A repurposed power station offers a solace of relaxation and fine dining
It’s not every day one gets to rest their head in a heritage site. Knysna’s Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa is built in a repurposed power station that once used to produce enough electricity to power both the towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay on South Africa’s Garden Route in the Western Cape.
The industrial look and feel of the hotel are brought to life with machinery and pipes painted in vivid red, blue, green and orange, and starkly contrasted against bare bricks and whitewashed walls. Explore a little further and be entranced by quirky contraptions and other unusual instruments that pique the curiosity of fascinated visitors. Although it is located on the picturesque and fairly new development of Thesen Islands, the Turbine is anything but an eyesore; instead, its mix of memorable heritage with modern luxury pinpoint it as an interesting destination within Knysna’s usual offerings.
Adding to its appeal, each of the hotel’s 24 rooms are decorated individually and built around the excavated shape of the old power station. Details such as pipes, buttons and other original equipment are all used to great effect — both within the rooms and across the hotel’s interior. Common threads throughout are modern essentials of any five-star hotel: Large showers, separate bathtubs, comfortable beds, original artwork supplied by Knysna Fine Art, a kitchenette, Wifi and entertainment amenities. Additionally, the hotel is disabled-friendly and can host conferences of up to 40 delegates.
Across the street from the hotel’s entrance, the Turbine Water Club, operated by the friendly Schalk Hildebrand, organises an assortment of activities and excursions on both land and water. A Champagne and canapé sunset cruise takes guests across the lagoon towards the Knysna Heads, a narrow channel said to be the second-most dangerous passage in the world, second only to New Zealand’s Christchurch, while boating, kayaking and swimming can be enjoyed in the lagoon itself.
For those without sea legs, a cycle tour around the town — from Thesen Islands to the Knysna Heads with stops at a microbrewery, wine tasting or a visit to the SANParks office to see the endangered Knysna seahorses — or a hike through the Knysna Forest is a great way to explore all the town of Knysna has to offer. The latter is also the largest forest in the country and the site of inspiration for renowned author Dalene Matthee’s many novels, including Circles in a forest. Back at the Turbine Spa, a range of his and hers treatments, a Rasul steam room and a dedicated nail area caters to the relaxation goals of all guests.
For hearty fare, there is no need to venture far from the hotel’s poolside deck or rooms with two dining options: The airy Island Café and cosy Gastro Pub. Island Café serves up imaginative breakfasts, light lunches and gourmet dinners, including monthly themed evenings. With an ever-changing dinner menu, guests may encounter pear, Parma and Gorgonzola salad; glazed duck with port jus, herb mash and braised red cabbage, beetroot and apples; or Patagonia squid stuffed with shrimp and Ricotta, tossed in butter and served with Romesca sauce. For finger food, including the most delicious jalapeño cheese rissoles, and a range of drinks such as craft beer, local and coastal wines, G&T on tap and creative cocktails, the Gastro Pub is open all day.
Although guests may need some convincing to leave the solace of the hotel’s offerings, Thesen Harbour Town and Knysna’s Waterfront, harbour and town have a collection of charming boutiques, craft stores and coffee shops that will ensure a memorable stay.