Knysna is surrounded by nature! With its location in the Garden Route National Park (GRNP), it’s no wonder that the greater Knysna area is considered to be one of the most picturesque in the country and is a Garden Route must see.
Garden Route National Park
This magnificent park, with its many kilometres of forests, fynbos and coastline, stretches from Wilderness to Tsitsikamma and includes the Knysna National Lake Area. The unique combination of ocean, inland water systems, indigenous forests and mountain catchment areas in such close proximity has resulted in Knysna becoming a major international tourist attraction and one of the top holiday destinations in South Africa.
The GRNP is managed by SANParks which also issues the permits needed for boating and fishing on the Knysna Lagoon, lakes and rivers, and hiking and mountain biking on the trails within the park.
Featherbed Nature Reserve
A handful of other scenic nature reserves in Knysna are definitely worth a visit. On the Western Head, the magnificent Featherbed Nature Reserve is a famous Garden Route tourist attraction and one of the top 10 things to do in Knysna. A privately-owned reserve and South African Heritage Site, it is only accessible by ferry and provides perfect family holiday entertainment, with the opportunity to see and learn about the Knysna loerie, the endangered Knysna seahorse the African black oystercatcher and rare blue duiker. The number of daily visitors is limited to protect its sensitive environment. Visitors must book a 4-hour eco-experience which includes a return ferry trip from the Featherbed terminal and a guided drive to the top of the headland.
Goukamma Nature Reserve
Between Knysna and Sedgefield along the road to Buffalo Bay, the Goukamma Nature Reserve is another World Heritage Site and Marine Protected Area currently managed by CapeNature. It boasts an abundance of wildlife, birds and fish within its 2,500 hectares of dense coastal forest and embraces the Goukamma River and Estuary and the Groenvlei Lake. Swimming, sailing, canoeing and fishing are all permitted on the reserve. There are six hiking trails of varying distances as well as designated picnic spots. Permits can be purchased at the reserve office or through CapeNature Central Reservations.
Pledge Nature Reserve
Few towns boast a nature reserve in the centre of a busy commercial area. Pledge Nature Reserve is a 10-hectare green belt in the heart of Knysna that has been restored to its original state with 8,600 plant species, nearly 100 species of bird, reptiles and amphibians in the dams and streams, and many small mammals including buck, porcupine, mongoose, and spotted genet. Meandering trails to the highest point of the reserve will reward you with spectacular views of the Knysna Heads. The reserve is ideal for picnics or just catching your breath on one of the many benches provided.
You’ll find it within close walking distance from the Visit Knysna offices in Main Street. The reserve is open every single day of the week with a small entrance fee of R20 for adults and R10 for children – and this includes a very informative booklet. Permits can be bought from Polvo’s Coffee, the Wayside Inn or Visit Knysna in Main Road. Dogs on leashes are welcome.
Steenbok Park Nature Reserve
A protected area regulated by SANParks on Leisure Island, it is just 4 km from Knysna town. It is open every day and there is no entrance fee. It consists of 17 hectares adjacent to the Knysna Lagoon and is a great place to walk your dog on a leash or to throw a fishing line. Kids will love the expansive grassed area and the large alien tree which has been retained as a jungle gym.