“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir
There is something magical about being in nature. You cannot put it in words, but you feel it deep within – it touches your spirit. Just a few minutes of being in nature makes us feel healed and restored. Nature gives us strength, drains away all negative energy and fills us to the brim with positive energy.
Research today confirms the profoundly healing and restorative effects of nature on our mind and body. For instance, there are studies that show that some trees emit invisible chemicals known as phytoncides that have the potential to reduce stress hormones like cortisol, lower blood pressure and improve immunity.
The Japanese practise of forest bathing (basically just being in the presence of trees) is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.
23 kilometres outside of the beautiful coastal town of Knysna and next to little town called Rheenendal, lies the indigenous and ancient Goudveld Knysna Forest – part of 68 000 hectares of indigenous forest, a mosaic of forest, grasslands and fynbos, managed by SANParks as part of the Garden Route National Park. Imagine giant 900-year-old Yellowwood trees, ferns, streams, rivers, waterfalls, Knysna Loeries and so much more – picture perfect to make memories for a lifetime.
There are so many things to do within the Knysna Forest, but there is also an array of attractions and activities in the broader Knysna area that will keep you busy and filled with adventure.
Here are some of our highlights of things to do in Knysna:
Escape the cold waters Cape Town is known for and embrace Indian Ocean style living with the many different beaches in Knysna and surrounds. With warm water that the Indian ocean is known for, family holidays, relaxing breakaways and romantic holidays are an absolute pleasure. With a wide diversity of beaches, there is a little bit of everything for everyone. Whether you want to relax in quiet with calmer seas to something more popular Knysna has it all. As with any beach visit in South Africa, if you are heading down to the beach make sure you have enough sun protection, water and food for a full day out. You might only be planning on a short visit, but we all know how quickly a pleasurable short visit can change into the full day of fun.
Bollard Bay Beach
Bollard Bay is Leisure Isle’s secret treasure. It is set on the Knysna Lagoon which is a safe-haven for young swimmers. In the off-peak season, the beach is frequented by mostly the local residents and avid dog walkers.
Brenton on Sea
Brenton on Sea is a grand expansive of shoreline that is bordered by lush indigenous forest and the powerful Indian Ocean. It is ideal for long walks on the beach, long lazy days of tanning and “deep-sea” fishing.
Buffalo Bay Beach
Buffalo Bay is fast becoming one of the most-loved beaches on the Garden Route. It’s situated in the Goukamma Nature Reserve where the natural beauty of the area has been protected over the decades. Buffels Bay (as it is affectionately known) offers great natural entertainment for all ages.
Noetzie Beach has remained a favourite destination for adventure seekers in the past and remains so to this day. The pristine and relatively isolated sandy shore is in the Sinclair Nature Area, and is protected by the Noetzie Conservancy. The beach is an ideal place for day-long trips; the kids will be endlessly entertained; just don’t forget to pack a boogie board and a picnic lunch.
Cola Beach is one of Sedgefield’s most loved beaches. It offers visitors a beautiful and tranquil setting. It is a quiet beach and even during peak seasons, the beach is never overcrowded or noisy. It’s a perfect place to catch up on much-needed rest, settle into a deckchair with some holiday reading and catch a tan.
Gericke’s Point is a little gem on the Garden Route. Its situated 25km from Knysna (direction George) and on a day without traffic will take you about 20 minutes to drive. For the adventure seekers among you, there is a Paragliding launch site at Gericke’s Point. Go for a sunset paraglide for memories you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
Myoli Beach is another of Sedgefield’s more popular beaches. It’s situated in the centre of Sedgefield and is an exceptional beach with such gorgeous views, soft sands and clear waters.
The Green Hole
This is an absolute haven for the little ones and offers a safe and fun setting to spend the day. Water sports abound; rent a canoe, go boogie-boarding, or simply splash around the water’s edge. It’s best to check when the tide is high; the Green Hole is situated on the Knysna Lagoon and so the setting changes with the tides.
Coney Glen offers a small and intimate beach on the other side of the Heads. It’s nestled away in a small cove and offers great opportunities for fishing and climbing over rocks. The waters here can be quite dangerous, so take care and do not go deep into the water. It’s perfect for a quick dip to relieve yourself from a hot summer’s day.
Experience the calm nature of the whale from the side of a boat with boat-based whale watching by Ocean Odyssey. Their close encounter, boat-based whale watching tours and marine eco-tours are perfect activities to add to any itinerary in Knysna and with three daily departures and a fleet of ocean-going vessels, it is the ideal experience for local visitors and international tourists. Find out more
The Knysna Lagoon is nestled between two imposing cliffs, known as The Knysna Heads. The Knysna Lagoon is one of Knysna’s main tourist attractions and is a popular spot for local fishermen and water sports enthusiasts. Some of the bird species that may be spotted around the lagoon include sandpipers, stilts, herons, the malachite and pied kingfishers, black oystercatcher, African fish eagle, Knysna woodpecker, and Knysna Warbler.
Enjoy a fun, family-friendly guided boat cruise around the stunning Knysna Lagoon and Knysna Heads. Relax onboard the boat, soak up the glorious views with a sunset cruise showcasing the natural diversity of the Knysna Estuary, the rugged Knysna heads and the abundant wildlife.
Considering Knysna is almost surrounded by water, it is no wonder water sports are some of the most common activities. There is a wide range of sports one can embark on depending on your time, level of experience and your bucket list.
Here are some of the most common Knysna water sports:
- Skiing, including tubing
- Scuba diving
- Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
- Interactions with sea life (swimming with seals)
Events & Special Occasions
Knysna is a busy little town with someone always happening at some point. There are, however, some key events that Knysna is known for and that brings in many visitors over that period.
Knysna Oyster festival
This might be the single biggest event Knysna is known for. Annually there are thousands of people that descend into the little town to embrace the celebration of the Knysna Oyster. This event has its origins as far back as 1983 and has risen in popularity with each year that passes. The Oyster Festival extends its attractions to include sports, of which the 2 most well-known are the Knysna Forest Marathon and Knysna Cycle Tour. This means there is something for everyone to celebrate and enjoy.
Knysna Forest Marathon
The Momentum Knysna Forest Marathon, known as one of South Africa’s most sought-after running events, offers exceptional highlights found in no other race anywhere in the world – particularly the scenery as most of the run takes place deep in the forest. Whether you compete in the half (21km) or the full (42km) marathon, runners can expect breath-taking views over the Knysna lagoon towards the Knysna Heads, the perfect inspiration towards the finish.
Knysna Cycle Tour
The Knysna Cycle Tour is one of the sporting highlights of the annual Knysna Oyster Festival. It consists of three main events: MTB Events, Road Races, and the SPUR Children’s Cycling Tour. The Knysna Cycle Tour is owned and managed by the Rotary Club of Knysna, and has raised millions of Rands over the past 30 years for the club’s beneficiaries.
For more information on other main events please go to the Visit Knysna page
A few hours outside of Knysna you will find the highest bungee jump in the world – Bloukrans! A whopping 216 meter fall. This is the perfect way to add some extreme excitement to your Knysna stay and there are many attraction close-by to make it a worthwhile day trip.
Knysna considers its fauna to be of great importance. They show this in the great variety of Wildlife Sanctuaries. Well-maintained and resembling a natural habitat, the animals have plenty of space to roam free. Within the bounds of a protected environment you will be able to see a host of different animals. There are wolves and cheetahs and great soaring raptors. Children will giggle at the monkeys and dare to wrap a snake around their neck. Everyone in the family will love walking around bird sanctuaries, along wooden paths and under waterfalls. Whichever animal you chose to see, be sure to stop at one of the Wildlife Sanctuaries along the Garden Route before heading home.
Knysna Elephant Park
The Knysna Elephant Park (est. 1994) was the first facility in South Africa to house and care for orphaned African elephants. Over the last twenty years, the park has cared for and raised more than forty elephants. These animals include relocated animals, orphaned calves, elephants rescued from culls and ex-circus animals. Some have become part of the resident herd, others have moved onto other reserves and facilities in the Western and Eastern Cape, depending on their personalities, bonds with other animals and welfare needs.
Monkeyland – the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary (located in The Crags, near Plettenberg Bay) – offers tours during which you’ll see more than 700 primates comprising of capuchin monkeys, ringtail and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, saki monkeys, squirrel monkeys, vervet monkeys, 2 species of langur, howler monkeys, gibbons, etc in their forest home. You will also experience our 128-metre suspended canopy walk whilst on tour. There’s also a restaurant, souvenir store, and viewing deck. Our safari guides are multi-lingual (English, Afrikaans, German, Dutch, French, and Spanish).
Birds of Eden
Birds of Eden is home to about 220 different types of birds, and more than 3500 birds live in the sanctuary. Their award-winning bird sanctuary provides a forever home where previously caged birds can live a life of free-flight in a habitat as large and natural as is possible.
The Knysna Wolf Sanctuary offers a fun-filled outing for the whole family with a variety of animals to fascinate both old and young. Head on out and spend time with some wolves and have a light lunch while the kids are playing on the jungle gym.
Radical Raptors is a rehabilitation centre that aims at community awareness and the rescue, rehabilitation and release of birds of prey. The centre opened at the Heath in Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route on the 6th December 2008 and operate directly under the rules & regulations laid down by Cape Nature Conservation.
Knysna is a mystical place that is filled with adventure and the opportunity to get your blood pumping and adrenaline coursing through your veins. We have listed some of the most common adventure activities in Knysna for you.
Acrobranch is a treetop experience dedicated to offering children and adults alike a unique adventure as they move from tree to tree in lush, green forests. We propose different obstacle courses in each of our parks, some for kids (marked Acrobranch Kids) and some for reasonably fit adults and teenagers. Obstacles consist of awesome tree top high ropes and tricky crossings (with ladders, tunnels, walkways and bridges).
Experience Knysna from the sky with a paragliding experience with one of the local paragliding operators. It is always good to get a new perspective and gaining a perspective of Knysna from the air is probably one of the best perspectives you can get.
Knysna is surrounded by mountains on the one side and ocean on the other. Whilst water sports are incredibly popular the other half of Knysna is filled with mountain adventure seekers that are running, mountain biking and hiking through the mountains. Knysna has a good diversity of mountain biking trails that offers everyone a little bit of something they feel most comfortable with. From technical singletrack descents through to leisurely jeep track, mountain biking in the Knysna forest is something everyone needs to experience.
We highly recommend the Homtini Cycle Trail, this mountain biking trail includes single-track sections, it is 19 km long and there is a 3km tough climb. There is scenic high forest, fynbos and plantations. There is a swimming spot just before a very tough climb that can take up to 40 min to crest. And best of all, for those of you that’s keen to explore this beautiful area, but do not have access to a Mountain Bike, Forest Edge Nature Lovers’ Retreat offers a superb Mountain-biking Package.
Sandboard down the Knysna sand dunes for fun-filled day for the whole family. Experience a day of adventure at the beach sliding down dunes on sand boards. Get expert instruction by Dune Adventures guides to coach you from beginner to thrill seeker in no time at all. An activity to generate a thrill for a lifetime.
Drupkelders Hike & Swim
loosely translated into Dripping Cellars, are rock pools in the Knysna forest. Combine a 3.5km indigenous forest walk with a visit to magnificent rock pools in the Homtini River in the Knysna Forest. These massive rock pools offer deep, cola-coloured waters to cool off in and even a waterfall to clamber up next to (to another series of pools – local knowledge is a must here). Pack swimming gear and wear good walking shoes as there is a steep section near the river. Due to the exclusivity of this gem, only 12 persons a day are allowed in and a Sanparks permit is required. This amazing trail starts at the Forest Edge Nature-lovers’ Retreat’s gate entrance – the perfect authentic woodcutter accommodation to explore this amazing area and to rest and recuperate at.
Guided Forest Scooter Tour
Enjoy an exhilarating downhill ride on the non-motorized Mountain Scooter. Descend through indigenous forest, sweepy bends and a single track. A scenic minibus ride takes you into the heart of the forest to the best hills to start your descent in the Garden Route National Park. All this while on the lookout for the local wildlife, the majestic Knysna Loerie, the shy bushbuck and wild boar.
Live Bee Keeping Experience
The Cape honeybee plays a major role in South African agriculture and the economy of the Western Cape by pollinating crops and producing honey. Come meet these fascinating flying insects, learn about their amazing abilities, get kitted up in protective gear and interact with them in their natural habitat & top it off with a mouth-watering honey tasting.
Guided Forest Walk & Picnic
Learn about the fascinating woodcutter and gold mine history of a forgotten era, touch an 880-year-old giant Yellow Wood tree, gently hike in the magical indigenous forest with streams, ferns, Knysna Loeries and so much more. Picnic at Jubilee Creek – an exquisite picnic area next to a forest creek in the Knysna Forest, simply a breathtakingly beautiful area. Ideal for either a secluded romantic picnic or whole family fun. Kids can lose themselves in the joy of water play while parents can relax on the soft grass in the shade nearby.
There are a lot of Knysna accommodation options available to choose from. If you want a beach stay there are hundreds, if not thousands of options, if you want modern, elegant, traditional or something out of the ordinary, like in the forest, then there will be something for you.
We, however, embrace the local Knysna Forest Accommodation to get the most authentic Knysna experience and embrace its rich heritage. What better way to spend your relaxing stay in Knysna than to relax in the forest with local wildlife and far enough from people that you can switch off yet close enough to keep experiencing something new.
These Knysna Forest Activities will leave you refreshed and ready to take on the world!