The beautiful Garden Route town of Knysna is flanked by the iconic heads that guard the entrance
of the ocean to the peaceful estuary waters. The Eastern Head is well-known and visited by many tourists who come to soak up the views and enjoy a drink or a meal at the popular waterside East Head Cafe. However, the Western Head remains relatively untouched, home to the expansive Featherbed Nature Reserve and other wonderful discoveries. It is also on this peninsula that one will find the quaint resort of Brenton on Sea.
Brenton on Sea sits on top of a hill, overlooking the ocean, and stretches down to the long sandy
beach. The beach here stretches all the way to Buffalo Bay and has been heralded with Blue Flag status which means it meets a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria. The beach is loved by sunbathers who also look out for passing whales and dolphins. During low tide, ancient fossilised dunes can also be explored. Locals love to walk between Brenton and Buffalo Bay, or Buffelsbaai, and enjoy a refreshing drink and something to eat while taking in the spectacular views from the restaurants found on either end before heading back (or meeting a lift). Buffalo Bay is a surfer’s paradise and has a slipway for the launching of powerboats and fishing vessels.
The Brenton on Sea area was named after Sir Jahleel Brenton. Sir Jahleel Brenton was a British officer in the Royal Navy. Brenton served the Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and was rewarded with a baronetcy and a knighthood for his bravery. In 1814 he became naval commissioner at the Cape of Good Hope. During his time in the position, he oversaw the expansion of the dockyard at Simon's Town and became a prominent advocate for the rights of black dockyard workers and the native Khoikhoi population. He was the man responsible for declaring Knysna a harbour in 1818 making Knysna the 3rd oldest harbour in South Africa. It is also the 2nd largest wetland in southern Africa! A little known fact.
It is only here that you will find the tiny Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve. Proclaimed in 2003, this special nature reserve was declared to protect an endangered, indigenous, and tiny species of butterfly found only in this one place on the planet. The reserve is also home to many other butterflies, birds, mammals, and a variety of fynbos and thicket plants. The large population of a small plant in the pea family with pretty pink flowers is the major food source for the Brenton Blue butterfly. Although the reserve is not open to the general public, guided tours are occasionally run by butterfly specialists during the months of November to February when the butterfly is prevalent and the next-door Brenton Community Hall shows videos showing the butterfly's life history. Due to the protection of this endangered butterfly, large parts of the Brenton area have been left undeveloped in order to ensure the last breeding colonies of this butterfly have access to the natural environment.
There is in fact, a massive commitment from local landowners to keep the fynbos pristine and conserve the area surrounding Brenton on Sea and the Western Head. Covering much of Knysna's Western Head, the Featherbed Nature Reserve is a privately owned reserve that can only be visited via a ferry ride, paddle cruiser, sailing catamaran, or as a private guest of Alkira Lodge. Here you can enjoy a 4x4 drive up the head as well as a 2km hike along the Bushbuck trail or a leisurely meal under the milkwood trees. The reserve is a sanctuary for the local flora as well as bushbuck, the rare blue duiker, and breeding pairs of oystercatcher birds.
Featherbed got its name from the sailors who found refuge in the tranquil bay after many months on
rough seas and referred to their nights spent here as akin to “sleeping on a feather bed". The land that makes up the nature reserve belonged to Prof. J L B Smith. Prof. J L B Smith was the man responsible for identifying the coelacanth in 1938. It was the proceeds from Prof. Smith's books on the subject that funded the founding of the reserve and a coelacanth exhibit can be found at Featherbed’s Forest Restaurant. Interestingly, the reserve also rose to fame as Smith's son is the renowned South African television science and mathematics teacher William Smith.
Looking to discover the Brenton on Sea area and Western Head? Alkira Lodge is situated above the popular tourist towns of Knysna and Brenton on Sea, on the Western brow of the famous Knysna Heads. Alkira Lodge is surrounded by sky, mountains, the freshest air, and endless views. Guests enjoy privacy, pampering, nature, and nurturing for the soul and can take advantage of their private wilderness guide to explore the areas mentioned herein, secluded beaches, surprise picnic spots and so much more. Or choose simply to relax poolside, soaking in all that makes the area so famous from your lounger and unfolding to enjoy delicious in house dining overlooking the setting sun and remarkable views.
Unfortunately, 2020 put a spanner in the works for many brides that had planned to get married this year. Was your wedding cancelled because of lockdown, did your venue cancel your big day, and was your fairytale wedding put on hold?
The good news is, you can still plan an amazing celebration for your wedding day, where fresh air, wide-open spaces, and exclusive offerings combine to offer a safe, intimate wedding day event. The gorgeous Garden Route offers the ideal destination wedding venue for even the pickiest of brides, with spectacular views, amazing accommodation, and envy-worthy photo locations.
In these uncertain times, a wedding simply celebrated with those closest to you may be just what you need. The Garden Route is a place where you can just escape and enjoy a private, intimate celebration with your most special people. At Alkira Lodge we offer an exclusive use wedding option for just 18 guests where you can relax at the lodge with spa and wellness treatments, and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime tailored experience for just you and your guests. For those planning bigger celebrations, our space can be transformed to host 100 guests or more!
The Garden Route offers a myriad of fantastic photo locations for those picture-perfect wedding snaps. Pick from mountain, forest, beach, lake, or river backdrops or choose them all, with all of these available a short distance from each other in towns like Knysna.
In these trying times, nothing beats a beautiful outdoor location where fresh air, sunshine, and space are plentiful. Your guests won't feel cramped and crowded at a destination like Alkira in Knysna where the endless vistas of the Garden Route stretch out before you. Here abundant birdlife, butterflies, and even the odd antelope will be the only external visitors to your exclusive wedding venue, so you're guaranteed the health and safety of you and your guests.
The Garden Route is famous for its fresh and delicious produce. Here you will find local farmers around every corner, offering up organic honey, hand-made cheeses, seasonal fruits, free-range chicken and eggs, and grass-fed beef. While tasting all of these delicious goodies at one of the area's popular markets is a must-do, having them all on offer at your wedding feast is a real treat. Here at Alkira Lodge, we are proud to say that we have some of the best chefs in Knysna, if not the whole of South Africa, and the food will no doubt be a talking point of your wedding. Be sure to pair these scrumptious dishes with local wines hand-selected from our on-site cellar.
Everything goes by in such a blur on your wedding day, that a destination celebration allows you to spend more time with the people that are important to you. Book out a venue like Alkira Lodge on an exclusive basis and take advantage of the plush accommodation where you can spend that much-needed quality time with your friends and family in a warm and comfortable environment. Your wedding bash can be followed up with a post-wedding breakfast celebration with a range of activities such as hiking, kayaking, and whale watching all available nearby for those guests that want to linger longer.
The great thing about getting married on the Garden Route is that from the moment you say "I Do", you are already enjoying your honeymoon. There is so much to see and do in this beautiful part of South Africa, from enjoying some of the country's oldest golf courses to scenic sailing charters, guided hikes through natural reserves, whale watching excursions, adventurous kayaking trips, horseriding through the forests, mountain biking some of the best trails in the country, and much more. Once your guests have said their goodbyes, be sure to spend some time exploring everything that the area has to offer!
To find out more about hosting your wedding at Alkira, click here.
A time to wrap up the day. Allow your experiences to settle in the soul. Choose your favorite tipple from the bar. Join fellow guests or find a private spot. Depending on the time of year the sun slips behind the mountains in the winter or into the ocean in the summer months. Either way the light changes, the moon rises and the stars come out to play. Breathe. Feel alive.
Robyn Steyn and Ursula Nieuwoudt bring culinary excellence, creativity and a flair for flavors to the Alkira Table.
'Our vision is to give the diner a culinary journey of tastes, flavors and creativity - delivered in style!
Living and working in such a beautiful environment, inspires and supports us with local produce and tastes. Our focus always being on quality and detail"
We look forward to welcoming you to Alkira and to sharing our passion with you.'
Alkira lies in the heart of the Garden Route, which is aptly named for the stunning mountains covered in ancient forests, rivers, lakes, pristine white sandy beaches, and unique Fynbos. The Fynbos floral kingdom is the smallest floristic region in the world, yet boasts the highest number of different types of plants. This is the only floral kingdom found entirely in one country and is protected as part of our UNESCO World Heritage.
When you are next in the Garden Route, be sure to take a walk on one of our many local trails and explore this unique plant world, our beaches, lakes and forests. Discover some of the best day hiking and walking trails in Knysna here:
The Diepwalle Forest offers a number of easy hiking trails for visitors. One of our favourites is the Red Elephant Trail. This hiking trail is just short of 7km and follows a circular route that is good for a variety of skill levels and includes fantastic sections through the indigenous rain forest and alongside the river. En route you also have the opportunity to marvel at a 600-year-old yellowwood tree. For the more energetic, the Black Elephant Trail is slightly longer at 9.3 kilometers. Also a circular route, this trail is better suited to more experienced hikers and runners. This is an amazing route for anyone wanting to see the beautiful wild flowers of the Garden Route. The trails are named after the Knysna elephants which are said to live in this section of the forest so be sure to keep a keen eye out for any evidence of them!
This is a 5km there and back trail that takes you down a steep hill to a beautiful pebbled beach. The huge rocks and rock pools caused by the tidal movement are pretty spectacular, while winter also brings a number of waterfalls. Unfortunately, fishing and picnics are not allowed in this area. You might also be lucky enough to see a variety of birds and possibly even a bushbuck along the way, while the views from the top are also pretty spectacular.
The popular Circles in the Forest trail starts and ends at the Krisjan-se-Nek picnic site in the Goldfield State Forest. This easy walk is perfect for families with the picnic site providing the perfect spot for lunch at the end of your walk. A cool forest pool with a waterfall also is the ideal space to cool off along the way, while huge forest ferns, bubbling streams, and wooden bridges make the route a delight for all ages. Hikers can opt for two routes on the Circles in the Forest trail - a short 3.1km route or a longer 9km hike, both of which are loops.
Starting and ending at the Grootdraai picnic site, the Terblans Walk is a meandering 6.5km trail through the forest. This is an easy to moderate walk that will take about three hours to complete.
A good choice for families with little kids, the Garden of Eden features two loops, one which is wheelchair friendly and only about 500m and a longer 1km walk. Located right of the N2, the Garden of Eden is easily accessible on any day trip from Alkira and doesn't take long to complete. Meander along the wooden boardwalks as you learn more about the different trees found in the forest. The major attraction of the walk is the giant yellowwood trees found here.
Although one of the shorter hiking trails in Knysna at just 3.6km long, there are some pretty steep sections to this there and back walk. This is a great walk for bird spotting and just examining the huge variety of plant species found in the Garden Route. The Homtini River is a great place to spend some time picnicking and relaxing, so be sure to take your swimming costume along for a dip in the fresh mountain water.
Another great walking trail for families, Jubilee Creek is a 3.6km there and back hike that starts and ends at one of the most beautiful picnic sites in the Garden Route. A stream flows through the area so it's a great place for children to while away the hours. There is also a really nice natural pool at the end of the hike that you can swim in. There is also plenty of birdlife to see along the trail.
Located in the Harkeville forest, the Perdekop Nature Walk is a 9.5km circular route is long but quite an easy, flat trail. Along the way, you'll pass a dam and waterfall as well as a great picnic spot for a half time rest. The vegetation is quite varied along the trail, with some fantastic scenery too.
Offering a unique experience, the Millwood Mine Walk is a 5.6km circular route that starts at Mother Holly's Tea Room where you will also find a small mining museum. It is in this area where gold was first discovered in Knynsa and remnants of the old Millwood Mining Village can still be found along the trail. This includes the prospecting hole behind a waterfall, a shed with recovered mining equipment, old graves and houses, and even a mine itself.
The challenging 9km circular Kranshoek Trail is not for the faint of heart. The trail starts at the Kranshoek picnic site and winds its way down the gorge towards the coast. Thereafter you will head back up along the plateau to an amazing viewpoint. Having the chance to experience the forest, Fynbos, waterfalls and the coast all in one trail really gives you a taste of what Knysna is all about, however, you do need to be prepared for a strenuous workout!
The Buffalo Bay Hiking Trail covers dunes, mountains, and Fynbos, taking you high above the beach where you can enjoy great views of the sea. You can break up the 4.6km circular route with a stop at the beach for an ice-cream or even lunch at one of the amazing restaurants.