Why house boating on the Knysna Lagoon is one of the best things to do on South Africa’s Garden Route

by | Apr 28, 2024 | Africa, South Africa | 0 comments

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

This post about houseboating on the Knysna Lagoon contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.

The Garden Route is one of the most popular areas in South Africa, and usually one of the first regions people see when visiting South Africa. The route is famous for its breathtaking locations and stunning views, like a string of pearls with one highlight following the next.

Amongst all the amazing things to do along the Garden Route, spending the night on a houseboat on the Kynsna Lagoon is definitely one of the most unique adventures!

Imagine cruising around a striking lagoon in your houseboat. Enjoying a braai (South African BBQ) whilst watching the sunset on the water. And drifting off to sleep with the gentle lull of the water beneath you, surrounded by the tranquillity of nature. 

Earlier this year, we rented a houseboat from Kynsna Houseboats and had an absolute blast. Here’s a complete rundown of what to expect and everything you need to know about staying in a houseboat on the Knysna Lagoon.

How to get to the Knysna Lagoon

The Knysna Lagoon is a beautiful estuary situated in the heart of South Africa’s Garden Route. It is roughly 5 hours away from Cape Town and 3 hours from Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). I strongly suggest renting a car and spending a night on the Knysna Lagoon as part of a larger Garden Route road trip.

Check out Rentalcars.com to find the perfect car for your holiday!

One of the most remarkable features of the Knysna Lagoon is its sheer size. It spans over 1,600 hectares, and at its widest point, it measures 3 km. The estuary is enclosed by the Knysna Heads, two sandstone cliffs separated by approximately 230 meters of water.

The lagoon’s large size makes it perfect for houseboating. There are plenty of areas to explore, and you can easily spend a day or two cruising around and mooring in secluded bays for the night.

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2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

Getting a temporary skippers licence

One of the best things about Kynsna Houseboats is that they can issue temporary skipper licences. This means that you can rent a houseboat and explore the Knysna lagoon, even if you don’t have any boating experience.

Once you have booked your houseboat, you will receive a lot of information, including a theory video. I recommend watching this before checking in at Knysna Houseboats to speed up the process.

Upon arrival at their office on Thesen Island, the staff at Knysna Houseboat will give you all the information you need to drive a boat and provide valuable tips to navigate the lagoon. In addition, you will have to take a short theory exam.

Before heading out into the lagoon, they provide a practical demonstration of how to operate the boat. After about 1.5 hours, we had our temporary skippers licence, our houseboat fridge was stocked, and we were ready to head out.

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

Navigating the Knysna Lagoon

The Knysna Lagoon is a tidal estuary with sandbanks, islands, and significant changes in water levels between low and high tide. Despite this, navigating the Knysna Lagoon is relatively easy.

The navigable sections are marked by buoys to ensure you stay on the right course. A map of the lagoon is located next to the steering wheel so you can cross-reference each buoy passed with the map in front of you. Additionally, mooring spots are signposted with different buoys.

The most challenging part is the railway bridge, which crosses the lagoon outside Knysna. You can only pass through this bridge within a specific timeframe before and after low tide. The railway bridge is so low that the houseboat won’t be able to pass underneath outside of this timeframe.

However, there is no need to worry as the staff at Knysna Houseboats will explain all the markers and give you the exact time for the bridge crossing during your briefing. Once you’re out on the water, it will all make a lot more sense.

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

The houseboats

Let’s talk about the most exciting part of the experience – the houseboats! Knysna Houseboats offers seven houseboats, each of which sleeps up to five people (or up to 4 adults).

The inside area

The cabin inside has a cosy double bed that will lure you to sleep with the gentle rocking of the waves and the soothing sound of water lapping against the boat. There is also a bench seat that doubles as a bed for a child.

The small bathroom boasts a hot shower, and the fully-equipped kitchen has everything you need, including a fridge, stove, and even an oven! Last but not least, the houseboats feature a comfortable lounge/dining area that can be transformed into a second double bed.

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

The outside area

But there is more! On the outside, the houseboats have an open deck and a sundeck on the roof. The roof is perfect for sunbathing and taking in the gorgeous views of the lagoon. Plus, you can rent a BBQ from Knysna Houseboats, and I highly recommend having a braai out on the water.

Additionally, Knysna Houseboats offers the option to rent a stand-up paddleboard. This is an awesome way to explore the lagoon further after you have found your mooring spot for the night. And, there’s nothing quite like an early morning paddle.

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

How many nights to stay on the lagoon

We rented the house boat for one night. After passing under the railway bridge, we had ample time to cruise around and explore the lagoon and up the Knysna River. The late afternoon was spent swimming and stand-up paddleboarding, followed by a relaxing evening onboard with sundowners and a braai.

In the morning, there was still time for another round on the stand-up paddleboard, and to take the boat out towards the Knysna Heads before returning it to the harbour at Thesen Island.

Spending one night on the Kynsna Lagoon was a fantastic experience. We paired it with a night in Knysna itself and it worked out great for our trip. However, if you’d like to have some more time to swim, bask in the sun, and cruise around the lagoon, two nights would be the perfect amount of time.

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2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary


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Hi, I’m Sara, a twenty-something Swiss on a mission to become a full-time travel writer and digital nomad.