Thesen Island is a marina development located in the scenic Knysna estuary. The marina is spread over 90 hectares and consists of 19 man-made islands linked by 21 arched bridges, and is surrounded by 25 hectares of tidal canals. For this reason, it is actually known as Thesen Islands. The development consists of residential homes and apartments in one section and what is known as Thesen Harbour Town in the other, the commercial section which comprises boutique shops, offices, gyms, restaurants, bars, art galleries and our beloved hotel.
Read our guide to Thesen Island below and start planning your trip to this stunning seaside destination!
History of Thesen Island
Charles William Thesen bought Thesen Island (formerly known as Paarden Island) in 1904 and began processing timber on the land in 1922. Wood waste from the timber mill was used to start a power station which generated electricity from turbines and this eventually supplied the towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay with electricity until the mid 1970’s.
A large industrial conglomerate purchased the logging operations in 1974 but these were decommissioned in early 1980 due to an adverse environmental impact. They subsequently sold this site and work on the marina development began shortly. Many of the old buildings were repurposed, including Turbine Hotel & Spa which was once the power station.
Top Things To Do on Thesen Island
There’s no shortage of things to do on Thesen Island, from kayaking through the canals to browsing through art galleries. Ocean Odyssey offers water-based activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, whale watching and eco tours. The Turbine Water Club provides bicycle hire, kayak hire, fishing charters, guided hikes and pontoon cruises in the lagoon. If you’re looking for more leisurely things to do on Thesen, why not browse through the various art galleries, book a spa treatment, visit the Motorcycle Room’s collection of vintage bikes or simply take a stroll.
Restaurants on Thesen Island
Thesen Island boasts an array of noteworthy restaurants ideal for almost every type of diner. From laidback pubs and family-friendly restaurants to famous breakfast joints and fine-dining eateries, there are several options to choose from. The Turbine Hotel & Spa itself features two dining options for both guests and non-guests alike.
The Island Café has a spacious terrace for al fresco dining, an airy, vibrant interior. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner it offers regular specials every day of the week, as well as incredibly popular monthly wine-tasting events. For a more relaxed pub experience with well-priced yet delicious food, our Gastro Pub is your best bet. Undoubtedly the biggest attraction to this local watering hole is Happy Hour on Fridays. Buy 1 get 1 FREE on craft beer draught, gin on tap & house wine every Friday from 17h30 – 19h30.
Other restaurants on the island include Sirrocco, île de païn, Tapas & Oysters and The Project Bar.
Staying on Thesen Island
In terms of Thesen Island accommodation, there are two hotels to choose from (ours included), numerous self catering apartments and a guest lodge. The Turbine Hotel & Spa offers 24 rooms and suites for guests to choose from, each of which is uniquely decorated. We regularly offer accommodation packages and specials and are known for our quirky decor, outstanding dining and prime position in the heart of the island.
How To Get To Thesen Island
Thesen Island is joined by a causeway and bridge to the mainland and is within walking distance of the scenic Knysna waterfront, yacht harbour and town centre. It is located just under 500km from Cape Town and approximately 260km from Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth). Directions can be found below.