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)
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:
…and of course the legendary ile de pain: (they sell Felchlin Swiss chocolate by the way)
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.
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.
A visit to the waterfront is mandatory when in Knysna, and I swung past 34 degrees South:
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.
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.
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.
I popped into the Local Design & Food market in Knysna square briefly in the evening, and yes the sunset was exactly that colour.
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.
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.
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.