Best things to do on Thesen Island in Knysna

I haven’t been down the Garden Route for far too long (my last trip was back in 2018!) and so when an invite arrived in my inbox for a weekend jaunt to Knysna I was quick to say yes!!

As the time approached I felt a bit nervous about heading all the way for JUST a weekend, but I can honestly say it was so worth it – especially because our drive was so smooth thanks to the Ford Tourneo we travelled in!

We left early on Friday morning and returned on Sunday afternoon and crammed in so many amazing experiences during our short stay!

Our weekend in Knysna was spent primarily enjoying the beautiful island hub of Thesen Island – home to our gorgeous accommodation at The Turbine Boutique Hotel (review coming soon!) – and I’m so glad we were able to fully enjoy the activities on offer all within walking distance of our hotel.

It meant that our time wasn’t wasted driving too far to enjoy ourselves, and staying locally meant it was never too far back to our beds for a quick nap or a refreshing shower between activities on our busy itinerary!

This was my first “real” visit to Thesen Island. I recall many years ago, before the advent of this website, that we headed on holiday down the Garden Route (our first family holiday!) and I had heard about this island and wanted to visit. We made a quick whirlwind visit and I snapped a photo (in the early days of my photography journey) of this exact spot. Not long after our return home I started this website in early 2011 and wrote one of my first posts about “Things to do with kids in the Garden Route” My original photo is actually still featured in the post. Pop on over to see the progress – in both the development of these buildings and my photography!

A weekend in Knysna

5 Best things to do on Thesen Island

1.Knysna lagoon sunset cruise with Turbine Water Club

One of the best experiences we enjoyed on our stay was a scenic sunset boat cruise on the Knysna lagoon on Friday evening complete with snacks and bubbles!

The 1.5 hour trip was on Turbine Water Club‘s motorised Pontoon barge and we did a brief tour of the channels of Thesen Island before heading out to do a round trip on the Knysna lagoon.

We cruised past Brenton-on-Lake then took a turn to get a closer look at the infamous Heads where we enjoyed the glorious warm evening along with other locals enjoying their sundowners in this picture perfect place that was very reminiscent of the Mediterranean coastline with the colourful houses tumbling down the surrounding hills.

The sunset cruise departs at 5pm daily and costs R550pp which includes a bottle of house wine (white/red) and a snack platter per couple.

2. Kayak the canals

Another highlight of our time on Thesen Island was also arranged by The Turbine Water Club. They offer a variety of water sports and activities both on land and on the Knysna lagoon and offer great adventure activities and water sports in and around Knysna at competitive prices.

We all were keen to explore more of the island’s waterways and a brilliant way to do this is from the back of a kayak! Not only is it relaxing, it’s also a great workout! The safe environment meant I was able to attempt to kayak solo for the very first time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It certainly was a workout keeping up with the rest of the group in doubles but I thought of it as extra toning for my arms!!

As fairly inexperienced kayakers we opted to stick to the waterways, but those who are feeling more adventurous can explore anywhere on the Knysna lagoon in the course of rented period. Single and double kayaks are available and life jackets and paddles are provided. Kayaks can be hired for 1 or 2 hours between 09h00 – 17h00. (Prices: 1 hour: R130 pp; 2 hours: R200 pp)

3. Lunch at île de païn

Another “not-to-be-missed” Thesen Island experience is lunch at île de païn.

This café-style restaurant has a buzzing atmosphere, gorgeous interiors, delicious baked goods and ample outdoor seating beneath a soaring African coral tree.

A feast for all the senses, île de païn serves up fantastic food from distinctive breakfasts, authentic breads and creative patisserie.

We indulged in a lunch full of flavour and celebrated our good fortune to find ourselves sharing and savouring the moment in time and place!


4. Dine at The Gastro Pub at The Turbine Boutique Hotel

Built around the hotel’s fifth turbine, the Gastro Pub at The Turbine Hotel boasts exceptional views, a laid-back setting and a gourmet “gastro pub” menu.

If you’re looking for a spot to eat that offers good value and delicious food then this is the place to head.

Sit outside on the deck and enjoy views of the marina while listening to live music (certain nights only)

The Gastro Pub has a warm atmosphere and an array of craft beers to choose from making this a great spot to enjoy dinner.


5. Spend some sublime “me time” at the Turbine Spa

For the ultimate in pampering, book a luxurious body treatment at The Turbine Spa. This was the first place we headed after our long drive and it was the ideal way to start a holiday… relaxed and refreshed and ready for adventure!

Situated in the heart of the Turbine Hotel, this well-known Knysna spa in features single and double treatment rooms, and an impressive range of body, facial and beauty treatments for both him and her.

There is also an exotically mosaic-tiled Rasul Steam Room – perfect for couples, and an exclusive Spa Massage Pedi Chair, in which you can enjoy a back massage and a pedicure simultaneously!

The extensive treatment menu at the Turbine Spa holds something for everyone. I was fortunate enough to experience a beautiful 30 minute back, neck and shoulder massage at the expert hands of Bessie but you can opt for the Turbine Pamper Packages (inclusive of a delicious Island Café lunch), the Couple’s Escape which combines an intensive body massage with a BABOR Facial and a steaming Rasul session. Or opt for the Turbine Body collection, a 75-minute Detox Body Wrap and a relaxing scalp massage, followed by a nourishing body butter application. The ultimate Knysna Journey treatment is a 90-minute spoil starting with a relaxing foot scrub and massage, and ending off with a full body massage of your choice.

Along with these unique Spa Experiences, the Turbine Spa in Knysna also offers a number of deluxe BABOR facials, several different massages ranging from 30 minutes to 90 minutes in duration, a lengthy list of grooming services and various manicure and pedicure treatments.

Turbine Spa caters for men too with the Turbine Gents collection features a replenishing 60-minute or 90-minute Anti-Ageing Gents Facial, a Gents Mani, and an hour-long Gents Medi Pedi. They also offer grooming treatments such as chest waxes, back waxes and both half and full leg waxes.

To find out more about the Turbine Spa, or to book a treatment of your choosing, please contact the spa directly on 044 302 5746 or email


As you can see our 48 hours in Knysna was jam-packed with activities and we made the most of every moment of our time at Turbine enjoying all the very best things to do on Thesen Island.

Tomorrow I’ll share more about my stay at The Turbine along with a few other adventurous activities we enjoyed during our stay – and, yes, we did sleep. Very well in fact!


Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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