Every year, in early July, it’s time to take a breather and enjoy the annual Oyster Festival hosted by Knysna, the pretty seaside town located on South Africa’s famous Garden Route.
Knysna and surrounds has been in the news recently because of the devastating fires that ravaged the area about a month ago. Thousands lost their homes while large sections of the surrounding forest and fynbos was destroyed. Despite this disaster, the community rallied together, determined to present this years’ festival with the slogan #KnysnaRises, drawing on the story of the phoenix rising from the ashes for inspiration.
The 10-day (Friday to Sunday) Knysna Oyster Festival is a fun mix of sporting events and entertainment. It’s a fabulous winter break whether you’re a sports fanatic, have a family or simply enjoy oysters and a good party (or all of the above ?).
There are loads of different sporting events to choose from or, if you’re a real fanatic, why not try the Big5 Challenge where you participate in five events over the 10 days. There’s a “full” and a “lite” version which I’ve done twice. It’s not as grueling as the full version but keeps you active the entire week while allowing you to still enjoy the entertainment on offer. Find out more here https://big5sportchallenge.com/.
The sporting week kicks off with the Momentum Knysna Cycle Tour mountain bike (MTB) and road races. On Saturday, you can do an easy 30km, 50km or more challenging 80km MTB ride through the beautiful surrounding forest. Then on Sunday, join the 50km or 115km road rides to round off the perfect riding weekend. Alternatively, if that’s too much riding for you, you can jump into the Knysna lagoon for a bracing 1.85km swim or 11km paddle.
During the week, the events continue with a night run or a choice of an 11km or 15km trail run and a MTB X event. The sporting week finishes off with the Knysna Forest Marathon and Half Marathon on the Saturday and a Women’s Walk for the family to enjoy on Sunday.
The marathon and half marathon events are legendary for their beautiful scenery, camaraderie and interesting start. The races kick off high up in the forest from where you wind your way down back to town. All the runners are transported to the start by the local taxi operators making it a novel experience. This is undoubtedly my favourite local half-marathon (PBs have been achieved here!).
If you’re not interested in entering any of the racing events, you can still enjoy beautiful walks or easy meandering bicycle rides in the surrounding forest, along the lagoon and around the postcard pretty Leisure Isle.
ENTERTAINMENT FOR EVERYONE
The centrally located festival grounds near the Knysna Waterfront serve as the hub for the week’s festivities. There’s always stuff going on for the kiddies here. This year, this included a small carnival and what I can only call, a jumping castle smorgasbord!
Entertainment for the adults kicked off with the legendary PJ Powers who performed her greatest hits to a jubilant cycling crowd. Later in the week, we caught a brilliantly funny comedy show. There’s also a wine tasting, local arts fair and taste of Knysna evening which focuses on the joys of oysters. And there’s lots more. You will need to check out the events schedule daily so you don’t miss out.
Here are some insider’s picks of our favourite restaurants to visit while at the festival.
Best restaurant with a view: EAST HEAD CAFE
Located at the mouth to the lagoon where it overlooks the Knysna Heads, the East Head Café serves simple food done really well. They’re open for breakfast and lunch but be prepared to queue, it gets very busy over the festival. They also have great cocktails. If it’s still on the menu, try their ClemenGold Martini!
25 George Rex Drive, The Heads, Knysna
Tel: +27 (0)44 384 0933
Best breakfast/bakery: ÎLE DE PAÏN
This gorgeous bakery and café serves the MOST DELICIOUS breakfasts. They bake amazing breads daily and have a fresh pastry selection that will make your calorie counter weep.
8-10 The Boatshed, Thesen Harbour Town, Knysna
Tel: +27 (0)44 302 5705
Best for seafood: FRESHLINE FISHERIES
This Knysna institution serves a broad selection of fresh fish and seafood at astonishingly reasonable prices. Feel free to wear your flip flops to enjoy the beach sand floor. It’s BYO (no corkage!) so don’t forget the wine cooler.
Railway Siding Dockyard, Behind Tait Marine, Knysna
Tel: +27 (0)44 382 3131
No Equilibrio trip would be complete without a little bit of retail therapy. You’re guaranteed to find something that won’t break your holiday budget at one of these lovely boutiques.
TWO ON TOAST
Started by two travelling fashion addicts, this boutique has a fabulous collection of reasonably priced high-fashion clothing and accessories.
Shop 3, The Rex, 8 Gray St, Knysna
A “lifestyle boutique” next door to Two on Toast, started by the same shopping addicts. Madam Botany stocks a wide range of largely locally sourced gift ideas from ceramics to natural beauty products and pretty jewelry.
Shop 4b, The Rex, 8 Gray St, Knysna
Personal stylist, Diana Loon focuses on picking timeless and trendy pieces from local designers for her boutique.
TH1, Thesen Harbour Town, Knysna
Tel: +27(0)83 469 7227
Don’t miss the 2018 Knysna Oyster Festival, to find out more, visit http://www.oysterfestival.co.za/