Hi All, We want to plan a road trip to Knysna with our two kids (3,9yrs) and have the following questions:
1. Is this a good idea?
2. Where to stay in Knysna for R1000pn ( prefer self catering places)
3. Things to do
4. Best route do and from Johannesburg. Where to do an overnight stay?(B&B preferred)
In terms of things to do, well, you're spoiled for choice along the Garden Route.
The big drawcard of the Knysna area is the coastline, with lovely beaches and the Knysna lagoon against the beautiful backdrop of the Outeniqua Mountains. One of my favourite beaches is Buffels Bay, and Knoetzie - with its miniature castles - is also gorgeous (but has to be accessed via a steep path from the car park, so make sure you have everything with you before you leave the car).
Storms River Mouth is also gorgeous, and rugged compared to the sandier beaches further west - ideal for exploring rock pools so long as the weather is calm (when the weather is bad, it gets very rough here).
Plettenberg Bay is also within easy striking distance, although I can't say that I'm a great fan - to my mind, it's lost a lot of its charm due to unchecked development of holiday homes for the wealthy, but that doesn't alter the fact that it has a stunning setting.
It's also really worth taking a day to explore the spectacular mountain passes. The Outeniqua Pass is a gorgeous drive, and Oudtshoorn is one of South Africa's best kept tourist secrets, offering the fabulous Cango Caves, surprisingly interesting ostrich farms and the rather touristy Cango Wildlife Ranch. Oudtshoorn is also a good 'bad weather' option, as it's the other side of the mountains, and often bad weather is restricted to the coastal belt.
There are so many tourist attractions in this part of the world that it's hard to keep up. We visited the Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary when our son was about the age of your younger child and really enjoyed it, but that was about seven years ago. My advice would be to keep an eye out for the brown tourist signs - there are many in this area, so just trust your instincts and follow the ones that sound of interest.
One last suggestion. Many of the places I've mentioned in terms of places to stay and visit are national or provincial parks, which charge entrance fees. These quickly add up, so if these appeal to you, I would strongly recommend buying a family Wild Card from SAN parks, which covers a family of up to 7 (2 adults + 5 children). On our road trip last year, we visited six parks in a week (!) and more than recouped our annual fee on that trip alone. You can select which 'cluster' you want to access - we tended to buy the All Cluster card (which is valid for all South African national parks, CapeNature, Ezimvelo in KZN and the Swaziland national parks), but you could just opt for the CapeNature cluster.
Hope this helps, and have fun!
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Now to the journey. It is a very long run to do from Johannesburg in one day, so you're very wise to look at overnighting, but unfortunately there is no obvious halfway destination - Bloemfontein isn't far enough (although might be an option on the way back).
If it were me, I'd look for an overnight stop that offers a different experience to what you'll experience on the coast. Although it's a little bit off the direct route, I would highly recommend Mountain Zebra National Park, close to Graaff-Reinet, which is about two thirds of the way to Knysna in terms of driving time. We did a road trip from Cape Town back to Jo'burg just after Easter last year, and were astonished by how beautiful it was. The wildlife was also amazing - 15 minutes after we entered the park, a mother cheetah and her two cubs bounded across the road in front of us, and we saw heaps of other animals. We were only there for the day, but wished that we'd been able to overnight, as the accommodation looked lovely and had a gorgeous pool. If you're in the area, you can also visit the breathtaking Camdeboo National Park on the outskirts of Graaf Reinet.
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In my (very biased) opinion, it's never a bad idea to go to the Cape!
The question is rather when you're planning to go, as although Knysna is beautiful any time of year, your options for what to do are more limited in winter, when it is often cold and wet. Otherwise, it is a great destination for families with kids, and I particularly enjoy it during the September and Easter holidays, when it's not quite as crowded as it gets over the summer holidays.
In terms of accommodation, I usually use www.safarinow.com which I have found very reliable over the years. You are only allowed to post reviews if you've booked through the site, and in general, I've found the quality of accommodation good and the descriptions accurate. You should be able to pick up reasonable self catering accommodation within your budget, depending on the time of year you visit.
I would also suggest that you don't just consider Knysna itself, which has become rather overdeveloped in recent years, and has always had nasty traffic congestion. I would recommend you also consider places like Brenton-on-Sea or Sedgefield (South Africa), which might offer better value for money. Also don't overlook the inland options in the Outeniqua Mountains- when our kids were about the same age as your, we stayed in a tree house at the funky Teniqua Treetops camp, which I would highly recommend (it may be a little over your budget, but would be well worth it as a treat for a night or two).
The website offers a useful map function, which will allow you easy evaluate the options.
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