When booking your Knysna Forest Accommodation, be sure to look at the surrounding attractions, activities and cuisine.
South Africa is a country with varying terrains, diverse climates and ecosystems that change around almost every corner you take. Considering our diversity there is one thing that is missing and very rarely seen – forests. When we talk about forests we are not talking about man-made plantations or pine ‘forests’, but rather natural, indigenous, evergreen forests that evoke a sense of magical mystery.
Nestled in the Knysna mountains in the famous Garden Route is South Africa’s largest and oldest natural forest. Spanning a mere 568 square kilometres, the Knysna forest is small compared to its international counterparts. However, don’t underestimate the impact this forest has on the local climate, ecosystems, wildlife and human life.
History of Knysna Forest
The Dutch East India Company (VOC), after settling in Cape Town, had quickly gone through the small forests on the Table Mountain slopes and needed to find larger quantities of wood to meet their demand for fuel, buildings and raw materials. In the early 18th Century shipping routes from Mauritius were closed down, which prompted the investigation for raw materials in their nearby surroundings. The Dutch settlers initiated their exploration by venturing both East and West of Cape Town, finding suitable locations and setting up outposts as they progressed. However, it wasn’t until they found the Garden Route that they saw the vast expanses of timber. In 1817 the Knysna Lagoon was declared a port and through some trial and tribulations a harbour was established and local economy and wood trade expedited.
Knysna Forest Woodcutters
By the early 20th Century the harbour was no longer able to function as intended due to its narrow and shallow profile. It was then that a railway was established, connecting Knysna to the main railway network throughout the country. However, by the time the railway was completed, it became clear that the magical, local, the indigenous forest was not endless and that steps needed to be taken to protect and preserve the Knysna Forest.
The local woodcutters, who lived in the Knysna Forests, felled and sold trees to local sawmills for a living. The Knysna Forest Woodcutters would cut down enormous trees by hand and sell the timber off for very small amounts – leaving them in a state of constant poverty. Their livelihood was then at risk, with many woodcutters having to leave the forest to find alternate jobs when forest preservation become a priority. In 1967 the forest was closed completely and no felling of trees was allowed.
“The Woodcutter’s day started with the sun. He would either walk the few miles of forest trail to the tree upon which he was working or wake up beside it to the smell of a smouldering ironwood fire and old ash and the clean scent of fresh wood-chips. Soon there would be the fragrance of coffee and tobacco smoke and then, with the first shafts of sunlight, the ringing of axes would begin again. A man and his sons might spend as long as a month working a giant yellowwood or stinkwood tree.” Hjalmar Thesen, Country Days (David Philip, Cape Town, 1974)
Honeymoon in the forest
The Knysna Forest is a place that is filled with mystery, beauty and intrigue. Pulling from the rich history and abundant wildlife, the forests are the perfect place to build real connections and ignite a fire in our hearts. And there are no better place than Forest Edge Nature Lovers’ Retreat.
In keeping with our passion for real connections and our celebration of the Knysna Forest history, our honeymoon couples will be treated to an amazing full English breakfast buffet on our picturesque Lily Pond Deck. Breakfast is hosted by our own storyteller extraordinaire – Dries du Preez. What better way to start your adventure-filled day in the Knysna Forest, than joining “Oom Dries” for breakfast, your daily dose of tour guide advice and colourful stories.
Types of accommodation you will find in or around the forest
The Knysna forest is a diverse, tropical, magic place to be and there is no better way to celebrate its mystery by staying inside it or on the very nearby parameter. There is a wide variety of Knysna Forest accommodation options, but to get the best experience we have found you need to find something as authentic as possible.
You will want to stay in a place that celebrates romance, embraces the local history and gives you a local and authentic experience. To get this experience we advise that you stay in either an authentic forest cabin or one of the treetop tents. Knysna Forest accommodation can sometimes be hard to come by, depending on the season or local events, so be sure to book your forest stay in advance.
Things to do in the Knysna forest and wider Knysna area
Food & local cuisine
Home to the famous Knysna oyster festival, Knysna offers a wide range of food options in a cosmopolitan environment with a small-town feeling. For an authentic experience when signing up for Knysna Forest accommodation, make sure you set aside some time to try out the local, more authentic and traditional dishes. Speak to some locals or your accommodation hosts to find out where the local hidden gems are and what their speciality is.
Knysna is a little town that is surrounded by mountains and forests. Because of its location and setting, Knysna has some of the best hiking trails in South Africa. The Knysna hiking trails are diverse and have varying degrees of difficulties and distances to suit any kind of hiker. If you are a recreational hiker, or someone who just wants to see the local flora and fauna then there is a route for you. If you are a highly skilled and fit hiker then you can push your boundaries by embarking on hiking trails that extend through the Garden Route.
Knysna is a very well-known mountain biking destination with some of the most challenging and spectacular mountain biking routes in the Garden Route.
The Homtini mountain biking trail is a 19km circular route that starts and ends at Krisjan-se-Nek picnic area in the Millwood Forest. This mountain biking trail includes single-track sections, it is 19km long (about 3km from Forest Edge) and there is a tough climb between kilometres 5 and 9.
Mountain biking trails like these, includes scenes of scenic high forest, fynbos and plantations. There is a swimming spot just before a very tough climb.
From the top, there is a stunning view over the Knysna River gorge, Lilyvlei Forest and the Knysna Heads in the distant background, and later on the Millwood Goldfields. It traverses sections of wet forest and a white-water stream.
There are also many, many other mountain biking trails that you can explore to maximise your adventure stay in the Knysna forest.
Beaches & lagoon
Knysna is very well known for its beaches and the famous Knysna Lagoon. Beaches are filled over the holiday season where beachgoers are treated to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and the pristine white sand that South African beaches are renowned for. There are many different beaches in Knysna that you can visit, such as Bollard Bay, Noetzie Beach, Buffalo Bay, and many more.
If you plan on going to any beach in or around Knysna please make sure you bring the essentials and make sure you never swim alone as some of the swimming spots are known for having strong rip currents and highly fluctuating tides.
Things to see
Flora & Fauna
Knysna has an abundance of wildlife and ecosystems. With mountains, forests and the ocean, there is healthy biodiversity that allows for phenomenal sight-seeing. There are also some species that can only be seen in Knysna, which will no doubt make your trip and Knysna Forest Accommodation well worth it. Some species that are unique to Knysna include the Knysna Loerie, Knysna Seahorse, Knysna Dwarf Chameleon, and many more. The area also plays host to many smaller species such as the rare blue duiker and Cape clawless otter.
There are also ancient tree and plant species that can be viewed, many of which are indigenous to the region, of which the Outeniqua Yellowwood is the most famous.
Some of the most popular trees you will find when walking through the Knysna forest
- Outeniqua yellowwood (Podocarpus falcatus)
- Real yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius)
- Stinkwood (Occotea bullata)
- White pear (Apodytes dimidiata subsp. dimidiata)
- Terblans beech (Faurea macnaughtonii)
- Assegai (Curtisia dentata)