The gem of the Garden Route, Knysna is a coastal town with popular local eateries that provide plenty of dining options for visitors needing refreshment or seeking a local dining experience. From quaint coffee shops to specialty seafood, there is a spot to satisfy even the most well-travelled foodies. Here at Beautiful Knysna Villas, we know our guests will struggle to tear themselves away from their well-equipped kitchens and comfortable home from home with eyepopping views of the heads and the lagoon.
But when you don’t feel like cooking or are bored of the braai, here are 10 of our favourite restaurants in Knysna, plus some bonus spots we couldn’t help mentioning:
1. East head Café
Located just steps from our fabulous apartments at Beacon House, East Head Café is a local landmark where friends and family come together to enjoy simple, delicious breakfasts, lunch, and some of the best cheesecake in Knysna. Their ingredients are also locally sourced from sustainable suppliers wherever possible. The eatery is situated right at the famous Eastern Head with one of the best views in Knysna, while also offers a shady outdoor area where the kids can play, and you can soak up the sun and the fresh sea air.
2. île de pain (IDP)
île de pain has truly transformed the coffee and artisanal food scene in Knysna (in fact across South Africa). This trendy café is located on the picturesque Thesen Island and is a feast for all the senses. With a belief that life is endlessly delicious and abundant, this foodie-heaven serves up fresh authentic breads baked fresh daily in a traditional wood-fired oven, and creative pastries aplenty. Here the locals are regulars, and you could spend hours just eating and laughing with the artisans, enthusiasts, and friends that frequent here. Owners, Pauli and Willem are on hand to share their latest delicious inspirations with you. Our Thesen Harbour Town apartments are just a few metres from IDP and all the Thesen Restaurants.
On the way to the Knysna Heads and just 5 minutes from our luxury apartments at Beacon House and villas 11 Horizon Views and Prince of Tides, you will find Blend, a country-style pub serving delicious food. Whether you sit inside the cosy historical building or outside under the Milkwoods and fairy lights, you’re guaranteed a great vibe, and often live music acts too. The restaurant is child and pet friendly and has a wide-ranging menu spanning ribs, burgers, pizzas, calamari, fish and chips, flame-grilled chicken, curries, and more. If you prefer to enjoy your meal from the comfort of your couch at your villa, Blend also offers its full menu for takeaway
4. Cafe Mario
No South African town is complete without Italian, and Knysna has it’s very own authentic Italian restaurant owned and run by Genaro and his friendly team. Open for breakfast, lunch, and supper with seating options in the garden, on the veranda, or indoors, Cafe Mario is a Knysna icon serving all the Italian staples including pizzas, pasta, veal, great steaks, delicious, well-priced wines, and the best tiramisu in the world!
Located lagoon-side at the Knysna waterfront, Drydock is a great spot to stop if you’re after some classy cuisine and delicious seafood. Fabulous fish, scrumptious prawns, tempting salads, and fresh sushi are all on the menu here, ready to be paired with a wide range of local and imported wines, beers, and spirits. You can also order some tasty cocktails to enjoy as you watch the sun set over the lagoon.
6. Oak Leaf
Oak Leaf is located in the pretty Belvidere Estate of Knysna. This is a great spot to take the whole family with a spacious outdoor garden seating space, kids play area, trendy indoor seating, and a vine-shaped stoep. Oak Leaf is a popular stop on the cycle routes in the area, and you can even bring the dogs along. This hidden gem has a peaceful atmosphere and a wholesome and nutritious menu featuring fresh dishes made from local ingredients sourced from surrounding farms.
7. 34 South
Located in the waterfront on the Knysna Quays, 34 South is a grocery, bakery, deli, fish shop, gift store, wine boutique, and sushi bar all rolled into one. Not only can you indulge in some fresh Knysna oysters and grab a delicious meal, but you can also stock up on fresh from the oven bread or croissants, everyday conveniences, delicious confectioneries, as well as scrumptious imported items to enjoy back at your villa in Knysna. This is the place to shop for pizza ingredients if you are making use of the pizza oven at Alkira Lodge, and the wide selection of jams, marmalades, handmade nougat, biscotti, fudge, and Swiss chocolates will have your mouth watering. For all our self-catering properties the deli’s selection of mussels, herring, pâtés, olives, smoked hams, salamis, and local, Dutch, and French cheeses, will have you wanting more. And for anyone that loves good wine, the shop sells varietals according to their latitude – 34 °South – sharing the stories of wine farms that share their parallel. Finally, don’t forget to browse their gift store for a warm jersey, hardy windbreaker, or a nautically themed gift to remember your time in Knysna.
Located on the corner of Gray Street and Gordon Street, in the heart of Knysna, Chatters is a restaurant come bar, famous for their thin, crispy pizzas cooked to perfection in their traditional wood-burning oven. Again, a popular local spot, owned and run by locals Claire and Rob, Chatters also offers wheat and gluten-free pizza bases for those with allergies, and a range of specials for each day of the week.
9. Tapas and Oysters
This vibrant, waterside restaurant/cafe/bar is located on Thesen Island. Tapas and Oysters is well known for their friendly service, fun décor, and fiesta atmosphere. As the name suggests, the menu offers a variety of Spanish, Mediterranean, and South African Tapas, alongside delicious oysters (fresh from the tanks) and freshly prepared sushi. If you are feeling particularly daring, you can also try out the restaurant’s specially aged chilli Tequila. There are also big-screen TVs for catching the rugby, a kiddie play area, and boat parking if you wish to arrive on the water.
Freshline offers a unique, relaxed seafood experience outdoors with your feet in the sand. This is the perfect place for a casual meal and you’re even encouraged to bring your own booze, with no corkage charged. The hake and line fish are all handline caught and guaranteed not to be on the SASSI red list, so you can rest assured that what’s on your plate is not only fresh but sustainable too.
We also had to mention the following three restaurants set just outside central of Knysna. These are an absolute must when staying on the Garden Route:
Oh so popular with the locals, Muse is situated at the Old Cape Road intersection with the N2. The restaurant features a large garden area facing onto the estuary. Owners Sonja and Deon pride themselves on their one-of-a-kind menu which is an eclectic mix of fusion food. The portions are large and the ingredients fresh and local. Some unique offerings include their eggplant chilli poppers, beef rendang, sweet potato al Forno, and spicy Thai mince. They also have a variety of options for vegetarians and vegans.
- Butterfly Blu Restaurant
The utterly elegant Butterfly Blu Restaurant is set at Brenton on Sea just minutes from Alkira Lodge. The restaurant boasts panoramic sea views, with the long sandy stretch of Brenton Beach below. This is an idyllic spot to while away the hours looking for whales or watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand. Their handcrafted Croatian pizzas are the star of the show, but the menu covers a wide range of meat and seafood dishes as well.
- Oysters R Us
Located opposite the entrance to Timberlake Village halfway between Wilderness and Sedgefield on the N2, Oysters R Us is a family-run business with a love of oysters. Here the freshest local oysters are served with six exciting toppings. The oyster tank alone is a reason to visit – it can hold up to 4,000 fresh oysters. If oysters aren’t your thing, you can also construct your own picnic or take away from the deli corner.
BONUS: For the coffee lovers
If you’re a self-confessed coffee snob then be sure to stop in at Trinity. Here small batch, fair trade coffee with cupping scores of more than 82 SCA, is roasted to highlight the unique character and origin of each blend. It’s all about attention to detail and respect for the process and the farmers that produce the beans. Here you can find some of the best single-origin coffees from around the world, especially African coffee. So, take a seat, grab a cuppa, and get ready to widen your coffee horizons. If you don’t get to Trinity in person you can enjoy their coffees which we supply in all our villas at Beautiful Knysna Villas.
BONUS: A must-do takeaway spot
If you just want to grab a takeaway and enjoy your time at your beautiful Knysna villa, then Papa’s Pizzeria is a Knysna Institution. Owner run by the kindest Italian man you will have the pleasure of meeting; Papa’s Pizzeria serves up delicious thin-crust pizzas and pasta for a reasonable price. You can also pick up some mouth-watering homemade Italian desserts. And if you’re looking for a dose of nostalgia on your family holiday, you can even rent a video from right there in the store!