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  • Photo: Dominique de La Croix / Shutterstock
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Knysna (pronounced nize-nuh) is one of the most popular destinations on the Garden Route. The focus of the town is the beautiful Knysna Lagoon, ringed by forested hills dotted with vacation homes. Several walking and mountain-bike trails wind through Knysna's forests, many offering tremendous views back over the ocean. With luck you may spot the Knysna turaco, a brilliantly plumed forest bird also known as the Knysna loerie, or the brightly colored but even more elusive Narina trogon.

Towering buttresses of rock, known as the Heads, guard the entrance to the lagoon, funneling the ocean through a narrow channel. The sea approach is often hazardous, which is why Knysna never became a major port, and may explain why it developed instead into the modern resort town it is today, with the attendant hype, commercialism, and crowds, especially in summer. About the only aspect of the town that hasn't been modernized is the single-lane main road (the N2 goes straight through the middle of town), so traffic can be a nightmare. Walking is the best way to get around the town center, which is filled with shops, galleries, restaurants, and coffeehouses. Knysna's main claims to fame are edible and drinkable. The former are cultivated oysters, and the latter is locally brewed Mitchell's beer, on tap at most bars and pubs.

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