same tour we did!
You can read more about Knysna Hike and Bike here.
Knysna is surrounded by lush ancient forests. If you love nature and hiking this will be at the top of your list of things to do in Knysna!
We love the outdoors so after meeting Helen from SA Travel, we went on a guided walk along Jubilee Creek.
Jubilee Creek offers rivers, quaint little picnic spots, pools to swim in and some of the trees here are over 800 years old. The forest was used heavily by woodcutters until the 1930s when people realised the need to protect it!
If you head back as far as the 1800s you will find Mill Wood village. This is where people set up camp when gold was found in the nearby rivers (see if you can find some!). This village is now being reclaimed by the forest. You can go and see it, but at the time of writing it was closed off to rehabilitate after fire damage.
When it comes to wildlife, we were very lucky during our walk to spot the resident baboons and Knysna Lourie birds! Beyond this, there are also wild pigs, a few other small monkeys and if you are incredibly lucky, you might spot an elephant….
There were many elephants in this forest over 500 years ago. According to SANParks there is now just one left. However, another guide says there are 6 elephants based on DNA in droppings and footprints.
Now normally, if we headed into the forest we would wander around aimlessly and learn nothing. Our guide Helen was great company and we had a much better experience learning about the forest with her!
You can book a forest walk with Helen by sending an email to [email protected]
Visit Knysna Heads
If you are looking for some breath-taking views make sure you go and enjoy Knysna Heads.
Knysna Heads are a pair of sandstone cliffs which separate the lagoon and the sea.
There are two heads, east and west. The east is much more accessible to the public but both offer dramatic views of the coast line. Type in Knysna Heads viewpoint to your sat nav and take a drive for the best spot.
A must see along the Garden Route whether from land or from water – this leads us on to…
Springtide Sailing Sunset Cruise
We found that our time in Knysna was a very active one! We do love our outdoor adventures!
As a result, we highly recommend you schedule some chill time and go on a sunset cruise to see Knysna Heads.
We went on a sunset cruise with Springtide Sailing. They have a beautiful yacht which was made by the owner of the company and they sail a few times a day with sunset being the most popular.
We boarded the yacht and headed straight to the front to sit back, relax and take in the impressive views of the coastline.
Half way through, as the sun began to set we were served a tasty picnic and wine (of course!). For us, we were heading into winter so we snuggled up with a blanket as the sun went down. In summer, we are pretty sure we would be diving into the water!
A great experience and one we would recommend you finish your trip with.
Check out Springtide Sailing here.
Ocean Odyssey is part of Springtide Sailing and is the only permitted whale and dolphin operator in Knysna.
The area always has an abundance of marine life but in June you can expect humpback and southern right whales!
Unfortunately we were in Knysna a little too early to see the whales, but given our experience was great on our Springtide Sunset cruise, we would not hesitate to recommend.
Gin tasting at The Knysna Gin Distillery
Gin is so on trend and we keep finding gin bars and tastings everywhere we go!
This place was recommended by our hosts, Ri-Han and Brian from Rexford Manor (see hotels below!) and we loved it.
Found in an industrial estate, you walk in and immediately feel like you are in some sort of gin laboratory. The bar design is very cool and you can either try lots of different gins or treat yourself to a cocktail.
We tried the Pink Lourie and Buffelsbaai cocktails and would definitely have them again!
Don’t forget, this is not the city and bars typically close earlier than you expect. Come here for post work drinks (5-6pm onwards) on a Friday for the best atmosphere.
You can find The Knysna Gin Distillery at 5 Uil St, Knysna Industrial, Knysna, 6571.
Tapas and Oysters for a lively night out
If you like your seafood, tapas and tequila then this casual restaurant and bar could be the place for you.
While the nightlife scene might not be huge in Knysna, this place was certainly very lively during our visit!
There were people enjoying oysters (not us!), drinking and plenty of dancing going on. Take a look at their Facebook page to keep up to date with what events they have.
Thesen Island is a small island with a residential section and then a small ‘island town centre’.
Here we found many boutiques, art studios, trendy places to eat and like anywhere along the coast some beautiful views.
If you head straight through to the tip where the car park ends, you will find the SA National Parks board building – this is where you will find seahorses! Just pop in to the entrance and you will find tanks showcasing the very cute local seahorses.
Leisure island is predominantly a residential island with just one coffee shop but nice for a casual walk around.
At low tide you will find a nice beach area to chill out on.
Hotel Pezula Spa
We loved our time in Knysna but after so many adventures wanted to look for something a bit more chilled.
We drove up to Hotel Pezula to check out their spa. For just R250 you can use their facilities including an indoor pool, outdoor pool, gym, sauna and steam room.
The spa itself was very luxurious, as were the facilities and the hotel itself.
We treated ourselves to a 10 minute waterbed experience before we left – this was something new to us but very relaxing indeed!
There is of course a full spa menu as well!
Noetzie Beach Castles
We were not expecting to see castles in Knysna until we were told to go and explore Noetzie beach.
Most people come here to see its ‘castles’ dating back to the 1930s. These are actually holiday homes that line the beach but make for some great views and pictures.
We were booked to go paragliding but the winds picked up and it was too dangerous to fly!
Paragliding is very popular in Knysna and while we loved the views from below, we can only imagine how incredible they would have been from above.
Our friend who lives in Knysna and regularly paraglides recommends Wild2Fly.
What to do from Knysna: Our top 6 things to do from Knysna
The whole stretch of coast is littered with endless activities and experiences. Knysna is a great base from which to explore further afield. Below are our top 6 things to do from Knysna, all of which are easily accessible by car.
We loved Monkeyland! It was completely different to what we expected but for the better!
We thought it may have monkeys in cages like any typical zoo type attraction, but we could not have been more wrong.
Monkeyland is completely open with one fence around the entire site and no roof meaning that all the monkeys are free to roam and can leave if they wish. However, the monkeys do stick around because they are well fed, looked after and don’t want to compete with the baboons outside!
The tour lasted just over an hour, walking through an open forest with lemurs, squirrel monkeys, gibbons and spider monkeys to name a few. Monkeyland has 12 species of monkeys onsite altogether. The monkeys just wandered by as close as they liked making it a very natural and exciting experience.
You can buy a single ticket from R260.00 (adult) or R 130.00 (child 3/12years). You also have the option to buy combo tickets for Monkeyland combined with Jukani and Birds of Eden saving you some money (see below).
Take a look at Monkeyland here.
Birds of Eden
Birds of Eden quite literally lives up to its name.
The huge enclosure is a free flight sanctuary (no cages) and home to 3500 or more birds, comprising of 220 species!
Again, these birds are not just here for your viewing pleasure. The birds were either previously caged pets, hand reared or/and imprinted individuals that would not survive in the wild but can fly freely and safely here.
The sanctuary is focused on educating the public about the threats these birds face and the harmful effects of the pet-play-and-pay industry.
Expect to see many exotic birds throughout your walk, we particularly loved seeing the flamingos and the parrots!
Take a look at Birds of Eden here.
Jukani is the place to see big cats and more. From lions, to tigers, pumas and cheetahs, there is so much to see.
All of the big cats on site have been rescued in one way or another. Some from circuses and some had been bred exclusively to be hunted but rescued just in time and brought here.
Jukani does not breed any animals themselves as they don’t want to increase the numbers kept in captivity. Knowing this is very important to us because we strongly believe in sustainable and responsible tourism.
As per their website their mission is to ‘’maintain and manage a sustainable wildlife sanctuary, with the focus on creating widespread awareness about the plight of large predators in captivity, in South Africa and all over the world’’.
We had a great experience at Jukani, with our highlights being the incredible Bengal tiger – they are huge!
Take a look at Jukani here.
Sedgefield Market -Sedgefield
Sedgefield is a small town just a 20-minute drive from Knysna.
Each Saturday they have a huge market here and we can definitely see the attraction. The market had everything you could imagine from arts and crafts to decadent treats, wine and so many food stalls.
It also had a really nice atmosphere, if we lived here, we would be at the market every week to meet with friends and enjoy a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Moonlight Meander – Sedgefield
Again, just outside of Knysna, drive 20 minutes to Sedgefield for this unique, educational and very fun experience!
Every spring low tide a local lady called Judy runs the moonlight meander or starlight stroll from 7pm at the Swartvlei beach.
This takes you along the beach with only small torches for light to explore how the beach comes to life after dark.
We learnt about lots of small creatures, explored pools and even spotted an octopus!
Our guide Judy was great, she had a real passion and explained things incredibly well. This was something we had never done anywhere before and highly recommend!
The evening lasts between 3 to 4 hours and the current cost is R150pp. Booking is essential as it was just a small group. For more information contact Judy on +27(0)723906667 or www.gardenroutetrail.co.za.
Knysna Elephant Park
We did not make it to the Elephant Park during this visit but it was highly recommended by a friend.
The park has been working with elephants for over 20 years and allows the public to learn all about them and have some close encounters.
Similar to the other parks we have been to, the Knysna Elephant Park has its mission and ethos in the right place.
Their elephants could have been calves rescued from culls, elephants relocated from reserves where conflict with rhino threatened their survival, a tiny calf, searching for milk after losing her mother in a translocation, orphaned and abandoned calves from reserves and zoos, or animals no longer wanted by their owners as they were seen to be unworkable.
Read more about what they offer here.
Where to stay in Knysna? Our top accommodation choices
There is lots of accommodation on offer in Knysna for every budget, however we highly recommend you take a look at the following:
We spent 4 nights at Rexford Manor and simply did not want to leave.
This is a small boutique with just 5 rooms named King, Queen, Princess, Honeymoon and Kingsman, set in a stunningly decorated house (think house of Versace style) with a beautiful pool area.
We loved everything about the hotel, especially the breakfast which is made by a very talented cook! We were excited to come down each morning to see what freshly baked muffins were on offer!
Rexford Manor is set up on a hill (in Rexford) which serves you lovely views of the bay below. It really was a little piece of paradise!
The hotel is also gay owned by Ri-Han (who was a great host) which always immediately makes us feel more comfortable and we were very happy to find the ‘King’ and ‘King’ pillows on our bed!
This is our top recommendation for Knysna without a doubt. You can check availability and book here.
Cost: Rates are cR650-R975 per night depending on room and season.
Address: Rexford Manor, 7 The Commonage Close, Rexford, Knysna
This is another luxury hotel set up on the western head with beautiful views.
We did not get a chance to stay here, but were able to look around the hotel and see its rooms which were very modern and luxurious indeed. One of the suites was 4 times bigger than our old apartment and we would have happily lived there.
The hotel is large with an on-site golf club and surrounding golf course. It has a lovely spa and pool area to enjoy in the summer months too.
They also offer transfers down to Noetzie Beach where you can take a picnic.
Take a look and book here.
Cost: Rates are cR2,200-R4,200 per night depending on room and season.
Address: Lagoon View Dr, Sparrebosch, Knysna, 6571
Villa Castollini is a luxury guesthouse with 10 rooms just outside the main town set atop the western head overlooking the lagoon and ocean.
The hotel is a 5-star property with a beautiful pool, plenty of place and is very secluded to allow you to relax.
We were also very happy to learn that while not gay owned, the owner is a huge LGBT ally and the hotel sponsored a number of LGBT weddings on site!
Take a look at Villa Castollini here.
Cost: Rates are cR2,344-R5,110 per night depending on room and season.
Address: Brenton-on-Sea Road, Brenton on Sea, Knysna, 6571
Hotel Pelican Lodge (Sedgefield)
We decided to stay in Sedgefield for two nights and our friend recommended the gay owned guesthouse Pelican Lodge.
This was a very cute and homely small guesthouse located minutes from the main road (and easy to find). It offers standard rooms as well as self-catering suites.
We would recommend staying here for one night or two if you want to go somewhere extra quiet. It also was ideal for doing the moonlight meander and going to Sedgefield market (mentioned earlier).
Take a look and book here.
Cost: Rates are cR1,100-R1,950 per night depending on room and season.
Address: 43 Pelican Ln, Sedgefield, 6573
Where to eat in Knysna
There is a good choice of options for eating out in Knysna, not too many ‘fancy’ places as such but cool places nevertheless. One thing we quickly learnt in South Africa is that service can be a lot slower (not in every case) so do bear that in mind!
East Head Café
Every time we asked someone for a recommendation for lunch this was it – and now we are passing that recommendation on to you.
Come here for some excellent fish and chips, in a modern restaurant with views directly over the ocean and eastern head. Try and get a window seat to really take the view in!
Address: 25 George Rex Dr, The Heads, Knysna, 6571
Muse Fusion Food
Muse is a good choice for casual dining with a good menu of comfort food.
As you enter Knysna you will see the sign for Muse with a rainbow flag proudly displayed put there by one of the waitresses. A nice touch.
Address: 152A Old Cape Rd, Paradise, Knysna, 6571
Sirocco was our favourite restaurant whilst in Knysna and one worth dressing up for.
They had excellent service, good quality food, a nice setting and good wine (its South Africa after all). They also have a huge selection of gins and different tonics, and also offer gin tasting.
Sion recommends the ostrich steak here!
Address: 28, Thesen Island House, Thesen Harbour Town, Knysna, 6570
Blend is similar to Muse in that it offers casual pub style dining and drinks.
They have a large outdoor seating area which is ideal in the summer or with blankets in winter!
Here we enjoyed pizzas from their authentic pizza oven.
Address: 8 George Rex Dr, Hunters Home, Knysna, 6571
Ile de Pain
Ile de Pain was another place we were told by many people to go to for lunch.
It was a good recommendation. You can guess by the name they have lots of different artisanal breads on offer, cakes, pastries, treats, sandwiches and soups.
Overall this had great food, a cool setting and was very popular indeed!
Address: 10, The Boatshed, Long St, Thesen Island, Knysna, 6571
For the seafood and fish lovers we recommend the popular Freshline Fisheries for lunch.
This has a cool outdoor seating area and offers seafood fresh from the sea. This was another place we could easily spend a few hours on an afternoon eating and drinking.
Address: Railway Siding Dockyard Cnr Long & Waterfront Drive (Behind Tait Marine) Knsyna, 6570
How to get to Knysna?
Knysna is on the coast along the Garden Route. The nearest airport is George, located a one hour drive away
However, most people will fly into Cape Town. The drive from Cape Town to Knysna will take just over 6 hours.
Another option is to fly from Cape Town to George for cR2,400 and then drive from George for an hour.
However, without a doubt, you will need to hire a car when visiting South Africa and exploring the garden route and beyond. We suggest starting in Cape Town and taking multiple stops along the way; alternatively if you choose to fly to George you can easily collect a car here.
We used and can highly recommend Bidvest Car Rental who had very reasonable prices and very good service.
We fell in love with Knysna and hope that you can see why! Make sure you add Knysna to your itinerary when you visit South Africa and see all it has to offer!
We want to give a special thanks to fellow blogger Travelbug Rose, who along with Explore Knysna helped us to experience the best of this beautiful town. Thanks also go to Ri-Han and Brian for hosting us at the stunning Rexford Manor, and Ian and Dale for allowing us to stay at Pelican Lodge.
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