The quaint town of Knysna, in the middle of South Africa’s Garden Route on the Western Cape Coast, lies on a huge estuary that flows into the Indian Ocean between two giant sandstone heads. It’s a great place to chill on the beaches, go boating on the estuary or mountain biking in the indigenous forests, and hang out in local eateries and galleries. Here’s our pick of the best hotels in Knysna, bookable with Culture Trip.
Set on Thesen Island in the estuary, in the remodelled timber frame of the old Knysna boatbuilding shed, the hotel has suites celebrating this in industrial furnishings and design. Choose between Lagoon Suites with balconies giving views of the special lagoon sunsets, airy Loft Suites and Self-Catering Suites. Take a hotel bike and explore the island, or a canoe and navigate the canals. Cool off in the sundeck splash pool.
Built two years ago on a country estate five minutes from the centre town, this Knysna hotel has 44 contemporary garden suites in the indigenous gardens around two swimming pools. Furnishings reflect the hues of forest and sea. The edgy Social Eatery & Bar is one of Knysna’s best, serving local food, craft beer and South African wines from independent estates.
This tranquil five-star country house on the banks of the lagoon is just minutes from town and golf courses, but as the owners say: “the best thing to do at The St James is to just be… to watch the lagoon mirror the every-changing light… to sit in our gardens and listen to the birds.” But do go on the complimentary 90-minute sunset cruise on the hotel pontoon.
The owners have cleverly converted the old power station on Thesen Island into a striking five-star boutique hotel, the original machinery restored and incorporated as part of the décor. Choose from 17 standard rooms, six luxury, a honeymoon suite, and two self-contained suites alongside the hotel. The Island Café is known for its unusual dishes showcasing local fresh produce, or relax at the Gastro Pub. The Turbine Spa has the full gamut of treatments. You can also hire a kayak or take a pontoon cruise or eco-safari.
On the edge of the Knysna forest 7km (4.3mi) from the town, the 40 well-dressed suites of the Simola overlook the estuary, Knysna Heads, the ocean, and Jack Nicklaus’ Signature Golf Course – the first in Africa designed by The Golden Bear and a thing of beauty itself. This is a paradise for golfers, but also for their partners, with swimming pools and a spa. The Lungalo Restaurant and wine cellar, glassed on three sides, hangs over the view, and serves good meals and exceptional wines.
From its perch on well-named Paradise Ridge, this five-star guest house gives some of Knysna’s best views of Knysna lagoon and the Heads. Drink them in along with a glass of fine local wine, from the infinity-edge pool or the jacuzzi. Later, star-gaze from your private veranda, before retreating into an enormous, tastefully luxurious bedroom.
This massive hotel in Knysna has a prime position on the Knysna Quays Waterfront above the lagoon. Rooms are big and comfortable, overlooking the water, town and historical train station. There’s a spectacular heated outdoor pool, wellness therapists are on hand to give massages, and when it comes to food, four Waterfront restaurants are a stroll away. Start with JJ’s, which specialises in game cuisine and live traditional local music.
Premier perfectly describes this large, elegant playground with 74 rooms – and better still, 14 two-storey Waterfront villas lining the banks of the resort’s private inlet from the lagoon. The villas have king beds, gas fireplaces, open kitchen and dining areas, and private balconies above the view. There’s a new outdoor play area for kids, a swimming pool, and trendy Salmon Restaurant celebrates local cuisine.
Set on the cliffs of the Heads, this hotel in Knysna has sensational views. Choose from four suites, the presidential boasting a buttoned headboard, bidet and Lavazza coffee machine. There’s a spectacular heated pool, a 12-seater movie theatre with reclining armchairs and the latest box-office movies, and the wine cellar has some of the country’s most sought-after wines. The 2 Stories Restaurant is famous for its seafood – think black mussels steamed in lemongrass, garlic and chilli butter.
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