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South Africa Tourism Awards

Type: Accommodation – Bed and Breakfast
Category: Unique Experience

Motivation for award: The Turbine Boutique Hotel on Thesen Island – too often the word “iconic” is bandied around willy nilly. and does not actually mean one of its kind. Well, the Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa on Thesen Island, Knysna, has earned this title because it is the only hotel in SA, and quite possibly the world, that started as a working power station and still has all its operational parts intact. The fivestar boutique hotel has been stylishly fashioned around what was the actual power station. The expression “onmybucket list” is also often exaggerated, but in this case, nobody should visit the Garden Route without seeing the Turbine Hotel an engineering feat with decor you will not find anywhere else. Explore the inside of this hotel and it is nothing short of marvelous. The actual working parts of the power station have been left in place and the hotel is built around it, hence the eclectic nooks and crannies, rooms and dining areas. Pipes and machinery are painted in funky colours, but they actually denote the original working colours, for example green and blue pipes were used to differentiate between salt and fresh water. Originally, the power station was a building of about 2,000m2. Today, it is a hotel that has been totally designed around existing structures, original turbines, mechanical equipment, operating panels and extensive sections of piping. In addition, more than 300 smaller pieces of equipment, including gauges, switches, buttons and dials have been incorporated back into the hotel. No matter where you are in the hotel, your room, the bar or the restaurant, you will see the old parts. The switches in all the rooms are the old ones and there are photos everywhere, in every room, of how the old station looked. The history is rich. The Thesen family moved from Norway to Knysna in 1870 and founded numerous business entities in the town. In 1904, Charles William Thesen bought Paarden Island now named Thesen Island and began processing timber there in 1922. Wood waste from the mill was subsequently used to start a power station that generated electricity from turbines. These premises eventually were part of the Eskom grid and it supplied Plettenberg Bay, Sedgefield and Knysna with electricity from 1939 until June 2001. A museum concept which was on the cards never materialised and the site was sold to current hotel owners Geoff Engel and Dandre Lerm Engel in September 2007. It was dilapidated and because the owners wanted to keep the pipes and working parts, creating a hotel was a huge challenge. Rezoning, approvals and the crafting of this hotel took three years and it started business in August 2010. Since then, visitors from all over the world have been here to marvel over this engineering feat. Blue Flag status was awarded to Thesen Island in 2013. A visit to the Turbine is also a gastronomic trip to heaven offering a fine dining option in Knysna. The Island Café, with a terrace for al fresco dining and the Gastropub with new tapas type snacks available, craft beer and gin on tap. Coleman sees food the way artists see their pallets: “Food is my passion. And that is why I start with the freshest ingredients possible that reflect natural flavors and the integrity of the ingredients.” He will never use frozen fish. Coleman’s mission is to source cheese and all produce as fresh and organic as possible. And with his experience, he then turns these ingredients into a fine dining experience. A duck liver parfait with apple gel, almond crumble and flat bread is a melt in the mouth starter. The Patagonian squid and chorizo is a sensational experience. One of the dishes he recommends is the Saldanha Bay mussel bouillabaisse. Having a cheese platter for dessert sums up Coleman’s philosophy of excellent food from source to plate. On the platter are cheeses locally sourced, including goat and a Camembert to die for. The biscuits are homemade, and the black grapes sweet and pure from the vine. After exploring the hotel, visiting the spa with a luxury couples room and a array of spa treatments for the ultimate relaxing experience,

Region: Western Cape / Garden Route

Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa

Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa

The 5-star Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa is situated on Thesen Islands in Knysna. Intuitive architecture pays homage to the old power station it once was. Accommodation comprises 26 rooms – luxury and standard rooms, a honeymoon suite and two expansive self-contained suites adjacent to the hotel. There are excellent conference facilities for business visitors – two conference rooms with free Wi-Fi, full audio-visual facilities and tailored catering packages. The recent installation of a generator ensures that load shedding outages are a thing of the past. Group bookings are welcome for events, weddings and small conferences. The Turbine’s 90-seater Island Café Restaurant, with inside tables nestled between the original turbines and its outside tables overlooking either the canal or the pool deck offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also monthly food and wine pairings. The Gastro Pub offers classic pub meals with a delicious turbine twist, and live music every Friday evening. The Turbine Spa has a wide range of treatments for hotel guests and day visitors and the hotel’s very own adventure centre.

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