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 2 - 9 February
TransCape is an iconic seven-day South African mountain biking journey over 591km taking 200 intrepid adventurers over seven incredible stages from the picturesque town of George to Franschhoek.
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. 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 or luxury tented accommodation with all transfers between overnight spots and stage starts and finishes included in luxury Volvo XC90s.
The field is limited to 200 riders. Riders can either enter as 2-rider teams or solo
TransCape – a unique experience that combines hard-core mountain biking with luxury, comfort and great food!
Knysna Literary Festival 8 - 10 March
The 10th annual Knysna Literary Festival – let your imagination take flight
Presented by Pam Golding Properties Knysna to promote South Africa's rich literary heritage, the Knysna Literary Festival is now in its 10th 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.
Knysna Literary Festival (#KnysnaLitFest) will be hosted from 8th – 10th March 2019, offering a diverse and inspiring programme.
This year, all events take place at selected venues around the iconic Thesen Islands, in the heart of Knysna, and topics and books are guaranteed to inspire lively debate both at the festival, as well as long after.
The #KnysnaLitFest aims not only to expose locals and visitors to South Africa’s literary talents, but also to provide established authors with a platform to connect directly with their readers and target audience.
The Festival’s diverse programme touches on matters such as hot-topic current affairs and politics, history, adventure, conservation, cuisine and storytelling – meaning there’s something for everyone. All best-selling authors are either local or have close ties to South Africa, and have been selected not only for their literary talents, but also for their skills in entertaining and delighting audiences with readings, conversations, debates and workshops.
Over the years the #KnysnaLitFest has attracted many well-known literary celebrities, and this year is no exception – making the festival the ‘must-do’ event of all literary enthusiasts, book worms and culture vultures. Not only is the #KnysnaLitFest high on the agenda for readers, but authors and journalists likewise aspire to be a part of this prestigious festival, setting the bar higher each year with the programme on offer.
Knysna Celtic Festival 15 - 16 February
Knysna Celtic Festival is an annual event established to promote Celtic & Bluegrass music and showcase local musicians including the Knysna Pipe Band.
The eagerly awaited Knysna Celtic Festival will be held in the beautiful town of Knysna – one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations on 15th -16th Febuary 2019.
Join us on the weekend for a musical extravaganza featuring top Pipe Bands, Celtic music and Highland & Irish dancers from all over South Africa as well as Highland Games, Massed Bands and a lot more.
Knysna Heads Marathon 17 March
Distances available: 5 Km Fun Run, 10, 21.1 and 42.2 km for Club Members
The Routes have been carefully chosen to allow you to enjoy your qualifier and set you up for a good time as the highest point is only 30 m above sea level. Fast and scenic does not always go together but here it does. Take a tour of Knysna that hugs the water for all but 2.4 km of the entire route.
Knysna Bull 20 - 23 February
“Destination mountain biking” has evolved with the introduction of a reimagined event, the Knysna Bull. The three-day stage race is billed as the final Absa Cape Epic preparation race, but with a magical Knysna twist.
The Knysna Bull will feature three stages of roughly 65km. The late February dates means 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 Arts Festival (await 2019 dates)
Garden Route Walking Fest 19 - 22 April
We are lucky to be in one of the world’s great walking destinations. With pristine beaches, rocky coastlines, amazing forests and mountain peaks. Home to our country’s most famous trails – the Otter Trail, the Tsitsikamma Trail and the Oystercatcher Trail to name a few.
The walks offered in 2019 range from easy to strenuous, from a short 1 hour stroll to a full day hiking adventure, while some are leisurely others are brisk and will test your fitness.
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.
GR300 and GR Lite (Awaiting 2018 info)
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 28 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 motor show over the past few 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 2 - 5 May
In 2019 we will celebrate the big TEN! Yes, the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb will roar to the sound of engines, cheering spectators and popping champagne corks as we celebrate ten editions of South Africa’s leading motorsport lifestyle event.
To be accurate, the journey in fact started eleven years ago in 2009, but we had to skip the 2013 event due to unforeseen circumstances therefore our tenth anniversary is a year later than it might have been.
Following the success of the 2018 edition it will be difficult to improve still further but as our ethos is to seek constant improvement and to provide a premium experience, our organising team is bashing our heads together to brainstorm ideas that will allow us to tweak and fine tune our offering to ensure that we celebrate number ten in style.
When we set out on this journey we were told that no one would come to Knysna for a motorsport event, but with vision and hard work we have built a local motorsport lifestyle showcase that attracts competitors, spectators and broadcast viewers from around the globe.
Scheduled for 2-5 May 2019, the Hillclimb will be the sixth running known as the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb. Jaguar South Africa’s continued commitment to the event once again allows us to be proactive with our planning, and so, even before the 2018 event was run, we were already putting some of the blocks in place for our tenth anniversary.
In our striving to always keep improving we have evaluated what was good and not so good from previous years, listened to all our stakeholders, looked at other global events for inspiration and ideas, and then decided which factors to implement with the view to making it a better experience for all.
The success of the 2018 Hillclimb, which saw approximately 17 000 people through the gate, including actress Amanda Du Pont, singer Bobby van Jaarsveld, and Springbok rugby player Eben Etzebeth, continued to draw unparalleled interest in South African motorsport. Word of the event has continued to spread far and wide, with not only South African interest reaching new heights, but international recognition growing too.
On track we had a specialist Hillclimb car, the Gould single seater, set the record of just 35.5 sec after being imported from the UK shortly before the event.
In 2018 we had more non-motorsport visitors than ever attend the event and the result was overwhelming – they had a blast and want to come back next year. So, whether you have attended the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb before or not, you won’t want to miss the 2019 experience as the line-up of cars and activity promises to be better than ever, while the smoke, noise, vibe, excitement levels and off-track activities are the epitome of good entertainment.
Whether you are a petrol head, speed lover or just someone who loves a good time – don’t miss out – you will leave satisfied and enthralled at the spectacle.
Activity kicks off on Thursday 2 May with the Classic Car Display and Parade in Hedge Street and from thereon in it is non-stop entertainment for the rest of the weekend.
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras 30 May - 2 June
Set in “South Africa’s Favourite Town of the Year”, the spectacularly colourful affair basically shuts down the tranquil Garden Route hub with five raucous days of shows, entertainment, a mini-market and heaps of over-the-top, flamboyant fun.
Unquestionably a global highlight for the LGBTQ community, the festive carnival also appeals to anyone else who wants to celebrate diversity and acceptance.
Pink Loerie 2019 kicks off on Thursday 30 May with a cocktail party at Knysna Fine Art, where Petronel Baard will be performing.
This will be followed by a Bears, Beer and Drag event at Mitchells’ Breweries. The newly refurbished Vinyl on Main (the old club Zanzibar) will host the Meet and Greet Party to make sure everybody gets to know each other.
The programme continues on the Friday with an outreach event at the Loeriehof Old Age Home, Vermont Retirement Village, Paula Whitney Crèche and KAWS (Knysna Animal Welfare), followed by a lunchtime show presented by Storm Productions.
The VIP Dinner and Fundraising Auction will be hosted at Villa Castollini, while the very popular Mr & Miss Gay Mardi Gras will take place at Vinyl on Main. This will be followed by the official S&M Party at the same venue.
The Saturday kicks off with two events: PinkFootFWD for Brenton, a fun morning filled with sport activities and music, and the Pink Loerie #KnysnaRises Fundraising Concert at the Loerie Park Sport Stadium, which will feature a number of drag acts and musicians, including rock outfit Rebel Remedy and artist Gaston.
This event is presented in association with Knysna Tourism, GaySA Radio, Storm Productions, CB Entertainment and Mix Academy Entertainment.
The always popular street parade starts at 3pm and will proceed from Queen Street to Pledge Square and back, hopefully followed by a street party (if the Municipality agrees to it.) Drydock Food Co. will host an After Parade Sunset Ibiza Party for the more mature in the crowd, while the official after party is at Vinyl on Main.
Plans are afoot for a mini gospel show on the Sunday and GaySA Radio is also planning to bring a few theatre performances to the event (more details will be released in due course).
After the devastating fires a few months ago, Baird said that the Pink Loerie will of course continue to support the #KnysnaRises campaign.
So what is the S&M theme all about? Most people immediately think whips, leather and chains, but it was revealed that the theme is actually… Sequins and Mascara!
It looks like Gay May in Knysna is going to be simply dazzling
Knysna Oyster Festival 21 - 30 June
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.
Oyster enthusiasts, fitness fanatics and lovers of the good life, diarise these dates now and start planning the best 10 days of your winter!
South Africa’s premium sport and lifestyle festival will once again offer a programme of unique events for sport lovers, families and adventurers, with more than 100 activities spread over ten days. There will be no shortage of fun, and a chance to experience one of the most beautiful, scenic areas in the country.
Momentum Weekend Argus Knysna Cycle Tour 22 & 23 June
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.
Last year we introduced a 30 km Electric bike route, the first E-bike event in the country, which was a great success, as well as the new route for the 15 km race, called the Ashes Fun Ride in memory of the Knysna fires. Both routes are back on the schedule for this year!
Momentum Knysna Forest Marathon 29 June
The Momentum 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 2019 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 19, 20, 21 September
Contrary to the name – the Dr Evil Classic is aimed at “normal FUN” riders as well as hard core athletes. The three days will ALL be under 80 kilometres in distance. Leon Evans will create routes that are interesting, scenic and will test those who set out with the intention of racing the event. If you want to enjoy the ride at your own pace will have plenty of time to finish the event and an opportunity to enjoy world class routes
BUCO Karoo to Coast 100km Mountain Bike Challenge 22 September
The Buco 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. Only 4500 entries will be made available in 2019.
Knysna Timber Festival (still awaiting 2019 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 3 - 4 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.