I have always loved Knysna’s forests. Maybe it was because of Daleen Mathee’s descriptions of these lush green wonderlands with their ferns and fairies in my matric setwork book, Fiela se Kind.
Or perhaps it was because of the sense of awe Knysna’s 800+ year-old Big Tree stirred in me 15 years ago when I first looked up its impossibly tall trunk to where its crown disappeared among the forest canopy above.
Or maybe it’s because I have always been captivated by the legends of Knysna’s elusive elephants that, evidence suggests, still haunt these woodlands today; gentle giants that quietly go about their business, unseen by the rest of the world.
There is something altogether magical about these forests.
So it was with absolute delight that I recently discovered the family-friendly picnic spot, Jubilee Creek, in the heart of the Knysna forest.
I know, you’re thinking all picnic spots are family-friendly (FF). I mean, they’re picnic spots, right? But I believe a destination has to have a couple of fundamentals in place to truly be FF: ablutions, activities/space for activities for the kids, and be safe and secure.
Jubilee Creek happily ticks all these boxes. The site is located off the beaten track in Knysna’s Goudveld Forest – a name that harks back to the area’s short-lived gold rush in the 1880s. That aura of hopeful prospecting and the ghost town that followed at nearby Millwood when no real gold was found here, still hangs in the air.
I couldn’t help but feel a sense of this history – as well as that associated with Mathee’s stories of the old woodcutters of years gone by and the resident elephants – as we wound our way along the dirt track through the forest.
Be warned, it’s quite a drive once you’ve turned off the main Rheenendal Road. My advice? Enjoy the drive. These indigenous Afromontane forests are beautiful, and unlike any other you’ll see in South Africa outside of the Knysna-Tsitsikamma area, and a few pockets around the Cape Peninsula.
If you’re lucky enough, you may even catch a glimpse of crimson – the vibrant flight feathers of the shy Knysna Louries (Tauraco corythaix) as they fly through the forest canopy.
After about an hour, the road suddenly opens up to the most picturesque forest clearing, complete with stream. SANParks describes Jubilee Creek as ‘probably the most beautiful picnic spot in the Knysna indigenous forests’, noting its popularity with young families.
Jubilee Creek actually spans two different sites: the main site, which meanders along the creek, and a second site further along the stream, which is accessed via the same road and has its own separate parking. We chose the second site, which is super quaint with its wooden bridge and rounded rocks that the stream gurgles over on its merry way through the forest.
In terms of my basic FF checklist, our site had clean ablutions, felt secure enough and there were no obvious safety threats (the bridge doesn’t have a railing, and although it isn’t very high above the shallow stream below, it would be a hazard for toddlers and young pre-schoolers).
But it’s the third point on my list where Jubilee Creek really shines: activities/space for activities for the kids. In our house, water = kids. No matter where we are, how dirty the water, or how cold the day, my kids will land up in any puddle (or larger body) of water that presents itself.
Along with a friend, they had an absolute blast exploring the creek, splashing around in the water, trying to catch tadpoles, and generally, just being boys. Even The Baby got in on the water action!
The creek is really shallow, making it ideal for little ones. Being spring, the water was still a little cool, but I imagine that on a hot summer’s day, it’s the perfect spot for the kids to cool down.
The expansive lawns between the stream and the forest are dotted with picnic benches and braai sites, proving ideal spaces to grab a bite to eat while the kids play.
We packed our perfect spring picnic, which the kids loved. Although, I’m not going to lie, the lure of the water was too much, and they abandoned their sarms and salads halfway through for the stream not long after we sat down! They refuelled with the rest once we’d gotten home.
While the boys played, I took myself off for a little walk just around the site. The recent devastating fires had thankfully left this part of the forests untouched, and I revelled in the beautiful trees and signs of new life all around me.
While shooting these pics, I noticed I was standing in holes apparently created by a foraging bush pig family. I suddenly felt the energy of forest animals all around me. A noise behind me made me turn. I half expected to see some critter, but there was nothing there.
It was only later when I got home and was further researching the area that I discovered a Knysna elephant was spotted at Jubilee Creek in March 2007. Had I heard one of these mysterious pachyderms quietly navigating his old forest paths behind me?
It’s unlikely, but knowing that for those few hours, we shared the same space – as large as the forest is – with these majestic creatures was thrilling, and put Jubilee Creek in my top 5 favourite family picnic spots.
In their words…
Long Suffering Husband
‘The parking area was relatively close, making carrying all the picnic stuff not too much of a mission. Not that we braaied, but it was nice to have that option; the braais all seemed to have grids – a bonus! The surrounding forest and stream definitely give this site a certain appeal that’s hard to find elsewhere. It had a very relaxing, chilled vibe.’
The Oldest Child
‘It was really nice because it had a stream, and the water was see-through, and there were rocks all over the place. And you can walk in the water and follow the stream through the forest. I also liked the wooden picnic tables under the trees.’
The Middle Child
‘I liked the dustbin because it looked like a high castle. And I liked the river, because when we were walking in it in our pants, not our swimming pants, it went down into a valley. And the tadpoles and frogs and birds and stuff was lovely.’
While the natural setting gets 5 stars, from a practical perspective, we gave Jubilee Creek a 3 Bean rating, mostly because a lack of running water in the bathrooms could make messy nappy changes tricky, and the unsecured bridge is a potential danger for smaller kids.
R9 for kids under 13 years, R17 for adults. Free entrance for WildCard holders.
SANParks – Knysna Lakes Section of the Garden Route National Park:
+27 (0)44 302 5600
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