Knysna Turbine Hotel & Spa | A Breath of Fresh Air
Having been to Knysna, and Thesen Island, a number of times, but never having had a fully guided experience of the town, my most recent visit was a different experience entirely, and a fascinating insight into the history of a place most know only as a holiday destination.
Originally built to cater for the timber and shipping trade, Thesen Island, named for the Norwegian family who settled there in the 1800s and bought the property, was originally home to a timber mill – the various power station sites around the island were fed by the wood waste. The power station was decommissioned 1980 and the area was gradually developed into what is now a residential marina housing development designed around 19 interlinked islands and numerous man-made canals.
Turbine Hotel is located in one of the original power station sites, built in the 1930s, and was opened in 2010 after extensive refurbishment and rezoning. The original equipment is an integral element the hotel’s aesthetic – part of the deal to use the site, which is a part of Knysna’s heritage, was that it be restored to almost working condition – and it gives the hotel a truly unique atmosphere with bright pops of colour and contemporary furniture and art a striking contrast to the industrial pipes and dials. The footprint of the hotel is multi levelled – landings and interconnecting ramps are built around the machinery, giving you the feeling that the hotel grew up around it.
The hotel offers guests a choice of 17 standard rooms, six luxury rooms, a honeymoon suite, and a self-catering Water Club apartment. Each of the rooms provide luxurious amenities such as a flat screen TV, Wi-fi, a fully-stocked mini bar, and a tea and coffee station. Each room is decorated differently – those on the water-facing side of the hotel have a nautical flavour and those looking towards the mountain are themed along plants and trees.
As easy as it would be to stay close to the hotel – lying by the pool, dining at the restaurants (the Tapas Bar and Island Café – their breakfasts particularly are something to write home about, try the French toast with mascarpone, bananas and bacon) or being treated at the Amani African Spa – Thesen Island and surrounds have much to offer. Arrange sunset cruises, bike rides with Knysna Hike and Bike (guided tours of the area with beer tastings and coffee stops). Then there’s the forest – a not-too-far drive away – which is breathtaking and as full of history as it is of ferns.
In an industry awash with samey generic hotels, this five-star boutique establishment is a breath of fresh air for its sense of place and personal touch. The staff deserve mention too – friendly, professional and warm, I’ve rarely found service that’s so remarkable across the board.
Airlink: How to Get There
Airlink: the Regional Feeder Airline, offers a wide network of regional and domestic flights within southern Africa and operates as a franchisee to SAA
Route Specific Information: Direct scheduled flights between Cape Town and Durban to George.
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Flight Bookings: online, booking agent or SAA Central Reservations: +27 11 978 1111.
Text: Julia Freemantle
Photographs: Supplied and Julia Freemantle