* This article originally appeared here in Southern Vines
For decades Knysna has been a Garden Route favourite for South Africans and foreigners alike – all keen to soak up the leisure. On a recent trip, I set out to enjoy all this charming town had on offer.
What to Do
Of Forests and Fables
From hair-raising tales of the early pioneers, rumours of forest elephants, the story of the Italian silk-spinners, and the mythical yeti-like Otong creatures – the forests abound with fables. Experience the magic yourself and spend some time in the forests which are a veritable playground for walkers, hikers, and trail runners.
For those wanting to follow in the footsteps of Dalene Mathee, the legendary South African novelist who is best known for bringing these forest tales alive, why not walk the commemorative ‘Circles in a Forest’ hiking trail starts at Krisjan-se-Nek – where you’ll also find a Memorial for Dalene.
The Perdekop Hiking Trail is a local favourite. This 9.5km circular route takes in pristine forest and a waterfall. Access is from the Harkerville Forestry Station and the permit costs R40. Using the same permit you can also access ‘The Garden of Eden’: two boardwalk loops of about 500m or one big loop of about 1km, accessible directly on the N2.
Craft is King
Knysna abounds in artisans who are only too willing to share their crafts. The first stop is 5 Noble Street in the Industrial quarter. Don’t be deterred by the address – although it’s the industrial areas the crafty collection of stores will have you filling your bags. Whitewashed serves one of the best coffees and carrot cake in town, Barker and Mill produces enticing handmade leather goods, and Design Wise will have you rethinking your home with their range of bespoke furniture.
In the same square factor in an hour for a tasting at The Redbridge Brewing Co., Brother and sister duo Karel & Chantal Bruwer are behind Kynsna’s favourite brewery, and besides a line-up of quality brews, I was intrigued with their non-alcoholic Golden Ale – a first in South Africa. Made during lockdown to keep clients thirsts at bay, it’s more than just a pandemic drink.
It’s not only the sober curious who enjoy their 0% alcoholic drinks; an increasing amount of people looking for a healthier lifestyle are reducing their alcohol intake, but still want enticing tipple options with no compromise to taste. The nearby Knysna Gin team have also produced a non-alcoholic gin – an impressive addition to their range of spirits available for tastings a 2-minute drive away.
For the adrenaline-addicted Knysna offers exciting activities open to the whole family. One of Knysna’s newest thrills comes through hurtling across the dramatic surrounding landscapes with Knysna Ziplines. Four cables crisscross the valley at heights of up to 200m. The 2-hour activity is eight kilometres outside of Knysna in the Harkerville Forest.
Knysna Scootours offers an exhilarating downhill experience – gliding down a forest single track on one of their Monster Mountain Scooters. Tours begin at Sirocco Restaurant and run three times a day.
Of course, what would a visit to Knysna be without getting out on the ocean? Few experiences inspire the same awe as majestic marine wildlife encounters up-close and in their natural habitat. The daily Marine Eco Tours are 90-minute ocean excursions and great for families or large groups.
Where to Dine
East Head Café
With unparalleled views of the Knysna Heads, this iconic eatery is a local favourite. Be sure to try their famous fish and chips, gourmet burgers, and the chocolate mousse cake is most definitely worth the calorie intake. I’d advise you arrive earlier to get a table with a prime view. The café is open Tues – Sun for breakfast and lunch, 08h00 – 15h00
This classy restaurant is excited to have Greg Coleman as the brand-new chef at the head of the kitchen and promises fresh and interesting fare – combined with the opportunity for outside guests a peep into the quirky Turbine Hotel where the eatery is located. Open daily from 07h00 to 20h00.
Where to Stay
The Turbine Hotel
This five-star hotel on Thesen Island may just offer the town’s most stylish rooms – but with a twist. In the 1920s the Island was a timber processing plant and until 2001 The Turbine provided the power. Fast forward a few years and The Turbine got a new lease of life when owners Geoff Engel and Dandre Lerm, refurbished her as a luxury hotel. Perched above the water, the elevated rooms look down the Knysna canals offering a unique stay. Be prepared to be dazzled by the eclectic interiors that combine original power station elements with modern touches for an elegant reimagining of its electric past. turbinehotel.co.za
Amanzi Island Lodge
From one island to another… Leisure Isle is the smaller of the inhabited islands on the Knysna lagoon and occupying a prime piece of waterfront land sits Amanzi Island Lodge. This 15-roomed luxury accommodation has both views of and access to the lagoon directly in front of the lodge. The rooms and common spaces are generously spaced out, along with a garden and pool. At night the decks are adorned with strings of fairy lights that can’t help add to the enchanting allure of this island lodge. Be sure to take one of their complimentary bicycles on the gentle and scenic 5.5km ride around the island. If you can, book the Kingfisher Suite – their premier room offering with its own infinity pool. amanzilodge.co.za
Sidebar (or can be included on what to do section)
Knysna Oyster Festival
2021 will mark the 38th annual Knysna Oyster Festival – the biggest programme of its nature on the Garden Route. From the 9-18th July you’ll be able to delight in the area’s oysters, and then a host of activities including sporting, families, wine and whisky tastings, cooking competitions, food and wine pairings, live music, and a children’s programme. knysnaoysterfestival.co.za