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Some of my happiest childhood memories were made in the famous Garden Route town of Knysna. Lazy summer days were spent splashing in the shallow waters, trying to catch lightning-fast fish with a net. Taking a small sailboat out onto the smooth lagoon waters with my cousin, often getting stuck on a sandbank, was all part of the fun. Our humble abode was a ramshackle hut in a forest clearing near the water’s edge.

More recently, I had the pleasure of enjoying a luxurious stay at one of the best hotels in Knysna. Once housing a power station built in 1939 and 1940, the heritage site was painstakingly transformed into the unique and quirky 5-star The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa. With a rich history spanning sailing ships, timber extraction and gold discovery, discover my top 5 reasons to stay at this extraordinary, one-of-a-kind establishment.


Located on Thesen Islands, The Turbine opened its doors to the public on 12 August 2010 after 3 arduous years of restoration and renovations. With a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes, designer clothing and home decor stores within walking distance of the hotel, the location is hard to beat and offers spellbinding canal and lagoon views.

The waterfront marina development features residential and commercial properties and has 19 individual islands separated by canals, with historically important buildings retained where possible. The Thesen Island Heritage Walk offers a fascinating insight into the island’s maritime history and the Thesen family who arrived from Norway in 1870, contributing to the area’s economic development.

 Wow factors!

I always experience a sense of anticipation and excitement when walking through the front door of a fabulous hotel for the first time. But before you do that, take some time to admire the hotel’s magnificent and intriguing architectural facade.

Stepping through the bright red front doors of this 5-star boutique hotel, the striking and chic interior that greets you is an exceptional blend of fully restored industrial elements and bold, vibrant furnishings and local artwork. The visual sensory feast will continue to delight you as you further explore the hotel’s unique decor and history.


Choose from a range of luxury accommodation, comprising 26 individually decorated rooms that feature Standard Rooms, Luxury Rooms, a Honeymoon Suite and 2 self-contained suites adjacent to the hotel. My blissful haven for two nights, the Reeds Room, was spacious and comfortable with a balcony offering sweeping views of the hotel’s crystal-blue swimming pool and canal-side homes.

Located in the Lagoon Wing, the beautifully furnished room uses soft aquatic hues like turquoise, silver, and pale greens of the eelgrass and reeds that line the famous estuary. Featuring a host of creature comforts, the room provides you with everything you need for a most enjoyable stay. The amenities include, among others, an uber-comfortable extra-length king bed with high thread count linen, en suite bathroom, free high-speed WiFi, air-conditioning, iPod docking station, bathrobe, and slippers.

Eco-friendly Initiatives

We all know that water is one of our most precious resources. Due to severe drought conditions in Knysna and surrounds, The Turbine implements water conservation initiatives with a complete ban on non-essential water usage. The various energy and water-saving measures taken include the use of water shut off devices, rainwater harvesting and water-saving fittings. They have also recycled the entire power station building and its materials and make use of solar panels and heat pumps.

Supporting Local Talent

The Turbine is a proud supporter of South African artists, turning some of their light and airy spaces into an informal art gallery with the assistance of Knysna Fine Art Gallery. Displaying a wonderful collection of works in the public areas and bedrooms, if you see something that you like, you can buy your favourite art piece and take it home with you.

Dining and drinks

The Turbine’s two restaurants, The Island Café, and The Gastro Pub, each offers a unique dining experience.

Savour delicious a la carte cuisine throughout the day at the retro The Island Café. Your day simply cannot begin without a scrumptious breakfast – I’m quite partial to their superb Smoked Salmon Eggs Benny and steaming cappuccinos.

Meals can be served indoors amongst the restored original turbines or outdoors, where you can enjoy pool and canal views from the terrace, perfect for leisurely al fresco lunches and dinners. During the cooler months, well-positioned open fireplaces warm up the spacious interior. The upstairs dining area offers a secluded venue for more intimate dinners.

The Island Café has an extensive beverage list featuring a wide range of fabulous local wines, sparkling wines, spirits, beers and imported champagnes.

The service was friendly and efficient, and staff members went the extra mile when ordering items that weren’t necessarily on the menu. Despite being a 5-star hotel, the menu was reasonably priced, and in some cases, less than what you would pay in Cape Town.

The Gastro Pub is a quirky pub built around the hotel’s fifth turbine. It’s the place to be for a fun time with friends and family while enjoying exquisite lagoon views from the outdoor deck. The laid-back vibe, utterly delicious gourmet finger food menu and possibly THE best gin cocktails will make you want to linger longer. Their signature gin cocktails are fantastic!

Find me at the spa!

The Turbine Spa may be small, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in some relaxing head-to-toe treatments with their skilled therapists. Offering a tranquil oasis in the heart of the hotel, prepare to get your bliss on with a revitalising pamper session or two.

This well-known Spa features single and double treatment rooms and the extensive Spa Treatment menu offers something for everyone, including body, facial and beauty treatments for women and men. The exotic mosaic tiled Rasul Steam Room and exclusive Spa Massage Pedi Chair are some of the Spa’s distinctive features.

Choose from a wide range of indulgent Pamper Packages and Signature Treatments. Joyce had me floating on air after a heavenly massage. She was able to ease the tension in my back, shoulders, and legs almost immediately. I enjoyed it so much that I went back the next day for a blissful facial that left my skin hydrated and glowing. Don’t miss out on enjoying an indulgent pampering treatment when you stay at The Turbine. Take advantage of their amazing 50% off special deals.


The Turbine Water Club is your go-to adventure centre for leisure activities. They offer a variety of water sports and land-based activities. Enjoy lagoon sunset cruises, bicycle rides around Thesen Islands, canoeing on the calm lagoon waters, guided forest walks, and FREE Knysna Seahorse tours.

Next time I’d also like to try out the adrenaline-filled Knysna Ziplining and lunch and a tour of Featherbed Nature Reserve.

Contact Details

T:   +27 44 302 5746

W:  Turbine Hotel

E:   Reservations

 Written by Nadine Carroll, LivingItUpCT