The name Knysna is a Khoi word but it's uncertain as to its exact meaning. It could mean "place of wood", or it could mean "fern leaves", but its most probable meaning is "straight down" - an obvious reference to the Heads. Knysna Heads must be the most striking geological features along the entire southern African coastline. They flank a deep but potentially treacherous channel through which the sea pours in to flood the wide and breathtakingly pretty lagoon at the mouth of the Knysna River. Knysna's history began in the year 1804, the year that saw the arrival of George Rex, rumoured to be the illegitimate son of King George lll. He purchased the estate known as Melkhoutkraal on the shores of the lagoon and moved his entire family and considerable entourage down to Knysna to settle.
Knysna is one of the Southern Cape coast's best known holiday destinations, situated between lush forests and the shores of the peaceful lagoon - it offers many activities and attractions of a wide variety. The most well known attraction being the heads - two great sandstone cliffs guarding the mouth of the lagoon which connects the estuary with the sea. A lookout has been erected on the Eastern Head, commanding spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna. The Western Head is a privately owned nature Reserve - Featherbed Bay. The Knysna Lagoon is one of the few places along the coast and in the world that supports a oyster hatchery. And the Knysna oysters are reputedly among the tastiest in the world. Millwood House Museum in Queen Street houses material relating to the history of the town, and includes artifacts once owned by George Rex. It was built from yellowwood at the end of the previous century during the gold rush. From Millwood, it was later moved to Knysna.
Knysna has many attractions in the surrounding area as well, one of the most spectacular being the Knysna Forest, which is still evident in many places within the town as well. It is the largest indigenous forest in South Africa comprising of tall and ancient trees of local and exotic species, including stinkwood, yellowwood, blackwood, ironwood, white alders and Cape chestnut. Not forgetting the ferns, creepers and wild flowers which add colour to this endless green collage. The forest is vast and extremely dense in places making it impenetrable. Animal life is limited to a few small antelope and a large variety of birds, such as the famous Knysna Loerie. Home to the once great herds of Knysna Elephants, it is believed that only one lonely cow remains today.
Another historical attraction are the Millwood Gold Mines. Alluvial gold was found here in 1885, which caused a rush to the area. At Jubilee Creek, the exact spot where gold was found, provides a tranquil and beautiful picnic area, with many enjoyable forest walks in the area. Buffalo Bay is the closest beach to knysna, one of the safest for swimming along the coast and enjoyed by many holiday makers every year. It is very rocky in places, making it a great angling spot, there is also a small slipway available for small boats.
Originally christened "Bahia Formosa" (Beautiful Bay) by early Portuguese explorers, Plettenberg Bay can now be accessed by first class national roads, by sea or by scheduled air flights. The great forests lying at the feet of the fabled Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains are the gateway to the incredible indigenous African wealth of Plettenberg Bay, which lies on South Africa's spectacular south coast 210 kms from Port Elizabeth and ca. 600 km from Cape Town.
The Outeniqua-Tsitsikamma indigenous forests are a unique mixture of Cape Fynbos and temperate forest and offer the nature lover world-renowned hiking trails and an exciting opportunity to see the last remaining forest elephants of South Africa. The entire area teems with birdlife. Nearly 300 species are to be found in the great variety of habitats ranging from fynbos to forest to wetlands.
No less than ten important nature reserves embrace the varied ecosystems of the area as well as unique marine reserves, home to soft coral reefs, dolphins, seals and a host of other marine life. The bay itself is Nursery to the endangered Southern Right Whale which come here to calve in the winter and spring (July to December).
The area is of course a sports paradise and boasts fabulous trails for hikers, mountain bikers, horse riders and canoeists. The highlight of the area is undoubtedly the rivers, beaches and the bay with its ideal conditions for all facets of watersports, including sailing in the safe waters of the Bay, superb rock and surf fishing and scuba diving spots. Alternately one can simply stroll along its clean, sandy beaches stretching for miles along the Indian Ocean or enjoy its safe swimming areas. At night, Plettenberg Bay is alive with pubs, night-spots and fine restaurants. A wide range of accommodation offers luxury hotels, exclusive country retreats, cosy bed and breakfasts, self-catering chalets and excellent camping facilities.
George is the sixth oldest town in South Africa, situated in the beautiful Western Cape Province and is the Capital of the Southern Cape. The town is very centrally situated: halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and centre of the Garden Route - ideal from where to explore the areas many variant and diverse scenic wonders. Situated on a 10 kilometre plateau between the majestic Outeniqua Mountain to the north and the Indian ocean to the South.
George also has an extremely sophisticated infrastructure with banks, conference facilities, businesses, major shopping chains, transport and sporting facilities, yet retaining its small town and country atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The town is also a major accommodation centre with a vast array of facilities on offer to suite every taste and pocket. George has many historical landmarks to be visited. Like The Slave Tree, an ancient English Oak planted by Landdrost van Kervel. Known as the Slave Tree because of the very large chain and lock embedded in the trunk, it has been declared a national monument. And the King Edward VII Library building is said to be the best example of Edwardian architecture in George.
The First Class School for girls was started by Miss Christina Petronella van Niekerk, a "New Age" young lady with visions for the future which were very different to those ideas held by the conservative population of George. George has much to offer the visitor with its city-like infrastructure but not forgetting its small town roots.
Nestling at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains, Swellendam has much to offer visitors who have an interest in history, nature and outdoor activities. Situated on the N2, approximately 240km from both Cape Town and George, Swellendam is the perfect choice for a halfway stopover or as a base from which to explore the area. Swellendam offers a variety of accommodation to suit every taste. This range includes one hotel, luxury guest houses, Bed and Breakfast establishments, chalets, caravan and camping facilities as well as self-catering cottages on farms in the area.
Rainfall is spread over the year (55% winter and 45% summer). There is little wind and temperatures are moderate. There is no shortage of water and gardens are lush and luxuriant. The cost of living is reasonable and the town is clean and efficiently and well run. The people are friendly and there is no political strife with a virtual absence of serious crime.
The town was founded by the Dutch east India Company in 1745 in order to exercise control over independent frontiersmen who migrated over the Hottentots Holland Mountains at the beginning of the 18th century. A landdrost was appointed and a Drostdy and other building were erected. The district and town were named after the reigning Governor of the Cape, Hendrik Swellengrebel, and his wife, Helena Ten Damme.
In time, a village was established opposite the Drostdy, across the Koornlands River, where artisans, including numerous wainwrights, and traders settled. To travellers and explorers, the services of these village folk were indispensable, as Swellendam was the last outpost of civilisation on the eastern frontier. By the middle of the 19th century, the eastern districts had been colonized by the British settlers and Swellendam was a thriving metropolis. The town served as a useful refreshment station on the long, slow journey up the coast.