A leisurely paddle in paradise

The greater Knysna area falls within the unfenced borders of the Garden Route National Park  and is intertwined with lakes, rivers, and the ocean. It is a haven for water lovers – the beaches are legendary, and the lakes, lagoons and rivers are a fabulous playing field for water sports lovers! Paddling in the area is a popular holiday activity for the whole family, and with so many options to choose from, it will be hard to choose where to start first!


Exploring the Knysna lagoon and the Knysna river at your own leisure with a kayak or on a SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board) is a great way to sightsee “off land”. Popular areas to launch are Leisure Island and the Old Drift / Red Bridge area. From here you can meander the waterways past the Waterfront, Thesen Islands, The Point, Featherbed Nature Reserve and the Featherbed beach bar, Brenton-on-Lake, and Belvidere. The bird life is prolific and there are many small beaches tucked away around the lagoon – perfect to work on your suntan, or for a land-based picnic! At Thesen Islands and the Knysna Waterfront you can moor your canoe or SUP at one of the public jetties and have a scrumptious lunch at one of the restaurants. So pack a life jacket, hat, sunscreen and enjoy a fabulous outing for the whole family!

Top Tip: Top tip
• If you are paddling close to the Knysna Heads keep an eye on the tide. Make sure the tide is “coming in”, i.e. from low to high tide. The current is quite strong, and if you are too close when the tide is going out, you may find it difficult to turn away from the Heads.
• At low tide it is important to follow the channel markers to prevent hitting the sandbanks.
• Always wear a life jacket and keep an eye out for other boats.
• For the fishermen – remember to buy your fishing license from the local Post Office on Main Road.

Don’t have your own? No problem, you can rent some from various local boat operators on Thesen Islands.


Goukamma area

When you take the turn-off left on the N2 to Buffalo Bay from Knysna, the Goukamma river is on your right. The river winds its way from the forest in Rheenendal towards the ocean via the Goukamma Nature Reserve. It is the life force of the vibrant Goukamma area and is perfect for swimming and paddling.

Go for lunch and rent canoes from the establishments on the riverbank, or buy a permit and launch your own from the Goukamma Nature Reserve. The Reserve also boasts some great hiking trails, and delightful picnic spots on the banks of the river.

Top Tip: Top tip:
• Ask the guides on duty for any safety tips whilst on the river.


This small hamlet is wedged between lakes on the one side and the ocean on the other side. The most popular lakes for water activities are Swartvlei lake and estuary, and Groenvlei lake. Each need permits to launch any type of boating or sailing activity. Groenvlei falls under Cape Nature and permits can be bought from their offices in Goukamma. Permits for Swartvlei can be obtained from the SANParks office on Thesen Islands in Knysna, or Ebb-and-Flow in Wilderness.

It is a beautiful part of the Garden Route with abounding bird life and spectacular views of the Outeniqua mountains in the back.

Top Tip: Top tip:
• No matter where you paddle, always wear a life jacket when on the water.
• A hat and sunscreen are essential survival gear in our summer weather.
• Keep an eye on the weather forecast – the weather along the coast can change within an hour and can hamper your return to your starting point.