Knysna and the Garden Route

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in Featured, South Africa | 4 comments

I didn’t know what to expect while touring South Africa.  I had heard horror stories about crime in Johannesburg, rave reviews about Cape Town, and next to nothing about anything else.  Given these expectations, Mike and I decided to focus our time around Cape Town.  While we enjoyed the city itself, we absolutely fell in love with the surrounding areas.  Within one hour of Cape Town lies some of the most idyllic wine country we have ever experienced (more on this later).  And Cape Town serves as the ideal jumping off point for the Garden Route, a popular and drivable stretch of coastline dotted with picturesque towns in southeastern South Africa.

We only allotted three days to enjoy the Garden Route but you could really spend weeks town hopping. So, we had to be picky in which part we would drive and where we would stay.  After a bit of research and taking the advice of a woman we met while changing our flat tire in Namibia (a friendly American expat who had lived in the area for years), we decided on staying in Kysna, the “pearl of the Garden Route.”

View from the Garden Route drive

View from the Garden Route drive

As you may know, I am a sucker for cheesy jokes that I can pound into the ground until they are no longer funny.  So I was thrilled when I read about Kysna from the always factual Wikipedia:

The peculiarity of the origin of the place named Knysna is commonly explained with a light-hearted joke of two German tourists traveling to Knysna, and upon reaching the lookout point on the eastern Knysna Head, the one says to the other: ‘Nice, na?’.”

Knysna Harbor

Knysna Harbor

Haha, I love it.  I’m not sure that Mike did after hearing it several times. In any case, Knysna was nice, very nice in fact. In addition to a stunning landscape (the town is situated between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian ocean), there is plenty to do – enjoy the harbor, shop, hike in the Tsitsikamma National Park or Featherbed Nature Reserve, dine on the water, engage in adventure sports, etc. However, we decided to use our time in this accommodating community to simply relax. 

Knysna Lagoon

Knysna Lagoon with ‘The Heads’ in the distance (view from our rental house)

We used AirBnb to find a place to stay and ended up renting a quaint house with a view of the centrally located lagoon owned by two locals: Mark and Liz. Mark and Liz were not only fabulous hosts, but also ended up being highlights of our time in Knysna.  They quickly became friends as we joined them for home cooked meals, cocktails, and entertaining tales.  Mark, a semi-retired car dealership owner, is one of those people that knows a little about everything and can make the most mundane stories into hilarious sagas.  Liz is warm and engaging and treated us like family.  We learned about the history of the area and were even able to pick their brain about the country’s past political unrest.  We also took their advice when it came to how to spend our days.

A true highlight was simply driving to ‘The Heads’, a large block of sandstone that juts into the Knysna lagoon and allows for views of the ocean and the luxe Knysna real estate.  (By the way, the homes are also very cheap and plentiful if anyone wants to risk buying property in Africa!).

"The Heads" - Knysna

‘The Heads’ – Knysna

We also took a day trip to Plettenberg Bay (Plet to the locals) which only made us appreciate Knysna more.  While we did enjoy the farmer’s market on the drive to Plet, we found that the town’s only draw is that it actually has a beach (Knysna, sadly, does not). 

Plet Farmer's Market

Plet Farmer’s Market

We were incredibly pleased to have chosen Knysna as our stop along the Garden Route.  We loved its laid back vibe, approachable restaurants, and the fact that we were able to make friends with our hosts. But, in hindsight, the drive through the Garden Route is so spectacular that I think you can enjoy the experience even if you don’t connect with the town you are in.  The dramatic mountains are softened by green rolling hills filled with bright yellow canola flowers. I kept asking Mike to pull our car over for photos and I am still not sure if the pictures do the landscape justice. (For the record, we rented a diminutive, cherry red, Chevy Spark that, while reliable, was a far cry from the masculine roof-top tent truck in Namibia.)  The contrasting colors, meticulously maintained plots of land, and lush greenery were simply amazing. While the Garden Route itself was the attraction, a stay in Knysna was the icing on the cake.  Just take a look at the pictures in this post…nice, na?

Indian Ocean meeting the Knysna lagoon

Indian Ocean meeting the Knysna lagoon




  1. Mike and Kate you still remain one of our most memorable guests. May your unearth the world adventure continue with enormous success as you place volunteers in community outreach programs. Knysna misses you. Mark and Liz.

    • Thanks Mark! Hope you and Liz are doing well! You are one of our most memorable hosts! We are excited to be entering into our next adventure as parents and welcoming twin girls soon. Please keep in touch!

  2. I agree with Grandma Mary. Who would have thought that South Africa would have such gorgeous sites and landscapes? As beautiful as your pics are, I am sure their actual beauty does not come through the screen.
    Love and miss you,

  3. I enjoyed all 4 of the Africa blogs and loved the pictures. Your picture-taking is only surpassed by your writings. It looks so surprisingly beautiful, who’d known? LOVE, GRAM

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