Knysna
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 34 02.297 E 023 02.739 pop. 52,000 | elevation 5 m/16 ft

The City of Knysna is strung across the coast of a shimmering lagoon, which feeds into the ocean through a rocky pass called The Heads. Knysna's commercial and touristic center is in its downtown area at the base of the lagoon, where visitors and locals can enjoy a host of great restaurants and poke around the arty shops of the town's hippie culture. The farther you get from the city center, the slower you'll find the pace - Thesen Island has a distinct upmarket beach town vibe, and Leisure Island, its woodsy counterpart, feels far from the urban bustle. There are many ways to explore the area's gorgeous waters, forests and wildlife, but you'll have to head out of town to appreciate Knysna's best aspects.

Featherbed Company

Featherbed Nature Reserve cruises and nature walks with Featherbed Company will take you for a trip across the lagoon and provide a buffet lunch. The company has a small fleet including a paddleboat and catamaran, so visit the website to find a ferry that suits your fancy.


Knysna Charters

Knysna Charters also offers lagoon tours, including one to oyster beds to see how oysters are cultivated (1.5hrs, R330).


Mitchell's Knysna Brewery

Mitchell's Knysna Brewery is the original location of the South African beer established in 1983 by Lex Mitchell. Stop in for a tasting and ask to try out their specialty mixes, which include the "Mother-in-Law," a mix of Bosuns Bitter and Raven Stout, or the "Milkwood Mild" that combines Forester's Draught and Bosuns Bitter.

After your tasting, check out the Frost Brothers classic car showroom next door to see an assortment of vintage MGs, Triumphs, and Jaguars available for sale and export as your perfect souvenir from South Africa.


Knysna Museum

Knysna Museum is a small multi-building complex of historic buildings that are part archive and part hodge-podge historical recreation. The site includes Millwood House, an original home from the nearby gold-mining village of Millwood, which is now a ghost town.


Knysna Elephant Park

Knysna Elephant Park is a rehabilitation center and home to a family of orphaned elephants that will let you ride and walk with them. Sunrise and sunset safaris are also available.


Hippo Dive Campus

Hippo Dive Campus will teach you the basics of scuba diving and take you out on a half-day diving trip into the lagoon.


Knysna Forest Tours

Knysna Forest Tours can arrange guided mountain bike tours, kitesurfing and canoeing trips.


Southern Comfort Western Horse Ranch

Southern Comfort Western Horse Ranch is 17 km from both Plettenberg Bay and Knysna and offers twice-daily horse rides through the Knysna Forest.


Old Gaol and Knysna Maritime Museum

Old Gaol and Knysna Maritime Museum is housed in the town's old jail but has little to see besides a few walls dedicated to the town's seafaring history, jailed life, local elephants, and (inexplicably) the sinking of the Titanic.


The Muse Factory

The Muse Factory is a local community arts project where women learn to bead and sell high-quality handmade and made-to-order jewelry.


Woodmill Lane

Woodmill Lane is an upscale shopping center just before the entrance to Thesen Island.


Knysna Book Exchange

Knysna Book Exchange is a small second-floor bookshop where you can upgrade your reads before you head to a quiet spot near the lagoon.


Knysna African Arts & Craft Market

Knysna African Arts & Craft Market is a growing market of locally made goods, including wire art, sculptures and kitchen items. The market is a community development project of Knysna Municipality.


Budget

Highfields Backpackers

Highfields Backpackers occupies a rambling historic house just above the center of town. This is a backpackers with a lot of love put into the clean and well-finished rooms. Cozy details like an original wood burning fireplace in the common area make it easy to settle in.


Woodbourne Holiday Resort

Woodbourne Holiday Resort is a sweeping farmstead of chalets and campgrounds that employees will claim once belonged to George Rex, rumored to be the illegitimate son of King George III. Self-catering chalets for two or four people are well outfitted, and campgrounds have access to hot water showers, electricity, bathrooms, and spigots. Note that prices are significantly higher in December and January.


Knysna Backpackers

Knysna Backpackers is in a Victorian house in the hills behind downtown Knysna. It's easy to love for its short distance from major in-town attractions and friendly staff.


Island Vibe

Island Vibe is a chill backpackers near the lagoon within walking distance of downtown Knysna. Like its big sister in Jeffreys Bay, this Island Vibe is built around its funky common areas, which makes for a great party scene. The dorm is so close to the pool and bar that you can hold a conversation from your bunk bed, so if you have an early start the next day, consider a double room.


Mid-range

Azure House

Azure house is a whitewashed and beachy guesthouse with a breathtaking view of the lagoon. Each room is spacious and fresh, has facilities for self-catering and guests take breakfast on their individual porches.


Inyathi Guest Lodge

Inyathi Guest Lodge is a series of earthy African-themed cottages built into a former craft village. Each room is furnished with reclaimed architectural accents, which makes for an exotic and eclectic experience, just steps from the city center. Ask for Room #6, which has the best outdoor area and layout.


Cunningham's Island Guest House

Cunningham's Island Guest House is a friendly B&B on the low-key and woodsy Leisure Island. A large porch overlooks the pool, and the house is so cozy that you'll feel like you're stealing time in a well-off friend's vacation home.


Wayside Inn

Wayside Inn is a simple, colonial style B&B that provides basic luxuries and convenience at a decent price. Rooms are within walking distance to all Knysna's in-town attractions and there are two great restaurants in the same square.


Top-end

The Phantom Forest

The Phantom Forest is a luxurious and sustainable hideaway in the Phantom Forest Eco Reserve. The beautifully outfitted open-plan suites are built in and around the trees and overlook the lush canopy top. Guests here can feel close to nature without losing any of civilization's perks as they swim in the fern lined pool, dine at one of the hotel's two restaurants, or receive an organic spa treatment.


Villa Afrikana

Villa Afrikana is a 5-star, ultramodern guesthouse on Paradise Hill overlooking the lagoon. The striking white geometric mansion boasts some of the most spacious suites in town, with fireplaces, private balconies and original artwork.


Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood is a collection of 16 deluxe self-catering log cabins for two or four people with swimming access to the water and dramatic views of the Heads. Though just minutes from town, lush foliage and large private decks make this spot feel like a secret enclave all your own. If you're up for adventure, borrow a canoe to explore the lagoon.


Lightleys Holiday Houseboats

Lightleys Holiday Houseboats has the best waterfront rooms you'll find in Knysna in their self-drive charters. Two to six-person boats are fully self-catering and an easy and beautiful way to visit Knysna's most scenic points along the water.


Sirocco

Sirocco is one of the best seafood restaurants in the city. Airy and elegant, with sweeping views of the Heads, it's no wonder that Sirocco is a favored spot of well-to-do weekenders.


Catembe Bar

Catembe Bar is a new Mozambican joint with flavorful food, strong drinks and gregarious owners. Start off with a Dharwa (similar to a Caipirinha, with a big stick to beat the lime with). Though the place strives to be a main libation destination in town, the food is just to good to not be the main attraction - spicy fresh offerings like Piri Piri chicken are a great value and the menu changes daily on the wall-sized blackboard.


Cornuti Knysna

Cornuti Knysna is the last stand between civilization and the Heads, a narrow pass the British army once described as the most dangerous in the world. Enjoy a gourmet pizza or a sundowner at this sophisticated restaurant, and lounge while rooting for boats trying to navigate the rough waters.


Mon Petit Pain

Mon Petit Pain is the smaller sister bakery to the perpetually popular Il de Pain on Thesen Island. This casual café near the Quays serves up delicious light meals and baked goods in a space that feels as fresh as its bread. Snag a spot on the patio for the best people watching.


The Drydock Food Company

The Drydock Food Company has the best view in downtown Knysna. Situated at the tip of the Quays, it offers a variety of seafood as wide as its panorama of the lagoon. Sit outside and enjoy your meal while watching boats make their way in and out of the harbor.


Caffe Mario

Caffe Mario possesses the mythic restaurant trifecta - great food, great prices, great location. Enjoy an array of Italian specialties or brunch delights from the banks of the narrow canal off the waterfront.


34 South

34 South is one of the most popular restaurants on the Quays for its extensive seafood menu and perfect positioning along the canal leading into the Knysna Lagoon. The restaurant also has a deli, sushi counter and boutique.


Cruise Café

Cruise Café has one of the most beautiful seaside views in downtown and the short distance from the quays make for a much more mellow dining experience. The upscale café serves contemporary meals with an emphasis on seafood. This is also the dock location of Featherbed Ferry Cruises and you can watch their paddleboat launch from the large terrace.


Upstairs on Main

Upstairs on Main is an eclectic, artistic lounge that brings in the expat and backpacker crowd. You could easily be in a downtown loft in a major city as you settle in with a drink inside or on the balcony, but this bar's crowd still has a beach town vibe.


Swing Café

Swing Café is a bumping local haunt, especially on weekends. Order a round at their shooter bar or fill up on one of their burgers on the large second story patio. Bands play here on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; expect a cover on nights with live music.


Zanzibar Lounge

Zanzibar Lounge is an airy dance club with a crowd as mixed as its music. The sleek decor keeps this bar from taking on a seedy late-night dance floor vibe when people start breaking it down after midnight.