Knysna (pronounced /ˈnaɪznə/; probably from a Khoikhoi word meaning "ferns") is a town with 76,431 inhabitants in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and is part of the Garden Route. It lies 34 degrees south of the equator, and is 72 kilometres east from the town of George on the N2 highway, and 25 kilometres west of Plettenberg Bay on the same road.
Nestling between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean, Knysna is an ideal stopover on the scenic garden route. Located between George and Plettenberg Bay, the picturesque town is renowned n for its oysters and other yummy seafood dishes.
Tourism and the timber industry form the cornerstones of Knysna's economy.
The town is primarily built on the northern shore of a large warm-water estuary, fed by the Knysna River. The estuary opens to the ocean after passing between two large headlands. These are popularly known as "The Heads", and have become infamous due to the loss of boats and fishermen passing through their treacherous and unpredictable waters. Near them are geological formations, known locally as "The Map Stones." To the north of Knysna, Afro-Montane or temperate rainforest covers the hilly terrain for 20 km until changing to fynbos or macchia high up in the Outeniqua Mountains.
The people are warm and friendly. Knysna offers you the best of the diverse cultures of South Africa. Facts about Knysna help you get to know more about restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and eateries, which will come handy especially when your stomach is rumbling. You will get a wide variety of restaurants to cater to your taste and your budget. You must try out the Knysna oyster on Knysna Oyster Tours.
Boasting a moderate climate Knysna offers you a memorable holiday experience. Tourism and the timber industry form the base of the economy of Knysna.Facts about Knysna provide you with information on the festivals and events of Knysna, an integral part of the culture of Knysna. You can catch a glimpse of the popular festivals including the Knysna Timber Fair, the Knysna Oyster Festival and the Nederburg Knysna Arts Festival.
The town is a popular destination for both tourists and senior citizens entering retirement, especially among the British and former expatriates due to the year-round warm climate. Recently the town has also become a preferred destination among golfers, as the town boasts several world class golf courses including Pezula Golf Course, Simola Golf Course and the well established Knysna Golf Course situated on the lagoon. Knysna too is a favourite haunt of artists, restaurateurs and hippies. The nearest beach is located at Brenton-on-sea which lies directly west of the heads and is continuous with Buffalo Bay, a popular surf spot.
Knysna's other claim to fame is the home to the fabled Knysna forest elephant.
History of Knysna
A hamlet, Melville, appeared on the lakeshore in 1825, and was followed by another, Newhaven, in 1846. Knysna town, a 1882 amalgamation of these hamlets, was named after the Knysna River.
Knysna's port could provide shelter for up to 50 ships, and the region's abundant timber was exported from this bay as early as 1787. Landowner George Rex, who landed at the Cape in 1796, played a significant role in the town's early development and is considered the town's founder. Being a difficult port to enter, a harbour pilot was employed to assist large vessels. One of the better-known pilots was John Benn, originally a shipwright from Mossel Bay, appointed as pilot in 1868 and whose name is borne by a double-deck pleasure cruiser currently operating as a tourist attraction on the Knysna lagoon. The port was officially closed in 1954.
The Norwegian family, Thesen, played a considerable role in the development of Knysna from 1869 onwards. Arnt Leonard Thesen (1816–1875) and his son Charles Wilhelm Thesen in particular, founded and expanded the family timber and shipping business. Charles Thesen was mayor of Knysna for a number of terms.
One of the most popular leisure and shopping destinations in the region, Knysna Waterfront boasts with a superior marina, a base for luxury yachts and Knysna's gateway for cruises and luxury charters voyaging into our pristine lagoon.
You will find something for everybody, from books to boutiques, food to clothes, you will never have a dull moment at the Waterfront. If it is a piece of Africa you want to take home with you, look no further. You will find the rare jewels Africa has to offer. If you want to relax, you will find a variety of fine dinning establishments in the are serving a superb meal and the regions finest wine or local brew. The ideal location for family and friends.
The life-size bronze statue of Bondi is a treat to behold. This English Bulldog was known for visiting Knysna on the HMS Verbena during the 1920’s and 1930’s. He was a resident on this ship and was loved by its passengers. However, in 1931, he followed them onto shore and died of heatstroke. Bondi was buried on Thesen Island, and his statue remains as a reminder of this brave ‘sailor’. It can be seen just next to the ferry departure jetty on the western side of the Waterfront in Knysna.
Thesen Island - Knysna's 2nd Waterfront
The name Thesen has its origins in far-away Norway.
In July 1869, Arndt Leonard Thesen, a prominent timber merchant from Stavanger in Norway left his hometown with is wife and nine children, planning to start a new life in New Zealand. After their ship, the Albatros, ran into difficulties near Cape Town, Arndt Thesen decided to stay on in South Africa. The Thesens settled in the picturesque town of Knysna, surrounded by indigenous forests, where they started a timber trading company. In 1904 his son Charles Wilhelm Thesen bought Paarden Island, located in the Knysna River estuary. In 1922 he established a timber processing plant on the island, which soon became known as Thesen Island. In the early 1980s Barlows, one of South Africa’s industrial conglomerates, purchased the island and its timber treatment plant from Thesen and Company. Barlows soon realized that the timber processing activities could not be continued on this island located in the midst of such a scenic and eco-sensitive lagoon. At the same time there was growing community concern about the environmental and industrial pollution caused by the factory's activities. As a result the plant’s doors were finally closed. In the ensuing years the abandoned derelict buildings, machinery and waste dumps increasingly turned into an eyesore and a health hazard.
In 1991 Dr. Chris Mulder, a South African environmental engineer who received his doctorate in environmental design in Houston, USA, proposed a complete redevelopment of the island into a unique residential marina.
As the Knysna River estuary is one of the most sensitive ecosystems in the country and a major tourism attraction, the development of Thesen Islands called for extremely careful and sensitive planning covering ecological, architectural, engineering, aesthetic, social and cultural criteria. After eight years of research and planning by Dr. Mulder and his team, approval was finally granted in December 1998 - but with over one hundred strict and complex conditions. In all, ten years passed from initial concept to final approval, involving twenty-five alterations to the master plan!
Today, Thesen Islands is a multi-award winning marina development located in the scenic Knysna estuary on the renowned "Garden Route" of South Africa. The marina is spread over 90ha and consists of 19 man-made islands linked by 21 arched bridges and surrounded by 25ha of tidal waterways. The marina consists of 489 individual homes and 56 apartment units, known as the Dry Mill apartments, situated on its own island within the marina. All the homes are built in a colonial maritime architectural style, conforming to Knysna’s vernacular architecture and its historical maritime and timber connections.
Thesen Islands is linked by a causeway and bridge to the mainland, and is within walking distance of the scenic waterfront, yacht harbour and town centre of Knysna, one of South Africa’s most picturesque and popular coastal towns.
Knysna Charters has been operating at Thesen Island Harbour Town since 2007 as one of the original boating operators together with Ocean Odyssey who operated from the SANParks jetty
Popular Annual Events
The city hosts the annual Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival in July, an event that attracts large numbers of visitors from far afield.
The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras is also held annually, normally end of April/beginning of May, in the town.
Gastronomica is a lifestyle festival, held annually in September, that promotes healthy eating and organic principles. The Rastafarian Earth Festival is held at the end of July and celebrates their religion, culture and lifestyle.
- Rudolf Eric Koertzen - International cricket umpire
- Charles Wilhelm Thesen - shipowner and timber merchant
- Thomas Henry Duthie - Land owner, Supervisor of Crown Forests and Lands
- George Rex - Founder of Knysna, Land owner, and Timber Merchant
- George Rex Duthie- Managing Director and Ship builder at Thesens Co., Owner of Brenton Estate
The founder of Knysna (pronounced "nize-na") was one George Rex. In 1802, at the age of 39, he -- having shocked the Cape community by shacking up with a woman "of color" -- purchased the farm, which included the whole basin containing the Knysna lagoon. By the time of his death in 1839, he had engaged in a number of enterprises, the most profitable of which was timber, and had persuaded the Cape authorities to develop Knysna as a port. Knysna's development and the decimation of its forests were well under way. That any forests escaped the devastation of the 19th century is thanks to far-sighted conservation policies introduced in the 1880s, and today Knysna has the largest areas of indigenous forests left in South Africa. The Knysna elephants have fared less well -- attempts to augment their numbers by relocating three young cows from Kruger National Park failed miserably when it was discovered that the last remaining Knysna elephant was also a female. The surviving cows have subsequently been relocated to the Shamwari game reserve in the Eastern Cape. Detractors believed the forest pachyderms to be extinct, and that the only free-roaming elephants left in Knysna were those painted on road markers warning drivers to "beware." Then in October 2000, a 20-year-old elephant bull was spotted -- and photographed -- deep in the forest, making headlines throughout the Western Cape, and a few years later author and environmentalist Gareth Patterson set about collecting dung for Lori Eggbert, a scientist from the Smithsonian Institute, to perform DNA tests and hopefully prove his theory that at least 9 or 10 elephants remain at large. Actual sightings have yet to be repeated, however, and you're more likely to spot one if you overindulge in the delicious local beer.
Knysna used to be a sleepy village inhabited only by a handful of hippies and wealthy retirees, but the last decade has seen a tourist boom that has augmented numbers substantially -- nowhere is this more evident than on the congested main road that runs through town. Still, Knysna has retained a great deal more of its original village charm than either George or Plettenberg Bay, and remains the emotional heart of the region, with a resident population who actually live here all year-round (unlike Plett, which turns into a ghost town in winter). Its raison d'être is the large tidal lagoon, around which the town has grown, and the towering sandstone cliffs (called the heads) that guard the lagoon's narrow access to the sea. The eastern buttress has unfortunately been developed, but this means you can now overnight and play golf surrounded by a spectacular sea and fynbos environment, and the western side remains untouched -- a visit to the Featherbed Nature Reserve should be high on your list of priorities.
Fiela's Child is a South African novel written by Dalene Matthee and published in 1985. The book was originally written in Afrikaans under the name Fiela se Kind, and was later translated into not only English, but French, German, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew and Icelandic, among others.
The story is set in the forests of Knysna in South Africa in the nineteenth century, and tells the story of a Cape Coloured woman, Fiela, and her family who adopt an abandoned white child. Nine years later the child is taken away from the Fiela and forced to live with a white family of woodcutters who claim he is their lost son. It is ironic that his living conditions with the white people are actually much worse than with his coloured family who are seen as lower class because of their race. The climax of the story unfolds a few years later when the boy forces his "mother's" guilt to confess he is not actually her son and he returns to Fiela and family whom he chooses as his own.
Circles in a Forest / Kringe in 'n bos (Circles in a forest) (1984)
Dalene Matthee (October 13, 1938 - 20 February 2005) was a South African author who wrote mainly in Afrikaans, although her books were translated into fourteen other languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew and Icelandic. A descendant of Sir Walter Scott, she was born Dalene Scott in Riversdale in the then Cape Province. After matriculating from the local high school in 1957, she studied music at a conservatorium in Oudtshoorn as well as at the Holy Cross Covent in Graaff-Reinet. Her first book was a children's novel, Die twaalfuurstokkie (The twelve-o'-clock stick) (1970). In 1982 a collection of short stories called Die Judasbok (The Judas Goat) was also published. Before gaining fame and wide acclaim for her first "forest novel", she also wrote stories for magazines as well as two popular novels - ’n Huis vir Nadia (A House for Nadia) (1982) and Petronella van Aarde, burgemeester (Petronella van Aarde, Mayor) (1983).
Kringe in ’n bos (Circles in a forest) (1984), a novel about the extermination of the elephants and the exploitation of the woodcutters of the Knysna forest, was an international success. Two other highly successful "forest novels" followed: Fiela se Kind (Fiela's Child) in 1985 and Moerbeibos (The Mulberry Forest) in 1987.
Brug van die esels (Bridge of the mules) was published in 1993, followed by Susters van Eva (Sisters of Eve) in 1995, Pieternella van die Kaap (Pieternella from the Cape) in 2000 and the fourth "forest novel" Toorbos (Dream Forest) (2003).
Fiela's Child and Circles in a forest were filmed. She also won numerous literary prizes for her works.
After a short sickbed caused by heart failure, she died in Mossel Bay, South Africa. She was survived by her three daughters; her husband, Larius, died in 2003.
Other published works
- Die Twaalfuurstokkie (The twelve-o'-clock Stick) (1970)
- ’n Huis vir Nadia (A House for Nadia) (1982)
- Petronella van Aarde, Burgemeester (Petronella van Aarde, Mayor) (1983)
- Brug van die Esels (The Day The Swallows Spoke) (1992)
- Susters van Eva (Sisters of Eve) (1995)
- Pieternella van die Kaap (Pieternella from the Cape) (2000)
- Die Uitgespoeldes (Driftwood) (2005)
Knysna nestles on the banks of an 18 km² estuary where the Knysna River meets the tides of the Indian Ocean.
The lagoon is home to the unique Knysna seahorse, the exquisite Pansy shell and at least 200 species of fish.
Humpback and Southern Right whales frolic along these coastal waters from May to September, whilst dolphins are year-round residents.
The indigenous forests form the largest closed canopy forest in Southern Africa and are home to the colourful and endemic birds the Knysna loerie and Narina trogon.
Knysna is also home to the only forest elephant in South Africa. ( the most southernly in Africa )
Fynbos vegetation contributes 8,000 plant species to the Cape floral kingdom.
The town of Knysna, in the heart of the Garden Route, is surrounded by a natural paradise of lush indigenous forests, mountains and fynbos, tranquil estuaries, beautiful rivers and golden beaches.
A moderate climate and a fine selection of accommodation, restaurants and enjoyable activities make Knysna the perfect holiday destination.
Knysna is experiencing an intense growth phase with new developments mushrooming, a new yacht harbour and a championship golf course completed recently and a 5-star resort hotel nearing completion.
The town and its surrounds boast a large variety of hotels, guests houses, bed & breakfasts, restaurants, arts & crafts retailers, adventure and eco-adventure operators.
Timber is harvested from pine and gum plantations and, in controlled amounts, from indigenous forests in the area. This is used to manufacture cable drums, plyboard and other building timbers. Wooden houses are exported to the Indian Ocean Islands,
Singapore and Australia. The furniture industry uses indigenous timbers such as stinkwood and yellowwood, while modern furniture lines are increasingly being exported.
Khoisan people inhabited the Garden Route from the Stone Age onwards, feeding on the riches of land and sea. They were displaced only after the first Dutch settlers arrived in the area during the seventeenth century. .... I would leave this sentence out and replace it with ..... Coastal caves and middens are evidence to their early existence in the area, some of these caves are open to the public.
Knysna's recent history began in 1804, when the farm Melkhoutkraal was purchased by George Rex, a timber merchant. He owned virtually all the land surrounding the lagoon.
Knysna became a port with naval and commercial ships bringing in supplies and taking timber out from the settlements of Melville and Newhaven, which eventually united to form the town of Knysna.
In 1869, a Norwegian sea-faring family, the Thesens, settled in Knysna. They set up business and became important timber merchants and shipbuilders.
In the 1880s gold was discovered in the forest and the mining village of Millwood sprang up. This was short-lived, however, as the gold yields were small and soon ran out. Millwood holds the title of being the first mining town established in South Africa.
The harbour no longer functions as a commercial port, but The Heads still guard the restless passage through which many a trading vessel sailed out into the wide ocean beyond.
The tides rise and fall at an average 1,7m, filling the lagoon through a turbulent channel between "The Heads", which are two great sandstone cliffs. Many a vessel came to grief trying to cross the two outer sandbars during the years when Knysna was used as a harbour.
The lagoon is permanently open to the sea, although the volume of influent fresh water is relatively small. This stable, saline environment accounts for the remarkable diversity of species recorded here, the highest in any South African estuary. Swampy areas, salt marshes and eelgrass areas of the estuary, exposed at low tide, produce almost all the food used by other organisms in the estuary, as well as reducing water velocities during floods, and trapping sediment.
The magnificent Southern Cape forests are one of South Africa's greatest natural heritages, owing their existence to the regular, orographic rainfall in the region. For many years the forests were mercilessly robbed of their rich resources, supplying timber to the furniture, construction and mining industries. Today, however, the forests are managed according to strict conservation principles.
Outeniqua yellowwood trees draped with Old Mans Beard lichen present an imposing sight. A particularly big, old specimen can be seen at Diepwalle forest station: the â€˜King Edward VIIâ€™ tree, named in 1924 on a visit by the Empire Parliamentary Association, is estimated to be 600 years old; its total height is 39 m, the boleâ€™s circumference is 6 m.
Other common and well-known species in the Knysna forest include Stinkwood; Real Yellowwood; Blackwood; White alder; Ironwood and Hard Pear.
The Tree fern, Cyathea capensis, is a protected species and grows in groups along banks of forest streams and under the canopy of moist forests. The ferns in the wet, high forests of Diepwalle have grown in abundance, to heights of 6 m.
The Valley of Ferns is situated on the road between Knysna and Uniondale, approximately 10 km after the Diepwalle forest station. It offers a pleasant, tranquil picnic site and a short walk through the grove of ferns. Stinkwood trees, Ironwood, Red Alder and the Forest Elder may also be seen here.
Fynbos (fine bush) is an evergreen heath-shrubland contributing a staggering 8000 species to the Fynbos floral kingdom. This Fynbos is unique to the southwestern areas of South Africa and has earned International Heritage status by being the smallest floral kingdom in the world but boasts the greatest bio-diversity of species.
Three plant families characterise this abundance: Proteas, including the famous King Protea, which can grow up to 20cm in diameter; Ericas (heather); and Restios, which are reed-like grasses.
Within its idyllic natural setting, the small picturesque town of Knysna emerges as a vibrant mini-metropolis, offering a kaleidoscope of unforgettable experiences. From leisurely relaxation to high energy adventure, from sporting activities to shopping, from cappuccino to haute cuisine, from the famous Knysna oyster or a taste of the locally brewed beer, Knysna reflects the finer things of life, a synthesis of discerning sophistication and nature’s abundance. Alive and pulsing, the buzz of international trends mixes with the beat of Africa and creates an unmistakable sense of real wonder not to be found anywhere else. From up market waterfront shops to grassroots community living, Knysna offers the best of South Africa's varied cultures.
The Local Municipality comprises Barrington, Bracken Hill, Buffelsbaai, Concordia, Gouna, Karatara, Knysna, Kraaibos, Kruisvallei,Mielierug, Noetzie, Sedgefield and Sonskyn.
Knysna 2020 Mission statement:
To provide affordable quality services, alleviate poverty and facilitate social and economic development of the area through integrated development planning, cooperative governance, skills development and sustainable utilisation of resources.
- Total population 2006 55 817
- Male 27 710
- Female 28 106
- Gross Domestic Regional Product 2004 R923m
- Contribution to GDPR 2004 11%
- Annual Economic Growth Rate 2000 – 2004 3,9%
Tourism is the major recognized economic activity for the greater Knysna area. In 2006 Knysna generated 550 000 tourists with a 50/50 split between International and Domestic visitors. 80% visited for leisure reasons. The economic impact of tourism for our town was in the region of R621 000.
-34.029999 Latitude / 23.059999 Longitude
GMT +2 hours
The Climate in Knynsa
Knysna has a geographical climate similar to typically Mediterranean Maritime climate. The summers are hot and the winters mild to chilly. During the summer, the average maximum temperature reaches about 25ºC and rarely goes above 30ºC. The average maximum temperature during the winter months ranges in the area of 16ºC to 17ºC.
The rainfall in Knysna is one of the richest rainfall percentages in South Africa with the wettest time of the year being between October and December.
Whatever the season, Knysna stays green. Its warm, temperate climate makes it the perfect all-year-round destination. A place where days are packed with promise.
Knysna is a well-developed town, with an infrastructure to meet all the tourist´s needs. With good service and a friendly smile, we will help you enjoy your stay.
Knysna can easily be accessed by road as it lies on the N2 between Cape Town (500km) and Port Elizabeth (260km).
Distance Table: (Destination to Knysna)
- Mossel Bay - 105 km
- George - 60 km
- Wilderness - 50km
- Oudtshoorn - 120 km
- Plettenberg Bay - 30 km
- Stormsriver - 90 km
- Sedgefield - 25 km
- Buffalo Bay - 21 km
- Brenton on Sea - 16 km
- Rheenendal - 21 km
George Airport is a mere 60km away and provide a variety of daily fligh options. Plettenberg Bay Airport can only accommodate chartered flights at the moment. We suggest that you allow 1 hour travelling time to George for out of season periods and 1 hour 45 minutes travelling time in peak season (Dec, Jan, Oyster Festival).
There is currently no rail access to Knysna.
All About Knysna
Knysna is an amazing place and has become one of the top tourist places in South Africa in few years. Situated on the Garden Route in the Western Cape. When tourists and fellow South Africans visit knysna they always walk away thinking to themselves, if only they had more time to explore this beautiful part of the Garden Route.
Knysna - Quick Facts
Country : South Africa
Languages : Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Pedi, English, Ndebele, Sotho, Setswana, siSwati, Venda and Tsonga
Currency : South Africa Rand
Electricity : 220/230V
Time zone : GMT+2
Dialing code : 0027-44
- Do a guided canoe safari on the Knysna River into the depths of the forest
- More adventurous? Do hiking, swimming, boulder hopping and kloofing with jumps of up to 18m
- Interested in culture? Visit the large and well-established Rasta community
When to go
Try to avoid the christmas season as all the South Africans are then on there summer holidays at the Garden Route.
How to get there
Take the N2 from Durban or from Cape Town.
Most international airlines fly to South Africa (e.g. South African Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, airberlin/LTU, Turkish Airlines, KLM)
Direct flights to Johannesburg are offered all year long, while direct flights to Cape Town depend on the season
Use local airlines (1time, Kulula, Mango) to get around
No visa required for nearly all nationalities. You get a tourist visa at the airport which allows you to stay 90 days and can be renewed at Home Affairs.
Waiters/waitresses get a minimum salary, so it is common to add 10% tip to the bill.
View our publications below. To order printed versions or high res version of the publications contact Brad Cable at 083 654 9007.
Town: knysna, KNYSNA, Knysna
State: western, province, cape, western, cape
Country: South Africa, south, africa, SA, ZA, SOUTH, AFRICA, zuid afrika, südafrika