The seaside town of Knysna, in the heart of the Garden Route (known for its rich maritime history, indigenous forests, whale watching, sunset charters and oysters) has twice won South Africa’s number one favourite town. And it’s easy to see why.
Nestled between the majestic Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean, Knysna’s gorgeous coastline (that stretches between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay) offers visitors endless activities and adventures on which to embark.
A sought after holiday destination in Knysna – that I was fortunate enough to travel to recently- is the multi-award winning marina development, Thesen Islands. The charming Cape Cod-style water village consists of nineteen man-made islands linked by 21 arched bridges and surrounded by 25 hectares of tidal waterways. The homes and hotels on the Islands are beautifully built in a colonial maritime architectural style, embracing the region’s vernacular architecture and its rich marine and timber history.
Another historical connection to timber on the Island is the five-star Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa. The original site (on which the hotel now stands) was constructed in 1940 and was home to a power station that generated electricity from turbines and supplied Knysna and Plettenberg Bay with electricity until the mid-1970s.
The last day of operation was 26 June 2001 and, when plans to turn the space into a museum never materialised, the old power station was bought by Geoff Engel and Dandre Lerm-Engel who opened The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa in 2010.
The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa
The award-winning Turbine Hotel offers its guests luxury convenience, with a list of onsite amenities and activities, including The Turbine Spa, The Island Café, Gastro Pub. There’s also the Turbine Hotel Water Club which offers access to various water sports and activities. Situated on the convivial Thesen Island (and close to the Waterfront) the list of surrounding shops, cafes and restaurants is endless.
The Turbine’s 26 boutique rooms each have an individualised theme and name inspired by the cultural, historical and geographic diversity of Knysna. There are 17 Standard Rooms, 6 Luxury Rooms, a Honeymoon Suite as well as 2 self-contained suites adjacent to the hotel. After a short but thorough covid and check-in protocol, we settled into our rooms – mine, the tranquil Tides Room.
Each room at the Turbine is unique. Some have private gardens, some are suites, and some overlook the sparkling infinity pool and canals. My room was one of the latter. The space was comfortably compact, like being on a luxurious cruise ship. White cotton linen and shades of teal and turquoise set the tone for the marine-inspired theme. The Tides Room is furnished with a king-sized bed and features an en-suite bathroom with a separate shower and bath, two basins and heated towel rails. All rooms have a fully stocked mini-bar, kitchenette, and coffee machine. Additional amenities include a flat-screen TV, fast WiFi, air-conditioner, comfy robes and a hairdryer. The rooms are also secured by a Ving Card access which, to me, offers a great sense of security.
While snug, the floor design is still open-plan with stunning Island views visible from the bathtub, which opens up with Venetian-esque blinds that serve as a room divider separating the bathroom and bedroom. I dutifully added a champagne bubble bath to my weekend bucket list before heading to the pool deck for lunch.
Musing through the hotel on my way to lunch, I saw just how stylishly the history of The Turbine is preserved throughout the premises: the original wood boiler, electricity generators, industrial pipes, bolts and all equipment that remains has been brought back to life with bright colours that accentuate the eccentric, modern-industrial theme. Coupled with an array of local artworks consigned by the Knysna Fine Arts Gallery, exploring the Hotel premises is an experience unto itself.
The same can be said for both eateries at The Turbine, The Island Cafe and Gastro Pub, which both offer concise menus that combine hearty dishes with a gourmet flair, along with daily and weekly specials. Breakfast at The Island Cafe is anything you want it to be, from a fully loaded hot breakfast to a fresh smoothie, decadent benedict, fruit and yoghurt and more.
Exploring Thesen Islands
Activities are abundant on both Thesen Island and throughout greater Knysna. With only a day and a half to explore the surroundings, we decided we’d pack in as much action as possible during our stay.
We agreed to start on the afternoon of our arrival with a relaxing Turbine Spa treatment followed by a sunset cruise with champagne and canapés. After lunch, we enjoyed a rejuvenating massage at the hotel spa. My masseuse, Lydia, was a miracle worker. Lydia’s incredible skills, coupled with the soothing sound of water and smell of essential oils, really geared me into vacation mode.
I met up with the group shortly after my treatment for our sunset lagoon cruise, where we headed out to Brenton-on-lake and the Knysna Heads on the Turbine Water Club’s dedicated motorised Pontoon barge. The cruise included a bottle of sparkling wine and a snack board that we enjoyed during the most stunning golden hour on the water.
The cruise was led by the Turbine’s trusty guide and skipper, who filled us in on the history of the surrounding areas, the ecology, heritage and more. We returned to the Island, which was buzzing with the sounds of a Friday evening and enjoyed dinner together at the hotel’s Gastro Pub. We toasted over live music by XYZ and to our good company before calling it an evening and retiring to our luxurious rooms.
Saturday was a big day, so we met early for breakfast before embarking on our first adventure – a walk in the majestic Knysna Forest. I was insta-enchanted by the dense canopy and abundant greenery of the forest, which is so thick you can barely see 2 meters off the path. This mystic, moss-cloaked world is an absolute must-explore for nature lovers.
After our energising morning out in nature, we returned to our spacious Ford Tourneo and made our way back to the hotel, where we decided to go kayaking through Thesen Islands – an activity offered by the Turbine Water Club. I had never kayaked before, but honestly, I thought, ‘how hard could it be?’ I was sure I could manage on my own. Luckily, I heeded the advice to double up with someone, because as it turns out, I had no idea what I was doing. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and soon, my partner and I were cruising through the canals.
After a quick freshening up, we settled down for lunch at Thesen Islands’ ile de pain – an award-winning artisanal bakery and cafe, famous for their decadent pastries, fresh bread and signature hot chocolate – before departing again for Saturday’s final activity – a zipline journey across the majestic Kranshoek gorge.
Located just 25km from the Turbine Hotel, Knysna Ziplines boasts some of the longest and highest lines in the country. Their thrilling zipline system is 200 meters high and consists of six cables that crisscross the breathtaking Kranshoek gorge, with the longest cable stretching just under 700m.
After a quick covid and indemnity protocol at the Knysna Ziplines office, we met our trusty guides at the Kranshoek picnic site, where we recieved a safety briefing and our gear. I also got a GoPro set up on my helmet – an additional, paid-for service offered by Knysna Ziplines. Once we were all geared up, we headed out on an unforgettable adventure filled with adrenalin, speed and the most spectacular views of mountains, gorge and sea. I would 20/10 recommend booking this experience when visiting Knysna.
We spent our last night at the hotel’s Island Café and over dinner, we reflected on just how much fun we had in such a short amount of time. As someone living in Cape Town, I’m so lucky to have the Garden Route as a go-to staycation destination which is absolutely worth the drive. Thesen Islands offer so much to explore and experience, and with the Knysna Oyster Festival just around the bend, The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa is the perfect place to be.
Find out more about the fabulous accommodation specials currently available at The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa below and follow the Turbine Hotel on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All images courtesy of Kathryn Rossiter (@becomingyou), Thobeka Mthembu (@thobi_rose), Sbahle Kgobe (@letsgetlostinthewald). Find more travel content, right here.
The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa Specials
The Turbine Hotel is currently offering a fabulous variety of accommodation, food and spa treatment specials which you can view, right here: TURBINE HOTEL & SPA SPECIALS, The hotel will also be offering incredible accommodation specials during this year’s Knysna Oyster Festival:
Knysna Oyster Festival Accommodation specials (valid from 11 to 18 July 2021)
- Rack – Standard – R4 740 per room; Luxury – R5 540 per room; Suites – R6 320 per room
- 1 Night – less 41% – Standard – R2 500 per room; Luxury – R2 800 per room; Suite – R3 200 per room
- 2 Night – less 50% -Standard – R2 200 per room; Luxury – R2600 per room; Suite – R3 000 per room
- MID-Week: ‘Stay 3 Pay 2’ (Sunday to Thursday)- Standard room stay three nights and only pay for two (R4 680 for the three nights)
And if you’re in need of a little pampering The Turbine Spa, with its two single treatment rooms, a treatment room for couples, a Rasul (a steamy Arabian bathing ritual) chamber and a full range of body and beauty treatments for men and women, has just what you need – the ‘Create your own Package’ – choose any two treatments – 30min Sports Massage (focus area); 30min Express Mani; 30min Express Pedi; 30min Steam Room Session – for ONLY R399!
Turbine Hotel Spa open daily – Monday to Sunday, including public holidays, from 08h00 until 19h00. Contact the Spa directly on 044 302 5746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
Contact The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa
Tel: +27 (0)44 302 5746 / Email: email@example.com | www.turbinehotel.co.za
Knysna Ziplines – SA Forest Adventures
For more information and to book an unforgettable experience with Knysna Ziplines, visit www.knysnaziplines.co.za
Knysna Ziplines | Facebook | Instagram
A special thank you to Ford South Africa for the incredible Ford Tourneo – the ultimate road trip van!