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Surrounded by the Knysna River and salt marshes, Leisure Isle is a tiny island reached via a single causeway from the mainland. It’s a suburb of Knysna, located on the southern coast of the Western Cape Province. This region on the Garden Route, one of South Africa’s premier destinations.
The properties on Leisure Isle are a combination of old money mansions and modern, grand homes bounded by fertile gardens and narrow lanes. The lanes encourage an active lifestyle of walking, running or cycling to conveniences nearby.
The area falls under the protection of the South African National Parks Board who ensure that the island remains pristine. A 17ha nature reserve on the northern end of the island is closely managed by SAN Parks.
Leisure Isle has a small harbour on the northern end and the beach at Bollard Bay in the west looks out at the Knysna Heads, two gigantic promontory pillars on either side of the Knysna lagoon mouth.
Leisure Isle epitomises social living in a safe – and green – environment.
Top 8 reasons to visit Leisure Isle
1. Find inner peace at the Steenbok Nature Reserve on the island for fantastic lagoon views over the pristine salt marshes and coastal thicket vegetation. The reserve is home to many creatures including the Knysna dwarf chameleon and the strikingly beautiful painted reed frog.
2. A day on the beach at Bollard Bay is a short walk away from your accommodation. Slip back for lunch, no need to pack supplies. The waters are warm and calm, it’s an ideal swimming beach for the family.
3. The centre of Knysna is 6km from the island to enjoy the shopping malls, numerous restaurants and attractions in the town.
4. Hire a boat from a local boating company to explore the lagoon and negotiate the Knysna Heads to breach the Indian Ocean. The Leisure Isle Boat Club hires out berths to visitors at their harbour. The harbour also has a slipway launch.
5. Drive the Knysna Timber Route to appreciate the vast forests surrounding the town and discover its colourful timber history. Take a breather at the Millwood Museum and Tea Garden.
6. Meet the locals at the Leisure Isle clubhouse, if you can secure an invite…
7. The Leisure Isle Festival takes place every November with over 100 food, beverage and craft stalls selling their products, vintage cars are on display and property owners open their gardens to the public. All proceeds go towards designated charities.
8. The area has a wealth of attractions including the Knysna Elephant Park, the Featherbed Nature Reserve, the Blue Flag beaches of Plettenberg Bay, the stone castles of Noetzie and 4 golf courses nearby.
Leisure Isle is 75km away from George Airport. A number of car rental agencies are located in Knysna and at the George airport or you could order a rental online. Several metered taxi companies operate in Knysna. Shuttle service operators transport visitors between George Airport and Leisure Isle.
Did you know?
Leisure Isle was formed approximately 5000 years ago, created by swirling currents and the buildup of sand banks. In the early 1930s, businessman George Cearn saw the potential in the island, known then as Steenbok Island, and arranged with authorities to pay prisoners to build the stone causeway. The prisoners were fed daily by Cearn’s wife. Originally, 300 plots were made available and the rest is history.
The tiny Steenbok is an antelope found throughout most parts of South Africa. Adults reach roughly 60cm at the shoulder and their large striped ears tend to give them away. What separates this buck from others is that it digs a hole to use as a toilet, then covers the hole. Steenbok inhabited Leisure Isle for many years, the last dying out in the late 1950s.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.