Festivals & Annual Events
Knysna is renowned for its many festivals and sporting events which are held throughout the year.
These include a number of mountain-biking events which are rated as some of the top mountain-biking events in South Africa, golfing, running and cycling events, the Knysna Literary Festival for those interested in reading and writing, the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, the Knysna Motor Show for all motoring enthusiasts, as well as the Knysna Speed Festival. The most renowned event of the year in Knysna is the Oyster Festival which offers a bumper programme with something to interest the whole family! Then towards the latter part of the year the vibrant Rastafarian community of Knysna invites everyone to their annual Rastafarian Earth Festival. Here you can celebrate the Rastafarian way of life by sharing in their philosophy, food and music.
TransCape MTB 5 - 11 February
A stunning journey across South Africa’s most celebrated mountain biking terrain. TransCape MTB is an iconic seven-day South African mountain biking journey over 675km taking 130 intrepid adventurers over seven incredible stages and 12 000m of vertical ascent from the picturesque Garden Route town of Knysna to Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands.
It’s an all-inclusive, unforgettable luxury off-the-bike experience and an incredibly rewarding on-the-bike journey over some of the finest mountain-biking terrain in the country.
TransCape is a full service tour. All on and off-the-bike needs are met, including on-road nutritional, technical and medical support, three meals a day, delightful hotel and guest house accommodation and all transfers between overnight spots and stage starts and finishes.
The field is limited to 130 riders.
Knysna Arts Festival 21 - 24 February
The Knysna Arts festival is to tie in with the Celtic Festival which takes place on 23rd and 24th February. Paintings, sculpture, demos, plays, musicals, and interesting talks can all be enjoyed during the week leading up to 12 Pipe Bands and the blues band Blacksmith who attract thousands to their wonderful concert on the Saturday Evening. All descend on Loerie Park just next to the Premier Hotel for this fun filled cultural experience. Feast on the displays, listen or participate in demos or talks, marvel at the music and shows, catch your breath at the sight of massed pipe bands marching through the main Road, and then love the Celtic Concert with the pipes and Blacksmith in unison.
Knysna Bull 22 - 25 February
“Destination mountain biking” has evolved with the introduction of a reimagined event, the Knysna Bull. The new three-day stage race is billed as the final Absa Cape Epic preparation race, but with a magical Knysna twist.
The Knysna Bull is the reincarnation of the popular RECM Knysna 200, moved to a more favourable slot in the mountain biking event calendar – when the Garden Route weather is at its best and the mountain biking community is at its most vibrant. The event will feature three stages of roughly 65km, with stage starts outside Knysna and all finishes on Thesen Island. With the Knysna Bull taking place three weeks prior to the Absa Cape Epic it’s the perfect final opportunity to test the legs before tapering for the biggest event on the South African mountain biking calendar. The late February dates also mean the forest trails are likely to be at their driest, so they’ll be kinder on the bikes. The absence of rocky trails also make the Knysna Bull a safer pre-Epic race as the flowing trails aren’t as likely to cause accident or injury.
Knysna Celtic Festival 23 - 24 February
Knysna Celtic Festival is an annual event established to promote Celtic & Bluegrass music and showcase local musicians including the Knysna Pipe Band.
The Knysna Celtic Festival kicks off with a historic Slow-to-Quick street march competition. Taking place on Knysna's Main Road between Pledge Square and Memorial Square, this is the only event of its kind in the country! After all the bands have competed individually, all join together for a spectacular Massed Pipes & Drums Parade comprising 10-plus pipe bands and 150-plus pipers, drummers and Highland dancers.
Daytime events include: Pipe band competitions, solo piping and drumming; a Highland dancing championship; Highland games; archery tournament and more. Celtic Village - Craft Stalls - Food Court. Beer garden with live Celtic music, open throughout the day.
The Sundowners Celtic & Bluegrass Concert is a major highlight of the Knysna Celtic Festival. The main performers are Blacksmith from Cape Town and our very own Knysna & Districts Pipe Band. Two of the world’s very best Celtic musicians - master Glaswegian bagpiper Finlay MacDonald and award-winning virtuoso Shetland Fiddler Chris Stout - are flying all the way from Scotland especially to play at the concert! Food Court and Celtic Pub open throughout.
Don yer kilts and get yer clan together to battle it out on The Fields of Loerie as Clans from the Mossel Seas to Plettenburough fight for domination in the Knysna Highland Games! Only the brave of heart and strong of mind will claim the winner’s title in a test of strength, speed, agility, coordination, strategy and power. Prepare your team of four clansmen and women to compete in a Caber Toss, Wheeling the Keg, Kilted Relay and a Tug of War!!
Knysna Literary Festival 9 - 11 March
The Knysna Literary Festival is now in its 8th year. It is the Garden Route’s only annual festival that hosts an exclusive group of hand-picked authors from South Africa and is fast becoming a must-attend with bookworms and lovers of all things literary.
From exploring the creative minds of authors in small-group workshops to being part of larger-group presentations, and rubbing shoulders with authors whilst enjoying a locally produced tipple or two, this enriching festival provides visitors with a four-day long, unique literary “experience.” The diverse programme touches on current affairs, politics, history and adventure. There is even a dash of cuisine, part of the sell-out Delicious Word Journey - a four-course evening hosted by a select group of authors, spent appreciating some of Knysna's most delectable dishes at exclusive private real estate. A mouth full indeed.
“The goal of the festival is to not only expose locals and visitors alike to South Africa’s literary talent, but also to stimulate the creative minds of students of the greater Knysna area, encouraging these young adults to make the most of their educational opportunities. We present unique workshops throughout the year to stimulate literary awareness, focussing on both the skill and sheer enjoyment of writing. We are very proud to have recently coordinated two successful workshops in conjunction with FunDza.”
Kingfisher MTB & Trailrun Challenge 17 - 18 March
This is the Hoekwil Primary School annual fund-raiser and one of the best MTB rides and Trail Runs to do in the Garden Route. Lots of big prizes and lucky draws to be won.
One of the major changes that will take place this year is that the Start of both the Trail Run and the MTB routes will be at Bergplaas (and not at the Hoekwil Primary School as in the past) and the Finish at the school as usual. This will allow the route director to create more exciting route options within the forest and no tarred sections. The routes via the Oakhurts Farm have also been extended since last year and will provide for even more variety.
The race is registered with the SA Cycling Federation and all results will be send to SA Seeding to be updated and to assist riders that want a preferred seeding in high profile races. If you’re looking for that special race that will test your levels of fitness as well as your sense of adventure, come join us.
There will be 4 MTB distances namely a 10km (Fun Ride), 20km , 40km and the 70km on the Saturday and two Trail runs of 8km and 16km on the Friday. On the Saturday, there will also be a kids 3km fun ride.
Knysna Heads Marathon 26 March
Comrades qualifier and perfect last easy long run before Two Oceans!
Sedgefield Slow Festival 30 March - 1 April
From it's humble beginning in 2010, the Slow Festival continues to grow. Every year the festival is getting bigger, better planned and involving more charities and local businesses who are beginning to see that they can benefit from and can make the Festival work for them.
It's a festival celebrating the real things in life: Wholesome goodness, Family, Friends, Fun, the Outdoors and Great food. There are plenty of activities for the children and indeed the whole family to do. There is entertainment galore, much to see, great competitions with lots of prizes to be won and best of all, many deserving charities are supported by monies raised during the festival.
Sedgefield was declared Africa’s first Cittaslow Town in October 2010.
The goal of the Cittaslow movement is
to resist the fast pace life of most cities throughout the world
while at the same time improving the quality of life in it's recognised towns.
It aims to encourage a healthier lifestyle
which includes making time for pleasure and leisure,
looking after the environment,
caring for the elderly and
many more things which support a slower more fulfilling way of life.
Garden Route Walking Fest 30 March - 2 April
The Garden Route Walking Fest is an outdoors and family focused event that celebrates one of the world’s great walking destinations – the Southern Cape coast, with its forests, beaches, mountains and amazing communities. The walks on offer are spread across the region from George through Wilderness, from Sedgefield to Knysna and Plettenberg Bay including adventurous walks in Storms River and along the Tsitsikamma coast.
The Cape Garden Route is arguably one of the world's great walking destinations. It is the ideal place to host South Africa's only walking festival, with its beautiful mountains, secret forests, cascading waterfalls, coastal cliffs, incredible beaches and famous trails.
And there really are walks for everyone, from slow saunters along the beach at the end of the day, to brisk walks up some of the regions highest peaks
Spar Goukamma Traverse (await updated info for 2017)
This race forms part of the Slow festival, an annual Easter festival in Sedgefield. Held over Easter each year, this colourful lifestyle festival celebrates the real things in life: family, fun, adventure, wholesome goodness and great food.
A secret gem and trail runners paradise is the pristine and spectacular Goukamma Nature Reserve, a Cape Nature Reserve to the East of Sedgefield.
The Traverse run starts from the Goukamma River point on the Eastern side of the reserve and will take runners along single and jeep track, above and through ancient dune systems, steep and flat sections, through cool Milkwood forests and a flourish of fynbos, with spectacular panoramic views of the ocean to the south and of some of the wide vleis and lakes to the north. It’s quite simply a ‘WOW’ run through some of the Garden Routes’ most pristine beauty! No water points en route, all participants to please carry their own water.
GR300 and GR Lite 27 - 29 April
The GR300’s new home on the calendar will be the last weekend of April (28-30 April 2017) which will allow you to maximize your time in Knysna as both Thursday the 27th and Monday the 1st of May are public holidays. This means no more rushing up to get to registration on Thursday evening and no more driving home tired on Sunday afternoon. Plus the GR300 is no longer the test of endurance it initially was, for 2017 the popular 2016 routes will be reinvigorated to ensure that the race provides more fun on the trails than it does stern challenges.
That being said the 2017 GR300 will still include the Ultimate Cycling King and Queen of the Mountain climb up the infamous Simola Hill. But it’ll also feature a play-day in the fantastic Garden Route Trail Park! Another new development is the Enduro King and Queen award. For 2017 there’ll be two designated Enduro sections on each stage, but be warned they might not be short and they might not be all downhill… The man and woman with the fastest accumulated time on the GR300’s Enduro sections will receive a fantastic prize from ‘JBL Audio’ and the bragging rights of being crowned the GR300 Enduro King or GR300 Enduro Queen. Race snakes need not fear though - there’ll be prizes for you too. The main aim of the reinvigorated GR300 is to attract mountain bikers to Knysna and show off the area’s concept of destination mountain biking. Knysna as you all know is #TrailTownSA and the GR300 will once again be showing off the best bits of Knysna’s amazing trail network including the Harkerville trails, the mind-blowing Garden Route Trail Park and the spectacular Phantom Pass singletracks.If you’re not quite up to the distances of the GR300 we’ll be hosting a slimmed down version again in 2017 dubbed the GRLite. The daily distances are about 20km shorter and the Lite routes cut out the toughest climbs to ensure you get to the finish fresh enough to enjoy the sights of Knysna in high spirits every afternoon.
Knysna Motor Show 29 April
The Knysna motor show is organised by the Garden Route Motor Club (GRMC) and is now recognised as one of the premier motor shows in South Africa. Over the past four years the motor show has grown exponentially in attracting the best 300 to 400 classic cars from across South Africa. The 2016 Motor show was regarded by participants and the press as the best and well organised that they have attended in SA. The objective for 2017 is to again lift the standard and make it a motor show with a difference, providing the opportunity for owners of high quality and unique cars to be displayed in a country style and relaxed atmosphere. The motor show over the past two years has also included veteran, vintage and classic road and racing motorcycles which has added a further successful dimension to the motor show. To ensure the quality of the vehicles/motorcycles on display, invitations are targeted and all vehicles/motorcycles are personally selected. With the popularity of the motor show growing it is estimated that the show will draw in excess of 5000 visitors (mainly from the Garden Route area but a fair percentage also from across SA).
Jaguar Simola Hill Climb 3 - 6 May
Award-winning British luxury watchmaker Bremont Watch Company has partnered with South Africa’s leading motorsport event, the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, as the official luxury watch partner for the next three editions, starting in 2017. Bremont joins international brands Jaguar, Motul and Continental as partners to the 2017 event. Whether you have attended the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb before, or not, you won’t want to miss the 2017 event as the line-up of cars and activity promises to be better than ever, while the vibe and excitement levels are the epitome of good entertainment. Whether you are a petrol head, speed lover or just someone who just loves a good time – don’t miss out - you will leave satisfied and enthralled at the spectacle.
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras 24 - 27 May
2017 Theme: Once upon a time, it all started with Bears, Fairies, Princess, Princesses, (frogs too), Kings and fabulous Queens. A modern-day LGBTQ+ fairy tale!
At its heart, the Pink Loerie is a festival and a celebration; so, dancing, fun and music also played an enormous part of the event, with daily shows being held at various locations throughout the town and club nights. This beautiful tradition of celebration, Pride and creative expression in a gorgeous setting has continued to glitter and thrive for over sixteen years.
The grand finale of the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, the Parade and after-party, is held on the final weekend of the celebrations. The festival attracts floats, performers and DJ’s from all over the world and local businesses also get into to the spirit, competing for the best Pink Loerie window display.
This festival is the event where Knysna comes into its own, with the locals showing the full extent of hospitality, diversity and fanfare and festive spirit that is the backbone of the event, and the reason that people keep coming back every year.
Knysna Oyster Festival 7 - 16 July
The Knysna Oyster Festival is probably one of the most popular annual events in the Western Cape. It is also something of a celebration of the good life and sport and has taken place every year since 1983, where it began as the Knysna Winter Festival - a combination of sport that drew people to Knysna during the quiet winter season. Marketed as the 'Best 10 Days of Your Winter', the Knysna Oyster festival is spread across two weekends that promise constant fun and activities for the whole family.
The sport aspect of the Oyster Festival has evolved into two major sporting events - the Pick n Pay Cape Times Forest Marathon (half marathon), and the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Cycle Tour, now a two-day event that is the biggest of its kind in the country.
Momentum Weekend Argus Knysna Cycle Tour 8 - 9 July
8 July - The Knysna Cycle Tour MTB events have become bucket list events for cyclists worldwide because of the beautiful and challenging routes, which are set up and managed for us every year by Leon Evans (Dr Evil), and include access to sections of privately owned property that are normally closed to the public.
You will ride through sections of the Knysna Forest and scenic farmland areas, and be exposed to the beauty of the natural fauna and flora of the exquisite Garden Route, while testing your skills to the maximum.
Age limits have been adjusted to ensure that fun riders have the maximum amount of FUN.
This year we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Knysna Cycle Tour with the introduction of new events and routes. The MTB events will include a 30 km E-bike route, the first E-bike event in the country!
9 July - Road races. This year for the first time, due to demand, we have introduced MTB categories to the 109 km and 50 km Road Race events!
Momentum Cape Times Knysna Forest Marathon 15 July
The Momentum Cape Times Knysna Forest Marathon, known as one of South Africa’s most sought-after running events, offers exceptional highlights found in no other race anywhere in the world – particularly the scenery as most of the run takes place deep in the forest. Whether you compete in the half (21km) or the full (42km) marathon, runners can expect breath-taking views over the Knysna lagoon towards the Knysna Heads, the perfect inspiration towards the finish.
Due to the early start of the race when temperatures in the forest are low, participants are encouraged to arrive dressed warmly, and any clothing discarded at the start or along the route will be donated to designated charities.
The only way to get to the start is via taxis, which will pick up participants from 4:30am.
Rastafarian Earth Festival (awaiting 2017 dates)
The vibrant Rastafarian community of Knysna invites Rastas and visitors from all walks of life, from South Africa and abroad to participate in the annual Rasta Earth Festival. This colourful, rich festival celebrates the Rastafarian way of life - their food and music, as well as the philosophy behind this sometimes misunderstood faith.
Judah Square in Knysna plays host to ten days of ceremonies, music and art exhibitions - all in celebration of His Majesty Haile-I Selassie-I's Earthday (Birthday) and Emancipation Day. The festival includes seven days of church ceremonies (Nyahbingh) and guides will be on hand to explain the rituals and sacred rites. Two days of Music Splash will ensure that everyone dances to the same beat before the festival concludes with the Emancipation Celebration, celebrating the abolition of slavery.
The Day of Emancipation starts with dancing and the singing of traditional songs before participants and guests are treated to hot chocolate and bread. Rastafari wear traditional clothing, but everyone is encouraged to join in and celebrate their freedom.
Judah Square in Knysna was established in 1993 and is the administrative Rasta capital of the southern cape. For more information on the Rasta Earth Festival, accommodation options and other fun things to do and see in the beautiful town of Knysna.
Venue: Judah Square
Dr Evil Classic 21 - 23 September
Day 1: Will include magnificent riding through farmland as well as dairy and game farms in the Wittedrift area and will not exceed 80km in distance. Day one strikes a fine balance of single track and jeep track in mountain bike heaven.
Day 2: Riders will enjoy a day of riding with magnificent coastal views, fynbos as well as some superb single track action. The distance will be less than 80km – final route maps and profiles to be provided shortly.
Day 3: the distance will be less than 50km in order for riders also doing the Lions Karoo to Coast to save their legs. Dr Evil will be cutting the route on this pristine piece of property in the near future and maps and profiles will follow.
Karoo to Coast 100km Mountain Bike Challenge 24 September
The Pennypinchers Lions Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike Challenge is a 100km off road race from UNIONDALE to KNYSNA via the Prince Alfred's Pass. The route is scenic, challenging and riders are encouraged to train sufficiently for this event in order to maximise the enjoyment of the experience.
Knysna Timber Festival (still awaiting 2017 dates)
The Knysna Timber Festival is the creation of the Knysna Timber Initiative, a group of local Knysna businesses who see Knysna as the Woodworking Capital of South Africa – largely due the the deep and rich heritage and history of timber-related activities in the area.
Of course the festival is not limited to local creators and woodworkers... it's is the ideal plaform for National and International brands to expose their quality products and services to a growing, diverse and influential industry, not to mention the many hobbyists, DIY enthusiasts and visitors who will be attending the show.
Leisure Isle Festival 4 - 5 November
A happy spring fund-raising festival usually held towards the end of October/early November each year in support of local charities and selected non-profit organisations. Leisure Isle is an idyllic family setting for the event and families can relax enjoy various fun activities. For children there is the ever-popular barrel train and jumping castle. Artists and crafters will be exhibiting paintings, ceramics, pottery, woodwork, bead-work, candles, soaps, glass-work, confectionery, scrap-booking etc. Professionals, amateurs and beginners are all welcome. In close proximity to the tea and beer gardens a group of dedicated book lovers are running an exciting book sale.
More than one hundred stalls will offer old favorites among exciting new ones. Food stalls will offer a mouth-watering array of food, drinks and fresh produce, to be taken home or enjoyed in the tea and beer garden. Bring the whole family along to enjoy this wholesome community market.