South Africa Stay

Sleeping in Knysna’s old power turbine

What’s a hotel if it’s not unique? The Turbine Hotel in Knysna is not only a little unusual, but it’s also fun. I stayed here recently when passing through Knysna and fell in love with this old converted power station on Thesen Island.

Walking into the door at The Turbine Hotel, you’ll notice immediately that the old working parts, pipes and mechanics haven’t been removed, but rather used to create a colourful aesthetic. With everything painted in bright colours (flip, I love bright colours!), it really feels a bit like an adult playground.

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The lobby area at The Turbine Hotel. credit: Alessio La Ruffa.

Everything is also quite open plan, and moving from the reception through to the Island Cafe, you can walk through the older sections of the old power station and even take a seat amongst everything to have your breakfast. It’s warm, inviting and something completely refreshing!

I’ve always had this idea that Knysna was a little same-ish. Truthfully, I haven’t stayed there since I was a kid, but it didn’t seem like anything ‘modern’ was ever going down in this little Garden Route. My perception was completely changed on this trip though!

Knysna is such a beautiful town, and Thesen Island where the hotel is based, is the perfect getaway spot. Between the hotel and its facilities, there is also a selection of fantastic restaurants and a small marina. It wasn’t overly busy when we were around, but apparently it gets booked out over peak periods and the sense of community and vibrancy of Thesen Island becomes really apparent.

Our room was on the top floor overlooking the canals that criss-cross Thesen Island and the wooden stilted house that all lead onto small jetties. Lying on the bed with the sliding door open and a good book was basically how we spent the afternoons here. Staring out over the view as the light changed throughout the day was a real highlight for me here.

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The view from our room. 

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Looking down onto the pool deck from our room.

What to do when staying in Knysna

Staying in Knysna is pretty awesome. Staying on Thesen Island in particular though is much better than being squashed onto the mainland in my opinion, mostly because of the incredible panoramic views it offers. Each night after dinner, we would walk around the public section of the island (there’s a part only open to residents) and admire the lights over the lagoon.

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Looking out over the lagoon.

What was great about Knysna for me, was a sunset pontoon cruise on the lagoon. Booked straight from the Turbine Water Club across from reception, it was a calm glide around the edges of the lagoon that came complete with gin and tonics. I get seasick quite easily, and was a little nervous about being on the water, but this was perfectly fine for me.

Sights from our sunset cruise.

You can also easily hire bicycles or kayaks from the Turbine Water Club. If you don’t get seasick, then a whale watching boat ride could be your thing (and we’re heading into whale season right now too).

I can also highly recommend going to the Amani Spa based within the hotel. It may be small, but it’s absolutely wonderful, and The Traveller massage actually made me fall asleep and snore. Alessio can’t stop teasing me about that one, as you can imagine.

What to eat in Knysna

Staying at The Turbine Hotel, we enjoyed breakfast at Island Cafe and had dinner there on the one evening too. The hotel’s restaurant is actually one of the best hotel restaurant’s I’ve been to. It has it’s own identity and it didn’t feel as if I was in a hotel, something that’s quite hard to achieve in this industry I think.

The breakfast selection is quite varied, and since we’d been on the road for over a week, it was amazing to be able to order some healthy breakfast options. Try the poached eggs and mushrooms.

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Looking into Island Cafe. 

Our dinner was absolutely exceptional, and even if you just live in Knysna, then I’d really recommend that you pop in for a meal. We had the prawn and citrus risotto and the slow roasted lamb shanks. Both were succulent and fresh, and the portions were enormous! Neither of us finished our meals in fact, so maybe a little too big.

The wine list at Island Cafe is award winning, so if you’re going then keep that in mind. There’s a great selection of classic varietals on the menu, but it also includes some more obscure varietals and wineries so you’re certain to find something to your liking!

Other than eating at Island Cafe, I can recommend the nearby East Head Cafe for lunch, and the best oysters I’ve ever eaten at 34 South. The latter is also within walking distance of the hotel and serves champagne by the glass, so you know where I’m going with that…

My stay at The Turbine Hotel was by their invitation, as with all my posts, I retain full editorial control.

Travel & food blogger helping adventurous South Africans find their next escape.

Comments (2)

  • love knysna.
    i just discovered your blog…and guess what…you have a fan in me.

    • Ah Khanyi! Thank you so much!


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