Knysna is your oyster

Out of season, the Knysna Quays is a quiet home base for a Garden Route holiday Picture: GALLO IMAGES

There is more to this picturesque easide resort than sand and sea, writes Lauren Cohen

REASON TO ESCAPE 

You just have to mention you’re going to Knysna on holiday and everyone groans with envy. I’m not sure if it is the famous Knysna Heads, the lagoon on which the town is scenically located, the oysters, the freshly baked artisan bread at île de pain, the beautiful forests, or the beaches. 

Having been a Garden Route regular during my childhood, I prefer visiting out of season, when you can drive down the main road faster than you can walk it. Plus, visiting during the winter months means you’re guaranteed the best possible rates. 

ALL ABOUT IT 

With the price of petrol rapidly increasing, road trips are not as cheap and carefree as they once were. 

I chose to rope in a few friends to help with the costs, which made our lovely three-bedroom flat at the Knysna Quays more affordable. 

I’m told residents enjoy swimming in the quays in summer, but only my friend’s new sunglasses had a dip in the extremely chilly water. 

They sank as fast as the bottle of Moreson Miss Molly bubbly we were enjoying on the sunny jetty. 

Later we watched the sun set over the lagoon and Outeniqua Mountains while celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday at Elephant Hide, a previously undiscovered guest lodge at the top of the Welbedacht Cliffs. 

Shopping is always just a short walk away, at the Knysna Waterfront or the Thesen Island Harbour Town, the former a hit with tourists and the latter a hit with trophy wives carrying credit cards. 

The recently widened roads winding along the lagoon made me wish I had brought my running shoes. 

THE FOOD 

I started dreaming about the companion bread at île de pain a few nights before my trip, with its dark, hard crust and chewy insides. 

Breakfast here is a continuous call for buttery croissants, cafe lattes, refreshing cucumber and pineapple juice, softly poached eggs and homemade bircher muesli. And at R44 and under, breakfast is much cheaper than you’d expect. 

For lunch there was Cornutti’s at the Knysna Heads, for crashing waves and perfect thin-crust pizzas, but a road trip to The Crags, 20km outside of Plettenberg Bay towards Port Elizabeth, won the day. 

With the rain lifting just in time for us to sit outside between the vines at Bramon Wine Estate, we ordered a bottle of their Cap Classique, made with 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. 

We ordered mezze of chicken liver paté, dolmades, humus, olive tapenade, Springbok carpaccio, smoked snoek fish cakes and Greek salad. You can make your own cheese platter with brie, camembert, English Stilton and gorgonzola. 

I made a visit to the Wild Oats Market in Sedgefield, which did not disappoint, and snapped up chai tea, fresh fish, homemade fruit smoothies, biltong, cheeses and preserves at reasonable prices. There is also a wide selection of clothing, arts and crafts to be found for the laid-back browser. 

Even dogs are welcome here, provided they’re on a leash. 

At Packwood Estate, between Knysna andPlettenbergBay, Vicky Gent’s maiden Sauvignon Blanc 2009 made by the award-winning Teddy Hall impressed with its tropical notes – and talking of being impressed, the Packwood mature cheddar made tasty gifts for loved ones back home. 

DID IT LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS? 

Knysna is a much-loved laid-back destination . Try not to drink the tap water though because it’s the suspected culprit of many an upset stomach . 

For such a small town there is much to do within an hour’s drive on either side, which involves sport, arts and culture or cuisine. It’s a vibrant part of the Garden Route, which seems to evolve with every visit. 

A few years ago the Knysna Mall made local headlines when it installed the town’s first escalator – now it seems the sky’s the limit for this pearl of a seaside town. 

DETAILS AND DIRECTIONS 

For more about Knysna Quays see www.knysnaquays.co.za (accommodation) or call 044-382-3080 

île de pain 044-302-5707 

Bramon Wine Estate 044-534-8007

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