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The Thesen Islands are in the seaside town of Knysna in the Western Cape and have several residential marina developments. The land was originally occupied by a timber factory, relocated to protect the sensitive ecosystems around the islands. A strict building code was enforced on developers to retain the natural beauty of the islands. The result is a magnificent neighbourhood of homes positioned over the lagoon, all with patios and private jetties, and accessed by arched bridges crisscrossing the islands.
The Thesen Islands are part of the Garden Route, one of South Africa’s top tourist destinations. The natural riches along this stretch of the southern coast is often likened to Eden.
The Islands were named after a Norwegian settler Thesen who arrived in 1869 and built a timber processing and shipbuilding empire. They are included in the 15000ha Knysna National Lake Conservation Area.
Experience a romantic island-style holiday in one of the marina’s magnificent homes along the water’s edge.
Things to do
If you don’t have your own, hire a small craft and explore the restful Knysna lagoon waterways before travelling via the colossal cliffs known as the Heads, into the warm Indian Ocean.
Thesen Islands has tennis and squash facilities. Hire a bicycle to check out the marina.
Visit the magnificent forests of Knysna for an opportunity to see the wealth of bird life, monkeys, the King Edward III tree – a 600 year old Yellowwood tree 39m in height and a glimpse of the Knysna elephant.
Sign up for the Knysna Township Trail, a 4km route that takes visitors through the townships to sample beer, watch craftsmen at work, visit a school and a Sangoma (witch doctor).
A great time to be on the Thesen Islands is in winter during the Knysna Oyster Festival. The town comes alive with various entertainment events while patrons indulge in wine tasting and oyster quaffing.
Where to Eat
Choose a table on the pool deck to enjoy a delightful meal at the Island Café at Thesen Harbour Town. Small menu but fine selection to suit all tastes.
Also located in the trendy Thesen Harbour Town is Sirocco, a relaxed outdoor restaurant with beer garden on the water and offering guests an excellent light meal to complement their range of unique brews.
Lunar café on the islands offers a combination of quality cuisine for diners and freshly made bakes for those just wanting a coffee break.
Light the fire and enjoy a braai (barbeque) and a few drinks with new found friends on your patio overlooking the placid lagoon.
Enjoy a few drinks and mingle with the locals at the Tapas and Bar Deck in the Turbine Hotel.
Where to Stay
An extraordinary boutique hotel with luxury suites, in a refurbished power station beautifully decorated, and fully equipped holiday homes and cottages are available on the Thesen Islands. All have majestic views of the surrounding lagoon.
Air The nearest airport is George Airport 70kms from Knysna.
Car Several car rental agencies are based in Knysna and at George airport to hire a vehicle, or you could order a rental online.
Taxi There are a number of metered taxi companies in Knysna. Shuttle service operators transport visitors between George Airport and the Thesen Islands.
Did you know?
George Bernard Shaw was so impressed with Knysna that he stayed for 5 weeks in 1932 and wrote ‘The black girl in search of God’ while here.
Be on the lookout for the beautiful pansy shell on these beaches. It’s a rare find and Knysna’s unofficial symbol. The shell is the skeleton of the short-spined sea urchin.