Embracing an exquisitely beautiful lagoon and surrounded by ancient forests, Knysna (pronounced ny-znah) is probably the most famous town on the Garden Route. Formerly the centre of the timber industry, supplying yellowwood and stinkwood for railway lines, shipping and house-building, it still has several shops specialising in woodwork and traditional furniture. The lagoon is popular with sailing enthusiasts, and there are plenty of boat trips on offer.
With its serene setting, arty and gay-friendly vibe, excellent places to stay, eat and drink, and wide range of activities, Knysna has plenty going for it. But if you’re after something quiet and undeveloped, you might like to look elsewhere – particularly in high season.
In June 2017, a massive wildfire ravaged the area, destroying more than 1000 homes and devastating the landscape. It will take decades for the forests to recover, though the town was welcoming tourists back within a couple of weeks.