Stay in a forest, hike at Hennops Trails, find a quiet beach and play in Port Edward.
Knysna, with its iconic lagoon and the Heads that guard the lagoon mouth, is probably the Garden Route’s biggest tourist magnet. But there’s a strong case to be made for sidestepping the busy town centre and booking your next stay in a nearby patch of indigenous forest. Turn off the N2 onto the Rheenendal Road (about 8 km west of Knysna) and you’ll find lots of accommodation options that are no more than 15 minutes from town. One of the best is Woodlands: four tastefully decorated self-catering units on the edge of a valley full of trees. Stinkwood, red alder, white alder, ironwood, Cape beech and tenfold other indigenous species. Each unit has a private deck where you can watch the sun set over the forest. Look out for Knysna turacos flashing in the canopy below you. Woodlands is an excellent home base if you want to explore the Garden Route National Park or Knysna and all its attractions. Every unit has a fully fitted kitchen with a gas stove, an electric oven, a microwave and a fridge, as well as a TV with DStv. There’s a braai attached to the deck. ( You have to use charcoal because of the fire risk.) There are two double units and two bigger family units – each of the family units has two bedrooms and an open-plan lounge. Where can I walk? Woodlands has its own hiking trail that winds through the forest down into the valley, where you walk over a small suspension bridge across a stream. You might see a bushbuck or a porcupine on this 40-minute walk, and you’ll definitely see (and hear) the vervet monkeys eye-balling you through the leaves. What else? There’s a cute playground in the garden for the youngsters. If you’ve booked more than one unit, or all of them, you might want to entertain around the fire pit in the garden where there’s also a big communal table. Rates: R980 – R1 350 for two people sharing in a double unit (depending on the season); R1 650 – R2 150 for four people sharing a family unit. Children younger than three stay for free. Where? Once you’ve turned off the N2 and onto the Rheenendal Road, drive for 7,5 km and you’ll find Woodlands on your left. Contact: 0762875201; woodlandsknysna.co.za