Area and property guide: Thesen Islands

Private Property South Africa
Louise Liebenberg

An enviable life on the estuary beckons.

If fast-paced city life is getting you down, or if you’re tired of living behind high security walls, then Knysna’s Thesen Islands is the sort of picture-perfect place where you can rediscover your sense of freedom and fun.

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Here most residents seem to live a carefree life close to nature, while still part of a bustling coastal community.

The islands have much to offer residents and visitors, whether you are into nature or water sports, or prefer fine dining or trawling exclusive stores.

The multi-award winning marina development is located in the scenic Knysna estuary. It’s spread over 90hectares and consists of a series of man-made islands linked by arched bridges and surrounded by tidal waterways. There are individual homes, as well as apartment units known as the Dry Mill apartments, all designed in a colonial architectural style echoing Knysna’s long-time maritime and forestry tradition.

Thesen Harbour Town, the shopping precinct, is where you’ll find boutiques, homeware and other speciality stores, as well as a selection of charming cafes and restaurants, many serving superb oysters just waiting to be enjoyed.

We like the structured aesthetics of Thesen Islands and a fresh feeling of almost living in the country, while having the convenience of town literally minutes away. Thesen Islands has proved to be the perfect choice by offering us everything we wanted plus more.

– Resident, Mike St Quintin

The islands are linked by causeway and bridge to the mainland, and as such are within easy reach of the waterfront, yacht harbour and town centre of Knysna.

The design of Thesen Islands is such that it maximises residents’ quality of life. Cars may not exceed the 30km speed limit and you will always spot locals out walking, boating or socialising over coffee or a meal. Kids, too, have the freedom to play and ride their bikes in safety.

The Thesen Islands estate and marina, together with its Harbour Town, has for the third consecutive year been awarded Blue Flag status – a testament to the conservation ethos of everyone who calls it home.

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Area highlights

  • Several of the islands’ historic buildings, such as the Sawtooth Building, the Parking Garage and the Boatshed have been repurposed for modern use, while retaining their sense of history and authenticity.
  • The five-star Turbine Hotel is a clever conversion of the islands’ former power station, with original machinery intact and beautifully restored.
  • Time Machine, in Long Street, repairs antique watches and clocks, and feels more like a living museum than shop.


  • Outdoor activities include swimming, bird-watching, boating, canoeing, fishing and hiking.
  • Take a pontoon cruise to Knysna Heads and back past Brenton on Lake. Book at the Water Club kiosk. You can also hire a bicycle or a kayak.
  • Fancy a pampering session? Try Amani Spa which also has a Rasul room.

Best in food

  • Sirocco: contemporary, Mediterranean-style food and cocktails
  • Quay Four: chilled, good-value local hangout with excellent fish and chips, and fresh oysters
  • The Tapas Bar at The Turbine serves snacky lunches and dinners, while The Island Cafe does excellent a la carte breakfasts, lunches and dinners
  • Tapas & Oysters: nice vibe and good selection of tapas; it also does sushi
  • Col’Cacchio: crisp, thin-based pizzas, freshly prepared salads and pastas

This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.

Take a trip through the majestic Garden Route:

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