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Kayaking Knysna

Knysna Must be one of the best places to canoe or kayak in South Africa. With everything from the excitement the surf to the open spaces of the lagoon to the quiet upper river, Knysna has it all.

Canoeing is a popular activity in Knysna by locals and visitors alike. 

If you like things more wild and want to head for the open water and surf one of the popular place to row in the surf is at Buffalo Bay. The swells are normally not too big and there are a few places to get easy access to the water with your canoe or kayak. This is also popular for surfing. The Knysna Lagoon has a lot to offer when it comes to rowing. From the open water plains to the upper river there are many places to explore. Be careful though, even though this is normally a calm lagoon, the tides and wind can make rowing very technical! Stay well clear of the heads on the outgoing tide, you are unlikely to win against the current gushing through the Heads.

Permits & Cost: Permits can be obtained from the SANParks office on Thesen Island in Knysna and are R216 annually or R108 per month (February 28, 2022)

Contact numbers:
NSRI Station 12 Knysna 082 990 5956
SANParks Thesen Island 044 302 5600

Directions & Coordinates:
Leisure Island, quite a few options, this is a good spot. (-34.066704, 23.055572)
Crabs Creek (-34.033108, 22.992209)
Belvidere New Jetty (Belvidere residents only) (-34.046527, 23.000156​)
Belvidere Old Jetty (Belvidere residents only) (-34.039353, 23.001457)
Lake Brenton (-34.058733, 23.033308)
Buffalo Bay (-34.087177, 22.975212)

Other: Be mindful of the wind and currents, they can make getting back to where you cam from difficult. Be very careful when paddling near the Knysna Heads and it’s best avoided completely on the outgoing tide. We recommend always wearing PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices) even when paddling on the lagoon. Wear a hat and sunscreen as well, bearing in mind that the reflection off the water can also burn you.

Rent kayaks and standup paddleboards from Ocean Odyssey

Knysna Heads, Featherbed & Leisure Isle

Paddling on the open waters in front of Leisure Isle will probably give you the most iconic view of Knysna and the Heads from the water. The water here is usually the clearest and coolest in the lagoon.

​Paddling to the beach bar at Featherbed bay is a very nice trip from Leisure Isle or even Lake Brenton. The beach bar is open to the public via your own vessel but phone ahead as they are not open every day especially out of season.

The small bay at the heads in front of the Knysna NSRI is a fun destination by kayak, canoe or SUP from Leisure Isle. You can actually launch from here as well but you would have to carry the canoe from the parking lot and down a number of stairs which isn’t always that easy.

At lower tides there is a small beach visible between Featherbed Bay and the heads which is a nice place to stop, the water always look clearer and more turquoise here to me. Some paddlers also paddle into the heads and stop at what some call Coffin bay, but you have to be very careful here as the swells can be much bigger and even break plus the current on the outgoing tide can be stronger than most anticipate. Wear personal flotation and don’t go in a canoe that can fill with water. This is the most dangerous area to paddle in the lagoon so respect the ocean.

​It’s always a good idea to have the NSRI’s contact details on hand when you are on the water in case of emergencies. Always let someone else know if you are going out, were you are going and when you expect to be back.

Lake Brenton

lake Brenton is a lovely place to paddle from, it is usually more sheltered from the wind, the water is warmer and calmer and there is so much to to see and explore along the coastline in either direction. Both sunrises and sunsets are beautiful from here, be sure to watch the video at the top of this page.


The bay in front of Belvidere offers another area to explore on the water, the water here is notably darker than closer to the heads and the main reason for that is the tannins in the water that comes down the Knysna River. The water will also be warmer here. 

The slipways and jetties at Belvidere are reserved for residents but if you are a resident here or staying here during your holiday it is a great spot to kayak.

Another alternative to reach this area by water would be from Crab’s Creek around the corner or from The Point across the water (see map above).

Crab’s Creek

Moving even further the lagoon, Crab’s Creek is located right by the White Bridge as you come into the Knysna Basin. This is a popular launch site for boats and canoes. The section of lagoon between this and Belvidere is popular for fishing from boat or kayak and this is a good start point if you want to head further upstream under the White Bridge and towards the old Red Bridge.

It would be advisable to not leave valuables in the car here.


“Ou drif” or old drift as it is known by the locals is located in a private nature reserve but it is open to the public. It is a popular picnic and swimming spot as well although there aren’t much facilities. The warm calm waters are great for swimming and paddling alike. You can paddle all the way upstream until you reach the weir dam at Charlesford Farm, about 2km depending on were you launched from.

Be sure to check gate time upon entry so that you can be out before the gate is closed. 

The Point

Another popular place to launch kayaks, wind surfers and other small watercraft from. Located next to the N2 just as you leave Knysna towards George along the lagoon road.

Goukamma River, Buffalo Bay

Located outside Knysna on your way to Buffalo Bay, the Cape nature Goukamma river is another great spot to paddle. Canoes can be rented from Cape nature and they are located right on the bank next to the river which is very convenient. You can paddle down stream towards the mouth, which is usually closed, or explore further upstream.

​Contact Cape Nature on 044 383 0042 for information.

Please preserve our environment for our posterity by not littering.