There are so many reasons to visit the seaside town of Knysna in the Western Cape. We share our top five … from exceptional walks and hikes to ziplining to get the adrenaline flowing to brilliant shopping and restaurants. And The Loft .. which is so good we gave it its own extra five reasons.
1. Eat, drink, (shop) and be merry
Thesen Harbour Town, as well as the centre of Knysna, is a hub of restaurants, shops, art galleries … and not much makes us merrier than a successful shopping expedition followed by an exceptional meal.
On the shopping list – boho kaftans, sexy swimwear and local jewellery, which you’ll find in the many boutiques that line the streets. Lots of tiny little stores in The Boatshed (we were mad about Rawganic health food store). Art, too, is a great buy in Knysna. There are Moving Art Galleries – with local art displays … check out the collections at the Knysna Fine Art Gallery, as well as on the walls at the Turbine Hotel. Our non-negotiable stop is Madame Botany (the main one in town, a tiny version next to Ile de Pain bakery). It’s exactly what you’d expect from the name … all things botanical, from floral table runners to garden accessories to herbaceous lotions. And if you’re in Knysna on a Saturday, pop over to the Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market in Sedgefield … stalls of fresh farm goodies, a real treat. The harbour town has eateries well-fed-cheek-by-jowl … from the obvious seaside spoils like seafood (oysters and bubbly at sundown is hard to beat), sushi and tapas, to family faves like pizza, steak and burger bars. The one you shouldn’t miss is Ile de Pain Bakery and Café in The Boatshed … made famous by the bread (it started out as an artisan, wood-fired oven bakery, one of the first in the country … and turns out loaf after loaf of exceptional breads, to be eaten before anything else with loads of thick butter and a sprinkling of salt) but now also dishing up heavenly pastries and healthy, fresh lunch options.
2. The Knysna Forest
A little over 3000 square kilometres, this massive expanse of Afromontane forest is thick with trees and ferns, flowers and creepers, bright orange fungi, green moss and old man’s beard. Amazing birdlife for twitchers … with the colourful Knysna louries, Rameron pigeons and Knysna scrub warblers, as well as mountain buzzards and Cape eagle owls. There are bush pigs and baboons, vervet monkeys and bushbuck and blue duiker. Leopards, thankfully elusive, and elephants … apparently just one female left. It’s an exceptional destination for hikers and mountain bikers – with more than a dozen well-marked trails, ranging from the fairly easy and immensely enjoyable – we did the Terblans 7km walk in about three hours, with plenty of stops along the way (great photo opportunities, as well as quiet spots to simply sit and take in the splendour) – to the more challenging routes for those who want to push themselves. Details: visitknysna.co.za
3. Ziplining … not for the faint-hearted
Zipline across the Kranshoek Gorge between Knysna and Plett. Here’s one for the brave and fearless. A new zipline has just opened … with four cables taking you more than 2km, while you’re more than 200 metres high … with another two cables to be added before the end of the year. If you can keep your eyes open, there are spectacular views of the Indian Ocean, as well as the forest, fynbos and valley far, far below. Details: knysnaziplines.co.za
4. You won’t get bored
There’s something new to do every day of your holiday. For water babies, there’s stand-up paddling, kayaking and sailing as well as fishing, whale watching and sunset cruises. You can hire everything you need, including GoNow electric bicycles, which make exploring a breeze. For beach babes, there are 10 exceptionally beautiful swimming beaches within a 42km radius of The Lofts Boutique Hotel, while golfers have a choice of three world class courses.
5. The Lofts, a four-star, 18-room boutique hotel … which is so amazing it deserves five of its own must-visit reasons.
1 Location, location, location. The hotel sits right on the water in the heart of the Knysna Lagoon on Thesen Island. The shopping, the restaurants, the activities are all just a few minutes walk away. And then there’s the iconic view from your bedroom window.
2 Staff. Let’s face it, staff in the hospitality industry should be great. But they’re so often not. Here, they rock. Shout out to Justice Witbooi, who took time off to walk with us in the forest, and then back at the hotel kept the cold cocktails coming.
3 Fabulous food. There’s no formal restaurant at The Lofts … but there is an atrium speciality coffee, snack and drinks bar – all indoor plants and soaring ceilings – where really lovely breakfasts are served, as are all-day snacks and very early (and exceptionally tasty) dinners.
4 The Boatshed. A cocktail of local whisky, apples, cinnamon and Ginger Ale. A five star cocktail!
5 Something for everyone. There are exclusive lagoon suites, comfy loft rooms, and brilliant self-catering two-bedroom units that are perfect for families. Add to this a splash pool, a spa (a massage with a view … swoon), and sundeck … and it’s clear why this is the latest addition to the Cape Country Routes’ collection of around 20 owner-operated and managed hotels, lodges and guest houses on the scenic and historic routes in the Western and Eastern Cape, all carefully selected for their character, charm and romance.