Things to Do in Knysna | Activities & Attractions in South Africa’s Gem

Things to Do in Knysna | Activities & Attractions in South Africa’s Gem

Knysna is the heart of the Garden Route, central to many beautiful, exciting and inspiring activities. Why not rent a car with Avis and get around to all of these wonderful things to see and do? A

Not only does Knysna offer its own charms, including the lagoon, the estuary and the waterfront. The towns of Plettenberg Bay, Sedgefield and George are close by, and extend the mood and atmosphere of Knysna accordingly.

So there’s a lot to do and see. In fact, here’s a little list to get you started.

Tip: Take a look at this Ring Stick Up Cam to leave in your home while you go on vacation – it’ll help you feel at ease about leaving your pets and/or possessions.

What to Do in Knysna

Knysna, South Africa is situated within just a few kilometres of a number of amazing attractions. It’s especially great for nature lovers, but also offers that special seaside holiday feel.

Plettenberg Game Reserve

The Southern Cape’s biggest game reserve stretches across around 2000 hectares. And yes, you can find the big 5 here. For those not in the know, the big five are the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo.

You can opt to take a safari on horseback, which might give you a better chance to see more of the 150 species on offer in the reserve. Most people take the more conventional open-top safari though, which is awesome!

Visit the Heads by Boat

One of Knysna’s most famous attractions is The Heads. These are two sandstone cliffs that emerge from the sea, creating a small opening through which boats would navigate their way into the lagoon that is Knysna.

Several boat operators offer rides from the Knysna Waterfront to the heads. You can opt for a ferry, though many say a RIB – Rigid Inflatable Boat ride can be the most thrilling. For the romantics, there are even sunset cruises and similar specially-catered options.

Some options offer exploration of the caves, and an adventure-style experience of the inlet, which can be choppy and tumultuous at times. There’s lots of marine and birdlife to see, too. Definitely an experience you want to have when in Knysna.  

Featherbed Nature Reserve

On the right side of the cove lies Featherbed Nature Reserve. You can enjoy one of the many trails here, or take one of the boat ride options on offer. This is one of the few ways to hike the right-side (western) Head.

Visitors favourites offered by the featherbed Company includes the Jonn Benn floating restaurant. There’s also a vintage-style paddle cruiser.

You’ll have to get there by ferry from the Knysna Waterfront. But once here, you’ll find a pristine, breathtaking 150-hectare wonderland, where you might even see Blue Duiker, Oyster Catchers and the national bird – The Blue Crane.

Free and Cheap Knysna Things to Do

While there’s lots to see, do and eat in Knysna, you may be surprised to learn that not everything is expensive. Here are a few options that are free, or at least easy on the pocket, when you visit Knysna.

Visit the Knysna Heads on Foot

Many visit the heads for a view from the water. But you can also walk the trails around the cliffs. Featherbed reserve, as mentioned, occupies the west Head. The east cliff is accessible by car and foot. And the view is well worth the effort.

From the cliffs, you can look out across the lagoon. Depending on the tide, you’ll be able to see Leisure and Thesen Islands and all of Knysna town. Walk around the corner of the cliff, and you’ll see the majesty of the Indian Ocean. Due south is nothing but open water… until you reach Antarctica, that is.

The view from the highest platform is quite spectacular, overlooking Coney Glen Beach.

Hiking at Goukamma Nature Reserve

Take a short drive west towards Sedgefield to access this beautiful reserve for some hiking, picnics and more. One of the many rivers in the area provides great canoeing opportunities all the way to the mouth.

But the best part of this reserve is the coastline. Nearly 14km of unspoilt coast can be walked within the reserve, and the protected area reaches out several km into the ocean, making this piece of paradise worth every step. Some fishing is allowed, but only from the shoreline. 

Drive through the Seven Passes

There is a wonderful stretch of road that counts as one of the best things to do in George and Knysna, known as the Seven Passes drive. It’s all of 75km long, but even a small section of this road can be a gorgeous diversion, especially in a classy rental car.

The seven passes refer to 7 gorges cut into the mountainous area by rivers. The road was originally constructed in the late 1800s. Along the way, you can see the famous Phantom Pass, rural settlements, and farms.

Interestingly, the towns of Rheenendal and Karatara are situated along the route were the focus of a small gold rush as late as 1975.

Look in at The Old Gaol Museum

A museum may not seem all that exciting compared to the other attractions in this beautiful part of South Africa. But what makes this one particularly interesting is that it is in the oldest government building in Knysna. If you want to know about Knysna and its past, there’s no better place than this old jail.

Maps, local art and documents recording the historic events from the area are all here. And best of all, it’s completely free to visit.

Do Terblans Nature Walk

The Terblans Walk takes you through the famous Knysna Forest. It’s a beautiful walk, starting at the Grootdraai picnic site, which doubles as an endpoint for the circular route.

You’ll cross small streams, and walk past pine and blue gum or eucalyptus tree plantations. The walk is almost completely shaded by the tall trees. And it is fairly easy at 6.5km.

Knysna Activities for Families

Bringing the kids? No problem. When it comes to Knysna and what to do with kids, there are many family-friendly activities that will create great holiday memories.

Picnic at Jubilee Creek

Jubilee Creek has a lot to offer as one of the most pleasant activities in Knysna. First, it’s a short but exciting drive out of town and down into the valley, to a river. Along the river there are several picnic spots, or if you prefer, you can choose a spot closer to the forest treeline.

The stream is great for the kids to play. If they’re energetic, try the short walk to the waterfall and swimming hole.

There’s a small entrance fee to the facility, but it’s easily a full day’s fun – well worth it.

Relax on the Beach at Buffalo Bay

Buffalo bay is a pristine beach with blue waters and warm sandy beaches. The locals call it Buffs. It isn’t exactly a deserted beach, and that makes it ideal for the family to spend the day together.

The beach is swimmable, firstly. And it’s a nice long walkable one, too. You can walk 7km east or even much further west, if you’re feeling fit.

In season, you can catch a sight of lots of southern right or humpback whales, which is a thrill. Anglers are also able to throw a line from the shore.

The Bay lies about 10km west of Knysna. So pack the car for the day, head west for a few minutes, and see what the fuss is all about. 

Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market

One of the most popular weekend fixtures in the area is the Community Farmers’ Market in Sedgefield, every Saturday morning. Tourists and locals come from far and wide to enjoy the festive atmosphere as much as the food, produce and various crafts on sale.

It’s been running an impressive 15 years and just seems to get bigger! Part of what makes it so popular is the eclectic mix of goods and people you meet. Farmers, traders, bespoke foodies and entrepreneurs… they all offer wares worth trying out.  

Get here for a 7:30 breakfast, spend the morning browsing, and by the time the market closes at noon, you’ll feel you’ve already had a day and a half of fun.

You might also like: Things to do in Cape Town during the holidays.

To Conclude: Explore Knysna And Beyond 

A Knysna vacation is an exciting prospect, and potentially full of amazing experiences. You’d expect a fun time from a seaside vacation, wouldn’t you?

But Knysna is very much an estuary-like seaside town. There’s incredible wildlife and especially birdlife. Nature has provided seemingly endless walks and trails to explore, and the surrounding towns seem to blend into it all. This makes this part of the Garden Route all the more special. What are you waiting for?  

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