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Your guide to Knysna
All About Knysna
Located in the Western Cape region of South Africa, the coastal town of Knysna boasts rugged wilderness offset by modern attractions. A popular stop along the famous Garden Route, the area features dramatic sandstone cliffs plunging into turquoise waters. While much of the coastline is dominated by sheer cliffs, the Knysna River forms a lagoon with several sandy beaches, perfect for swimming or a sunset stroll. The lagoon is also home to a large harbor, where anglers queue up for fishing charters and the chance to reel in spotted grunter and spiny butterfly rays. Further inland, dense tropical forests paint the landscape, providing cover for a variety of indigenous plants and animals, from African leopards and chameleons to warblers and woodpeckers.
A city with a vibrant arts and crafts scene, Knysna is a great place to shop for handcrafted furniture and housewares. The town’s craft market specializes in carved wooden bowls and utensils, stone figurines, textiles, and beaded jewelry — generally at a fraction of the cost you’d pay in the bigger cities. Along the waterfront, you’ll find a handful of boutiques, art studios, and restaurants where you can enjoy fresh seafood with unbeatable views.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Knysna
Before booking your Knysna accommodation, remember that South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, which means seasonal variations and weather patterns are the opposite of those in North America. Although the town’s pleasant weather makes it a suitable destination year-round, the best time to visit is between February and April. The mild autumn climate makes this the perfect time to hike the many trails surrounding the town, and it’s still warm enough to enjoy the beach and waterfront. Autumn also corresponds with many of the artistic and cultural celebrations of the area, including the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival, an unmissable annual LGBTQ+ Pride carnival and parade through the town. Winters remain warm, and in July, the 10-day Oyster Festival celebrates the region’s cuisine and culture with seafood, boat tours, and sporting events.
Top things to do in Knysna
Knysna Lagoon is home to exquisite marine life and innumerable species of birds, not to mention spectacular views of the water and the mountains that surround the town. You can take a tour of the lagoon to get a closer look, or charter a boat and spend the day lounging on the water. Some cruises offered at the waterfront provide gourmet meals and live musical performances.
Buffalo Bay, or Buffelsbaai, is a tiny seaside village not far from Knysna that is home to one of the area’s best beaches. Secluded and relatively sheltered, the bay is known for its soft golden sand and safe swimming conditions. There are plenty of tidepools to explore, and you may even see an iguana or two on the beach, or a dolphin or whale out at sea. There are a couple of excellent restaurants in the village worth a visit before heading back to Knysna.
A visit to Knysna isn’t complete without a trip to Thesen Islands, a collection of 19 artificial islands in the Knysna River. Paddle from cafes and art galleries to charming boutiques as you immerse yourself in the artistic beauty of the region. If you’re lucky, you may even get a glimpse of the tiny Knysna seahorse, an endangered species that is only found in three estuaries near Knysna.