Now before I get into the details, I’ll be honest and say that I pre-judged this hotel based on its location, thinking that because it was on the super luxurious Thesen Island that it may have a slightly pretentious vibe to it. Assuming that because the hotel is surrounded by the playground for South Africa’s millionaires that we’d feel a bit out of our depth. Was my average girl road trip wardrobe going to fit it? Will they judge our not so fancy luggage as we wheel it in? But I was completely wrong. While absolutely everything was on point, from the food to the service to the beautiful decor, there wasn’t a moment where we felt out of place (turns out not so fancy luggage suddenly looks super fancy when a porter goes and fetches it from your car and wheels it in for you on his luggage cart).
From the beginning of our stay right until we sadly said goodbye we were treated with the best service – the concierge, the tour company staff, the waiting staff, and the cleaning staff were all friendly and helpful. We were also pleasantly surprised about Thesen Island, it’s a beautiful spot in Knysna that was loads of fun to explore.
The Turbine Hotel & Spa
The history of The Turbine Hotel & Spa
The hotel is housed in a previously operational power station. The power station was originally built in 1939/1940 and was eventually closed in 2001. The initial plans for the building were to convert it into a museum, but those plans never materialized. It was later sold to the current hotel owners and operators, Geoff Engel and Dandre Lerm-Engel, in 2007 and after almost three years The Turbine Hotel & Spa opened its doors in August 2010.
The original wood boiler, four electricity generators and much of the equipment have been fully restored and kept to make up the hotel’s decor. Walking through the hotel is an absolute treat for anyone interested in machinery and power stations – you’ll constantly find interesting things to explore. I loved the way that the original machinery is combined with the bright and modern decor, creating beautiful spaces throughout.
Here are a few pics of the unique decor throughout the hotel.
The hotel has two on-site restaurants – the 90-seater Island Café which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinners and the Gastro Pub which is open for more casual pub-grub meals and a variety of beverages. Col’Cacchio is their sister restaurant across the road, serving Italian fare.
If you get excited about hotel breakfasts like me, then you’ll most definitely enjoy the breakfast at The Turbine Hotel & Spa. There’s a continental buffet station with various cereals, fresh fruits, a variety of cheeses and cold meats, pastries, bread and jams, and fruit juices. There’s also a breakfast menu with various dishes, including flapjacks and poached eggs.
You can enjoy your breakfast outside on the pool deck, overlooking the canal, or inside in Island Café.
The Island Café menu also includes lunch and dinner options. The menu changes often, with a variety of dishes including vegetarian, meat, chicken and fish. We had one dinner in the restaurant. I had the pork chops and my husband had the line fish. While my chops were delicious, the line fish was absolutely superb. So so yum! We finished off with lemon meringue and chocolate mousse.
We popped into the Gastro Pub for a cocktail before dinner one evening and really enjoyed the relaxed vibe inside. I can imagine that it pumps during high season, becoming the islands ‘go-to’ pub. The menu is simple, including salads, sandwiches, burgers, and fish. Also some delicious cocktails.
The hotel is made up of 24 guest rooms, including standard rooms, luxury rooms, honeymoon suite, and two luxury self-contained Lagoon and Canal Suites adjacent to the hotel.
Each bedroom has been individually decorated and named to reflect the various cultural, historical and geographic aspects of Knysna. We stayed in the Elephant Room, one of the hotel’s standard rooms. The room was comfortable and elegantly decorated, including a full bathroom with shower and bath (though, use of the bath is restricted due to the water restrictions in the area), fully-stocked minibar, coffee machine, work desk, flat-screen TV, and a complimentary bottle of wine.
The Turbine Spa offers various beauty and relaxation treatments. We had a couples 60-minute full body massage during our stay and walked out feeling soooo relaxed. It was amazing – even my husband, who doesn’t normally like massages, enjoyed it.
The Turbine Water Club is the hotel’s activity center where you can hire bicycles and kayaks to explore the island and canals. They can also organise a cruise on one of their two motorised pontoon barges to explore the lagoon and head out to see the Knysna Heads. We joined on a sunset cruise which started off with ‘window shopping’ through the canals to check out the nearby houses on the island, we then headed out into the estuary and made our way towards the Knysna Heads. The cruise included some drinks and a delicious snack platter to munch on. Our captain, Monty, was so friendly and shared lots of interesting information about Knysna and the surrounding area. I’d definitely recommend the sunset cruise if you stay here.
We also took advantage of the kayak hire and spent an hour cruising through the canals checking out the million Rand houses and looking for the infamous Knysna seahorses (without any luck, unfortunately). I forgot that we were in South Africa for a moment, it really felt like we were in a more fancy, modern version of Venice. Really beautiful and picturesque.
Overall, we loved our stay at The Turbine Hotel & Spa and really enjoyed exploring and experiencing Thesen Island. After many years of just popping into Knysna, I now know it a little bit better and am keen to go back and do some more exploring of this gem along the Garden Route.
Check out the hotel’s current rates and specials here.
Thank you to The Turbine Hotel & Spa for a complimentary stay. As always, all thoughts and experiences are my own.