the knysna oyster festival 2013

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

Knysna Oyster Festival 2013

Knysna is a super special place to me because I spent a few childhood holidays there in my grandparent’s home. The town was more like a village back then, but despite its vast growth over the years, it’s a very pretty place nestled around a beautiful lagoon with so much on offer.

One of the biggest things that go on every year is the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival. This is the longest-running event in South Africa and has so many activities happening over a  10 day period, they don’t just print a brochure to inform people about them, they have to print a magazine.

Sandwiched between two very big sporting weekends – the first filled with MTB rides and cycling races, and the second filled with running – are a lot of fun food and wine activities. I was invited to check a few of these out, and generally report on all the deliciousness I found.

I did so much in the 4 days and 3 nights I was there I won’t be able to cover it all here, and despite some rainy weather and grey skies (not great for photography), the hospitality was warm I didn’t want to leave.

I stayed at Hideaway Guest House, which was close to town, but yes – hidden away. A fabulous 4 star guest house run by lovely people, I could not recommend it highly enough. This was the view from my room. (Thank you Colleen for making me feel so at home)

Hideaway Guest house in Knysna

Day 1  On my first evening in Knysna I attended the Wine Festival and Night Market where I met Neil Ellis himself and a few other interesting wine people. The event took place at the main festival grounds with gourmet local food producers over 50 wine producers showcasing their wares, it was a lot of fun.

Day 2 involved checking out a really cool local initiative called Green chefs. Participating local chefs presented their signature dishes using locally sourced ingredients at the Knysna Tourism office and these dishes were judged during the festival. The winner getting the opportunity to to attend a local cooking school for formal training.

I went wandering around and found the town filled with cute places like mon petit pain:

mon petit pain

mon petit pain

mon petit pain

mon petit pain

The Tin House Cafe:the tin house cafe

the tin house cafe

…and of course the legendary ile de pain: (they sell Felchlin Swiss chocolate by the way)

ille de pain

I unfortunately never got a chance to eat in any of these places, but was pleased to have at least popped past to ogle the gorgeous pastries and take a few snaps to show you what they look like.

I swung past the  KiddiesKom Braai competition where children were judged on their cooking skills and food knowledge. My heart melted when I saw these cute kids.

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

I then headed over to Thesen Island to have a quick lunch at the Turbine Hotel & Spa, which is essentially an old power station that has been converted into a luxury -24 bedroomed boutique hotel. I thought it was lovely and very edgy.

Thesen Island Knysna

The Turbine Hotel Thesen Island, Knysna

The Turbine Hotel Thesen Island, Knysna

The Turbine Hotel Thesen Island, Knysna

The Turbine Hotel Thesen Island, Knysna

The Turbine Hotel Thesen Island, Knysna

A visit to the waterfront is mandatory when in Knysna, and I swung past 34 degrees South:

The Knysna Oyster Festival 2013

The Knysna Oyster Festival 2013

The Knysna Oyster Festival 2013

The Knysna Oyster Festival 2013

The Knysna Oyster Festival 2013

I was thrilled to have been invited to judge the Pick n Pay Flavours of Knysna Oyster competition along with TV personality Toks van der Linde, and Pick n Pay Chef Source Management Jonathan Moldon. Local Knysna restaurants took part in this popular event and had to come up with a winning recipe using oysters. I was blown away and inspired by many of these entries

This year’s top oysters were presented by Le Sel De Pezula, who took top honours in the Fine Dining category, Tapas & Oysters won the Casual Dining category (more about their delectable Chiquila oyster later, as it is too good not to share),  and Firefly Eating House won the Best Dressed Stall.

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

Day 3 – A visit to the Knysna Craft Beer project at Pezula Golf Estate Club House was on the cards. I may have had a slight hangover on this day, but the cool beers and tasty snacks made it all quite bearable.

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

A trip to Knysna is not complete without a stop in at the lookout point at the Knysna Heads to check out the beautiful views. I took a few pics before heading down to Thesen Island to catch a boat trip with Knysna Boat trips. The plan was to go through the Heads and do some whale watching out at sea, but have to admit I was rather relieved after reaching the Heads, the decision was made not to go out. It is after all one of the most dangerous port entries in the world and definitely better suited to a thrill seeker (this is not me). The alternative gentle cruise around the lagoon was much more my cup of tea.

I found this video on a guy flying through the Heads in a Cessna.

The Knysna Oyster Festival 2013The Knysna Oyster Festival 2013

I popped into the Local Design & Food market in Knysna square briefly in the evening, and yes the sunset was exactly that colour.

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

The next fun event was the Tabasco® Oyster Shuckle hosted by Nik Rabinowitz. Always entertaining,  we watched competitors shuck and eat as many oysters as they could in 5 minutes. Never seen this before.

Then I had a dream come true –  I got to dine at Zacharys at Conrad Pezula and I got to meet the awe-inspiring chef Geoffrey Murray. This meal was such a delectable treat, and I have so much to say about it, I’m keeping this for another post. I want to share the menu and my experience in more detail.

Day 4, and just before I left, I joined all the media types in Knysna at Tapas and Oyster for a tweetup. A Bubbly and oyster pairing at 9am is so something I could do often. We tweeted, we swilled, we slurped and had a fabulous time.

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

The whole time I was there I snapped pics, tweeted, and Instagramed, and thought yes, I could do this for a living.

Knysna Oyster festival 2013

A final mad dash to the airport followed as we said goodbye to Knysna, a fantastic Oyster Festival, and a few new friends. This surely has to be the most fun you can have in South Africa in Winter.

The Knysna Oyster Festival 2013

Contact Knysna Tourism for any info you might have when visiting Knysna. They are situated on the Main drag as you come into town and are super friendly and efficient. You main even get a decent cup of coffee.

 Knysna Tourism on 044 382 5510

* Disclaimer – My trip to Knysna was sponsored by the event organizers in exchange for coverage of all the delicious fun things I encountered there, the content of which was completely left up to my discretion.



  1. Liz Thomas says:

    That all sounds just wonderful. How I wish I could visit Knysna again.

    Glad you enjoyed yourself so much.


  2. You really should have seen the views over looking the Lagoon from the award winning Orchid Room at Simola.It was also unfortunate the you missed the Glenfiddich food paring menu on the last Friday of the Festival. Jam packed and really fantastic. Maybe next time!
    Looking forward to future news

  3. Sounds awesome Andrew and sorry to have missed those events. There really was so much going on and I don’t think I could have packed anything else in the 3.5 days I was there. I will be back.

  4. Thanks for the note Liz, it really is such a special place to me, I enjoy it every time I go.

  5. I loved Knysna when I visited. The festival looks amazing and your photos so inviting- I’m crazy for oysters!

  6. As always Sam, your pics bring everything to life and makes one feel part of it

  7. Loved this! And loved meeting you 🙂 How cool if we ALL got to go again next year for a reunion??


  8. Hi keri, yes it was lovely to meet you, what a fun week and Id go back in a heartbeat. x

  9. Thanks Usha, it was certainly a very lively week, and I was very privileged to have gone on such a fabulous trip 🙂

  10. Alla, I have never encountered so many oysters in my life, and so reasonable in price. The freshest ever.

  11. What a stunning collection of photos! I thoroughly enjoyed your post, thank you for sharing.

  12. Carolie de Koster says:

    Hi Sam

    Your stunning photos made our last holday in Knysna come alive again! Nature speaks louder than words and you have captured some of the most beautiful spots of God’s creation perfectly! Bless you! .

  13. Views of that lagoon bring a lump to the throat every time – I also spent childhood summers paddling in that water; my grandparents had a house on Leisure Isle, too…

    And I miss the oysters! Time to visit again.

  14. HI Marie, I’m glad I could bring back a bitter sweet memory for you, I am equally emotional about the place. Sam x

  15. Hello Carolie, glad I could bring back a few memories. It certainly is one of the most unique places in South Africa. Sam x

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