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.
Knysna Celtic Festival 2020 EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED
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.
Oakhill Waterfront Chukka Festival 13 - 16 February
There is great excitement building as water polo players from a wide range of schools across South Africa prepare to visit Knysna at the 9th annual Oakhill Waterfront Chukka Festivals.
Knysna Bull 19 - 22 February
“One of the best mountain bike stage races”
1 Radical Mountain Bike Prologue + 3 Mountain Bike Stages through sublime forest trails.
Jungle Rush Trail Run 21 - 23 February
Many strange legends are told of these jungles nestled in the heart of the Garden Route. But none so wild and wonderful as the ones you'll create as you jog along the lush single tracks of the Garden Route Trail Park. WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
Inspired by the iconic Oxpecker Trail Run belonging to the hills and heart of the Central Drakensburg, Jungle Rush Trail Run was born from the fire of ingenuity. A 2-day stage trail running event, set on a farm nestled in the Outeniqua mountains, halfway between bustling George and tranquil Knysna. Treat yourself to a weekend of lush single track trails, relaxation, magnificent mountains, scrumptious food and camp fire nights.
Knysna Literary Festival 6 - 8 March
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.
As an aside from the main festival weekend, writing competitions are held for school-goers in the area, encouraging reading and writing amongst the local youth; the idea being to instill a passion for reading and writing from an early age.
Knysna Heads Marathon 8 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 Timber Festival 13 - 15 March
In March 2020, the Knysna Timber Festival will celebrate its 8th anniversary as a showcase of local excellence across the value chain in the town where South Africa’s timber industry first took root.
The Timber Festival is presented by the Knysna Timber Initiative (KTI) – a trade body of local industry leaders who represent every segment of the timber and woodworking value chain.
All proceeds from the Knysna Timber Festival enable the Knysna Timber Initiative to pursue its long term goals of rejuvenating the entire timber industry for the economic benefit of the area. These goals include promoting the Knysna Timber Brand with projects in the security of raw materials for the area, pilot programmes in reforestation technology and augmented levels of skills training.
Committed to the growth of the sector as a key driver of Knysna’s economic development, local government has a vested interest in the Knysna Timber Festival and is largely responsible for translating KTI’s vision into reality.
The Knysna Timber Festival is an end-to-end showcase of local timber and woodworking materials, machinery, manufacturers, products, services and industry innovations.
Knysna's renowned cabinet making, wood turning and wood carving skills are on display
The Festival connects suppliers to buyers and promotes unity and collaboration across the industry.
Tortoise Tuff 2020 14 March
The Tortoise Tuff Race is a tough, undulating race, in and around Sedgefield, which rewards runners with spectacular scenery. Possibly the most challenging 30km on the Garden Route.
3km fun run, 10km run/walk, 23km trail run, 30km walk
Sedgefield's Slow Festival 27 - 29 March
Slow Festival is all about having fun the old-fashioned way. Celebrating the great outdoors in and around the seaside town of Sedgefield, the Slow Festival includes a wide range of fantastic events and activities for all ages and interests.
Garden Route Walking Fest 10 - 13 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.
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras 30 April - 3 May
Unquestionably a global highlight for the LGBTQ community, the festive carnival also appeals to anyone else who wants to celebrate diversity and acceptance.
Knysna Motor Show 03 May
The 8th Knysna Motor Show, sponsored by Sanlam Private Wealth and hosted by the Garden Route Motor Club (GRMC) will once again showcase some of the most collectable cars on the African continent. Taking place on Sunday, 3 May 2020, the event will once again be hosted at the Knysna High School Sport Grounds, located on Waterfront Drive.
Besides providing the fellowship enjoyed by likeminded people , exhibitors , the motor trade and the public , the show has been the source of much needed funds for local charities.
Jaguar Simola Hill Climb 7 - 10 May
The 2020 edition heralds in a new era by moving from having a motor manufacturer-importer as the title sponsor to partnering with multiple car brands as we strive to uplift the event to yet another level.
Our journey thus far has seen us partner with Renault and Jaguar as headline sponsors and we would not be where we are today without their support. Renault took a chance with us for the second edition when the event was still in its infancy, and the future and returns it could deliver were unclear. Its involvement helped us to very quickly shift the Hillclimb up a gear and build a solid foundation for what was to come in the years ahead.
Jaguar took over the title sponsorship in 2014 and proved to be a loyal and supportive partner for the next six years. The premium brand association added a significant brand boost for the event in the eyes of the public, while the exacting standards of the Jaguar pushed us to deliver an event to ever higher levels, which benefited not only the Hillclimb itself, but also the spectators, competitors, our partners and the town of Knysna.
Scheduled for 7-10 May 2020, the new-look Hillclimb presents us with a number of challenges, but at the same time plenty of opportunities. We have never been shy of new challenges, a bit of risk, a dash of anxiety but with our great team and proactive planning, we believe that we will deliver a knock-out event in 2020.
Now, as a new dawn arrives, the Simola Hillclimb will roar even louder to the sound of engines, cheering spectators and popping champagne corks as we race into the second decade of South Africa’s leading motorsport lifestyle event.
So, whether you have attended the Simola Hillclimb before, or not, you won’t want to miss the 2020 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. If you do miss it you will suffer a severe case of FOMO for months afterwards. Simola Hillclimb FOMO is a growing epidemic!
The weekend kicks off on Thursday 7 May with the Fan Fest including the Classic Car Display and Parade in Hedge Street, and from thereon in it is non-stop entertainment for the rest of the weekend. Don’t miss it!
Knysna Oyster Festival 26 June - 5 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.
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.
Knysna Cycle Tour 27 & 28 June
Mountain Bike Event 27 June
Our MTB Events consist of two premier races – the 80 km race for elite riders and the ‘half marathon’ 50 km event for experienced MTB cyclists – and the two family events – the 30 km and SPUR 15 km rides for adults and children aged 9-16 years.
This year, three events have been reinvigorated with changed courses and new challenges. The premier events will have more kms in forest areas and more single track.
Road Races 28 June (The Road Races are for road bikes and mountain bikes!)
116 and 50km events - Our Road Races are scenic and challenging! Both routes leave Knysna along the beautiful lagoon road heading towards George on the N2.
Knysna Forest Marathon 04 July
The 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.
Houtkapper Trail Run 5 July
Houtkapper Trail Run offers 3 routes of varying lengths and difficulty (9, 15 and 27km), taking runners through the Knysna forests made famous by Daleen Mathee.
Goudveld the new home of the Houtkapper Trail Run is an old mining town in the lush afromontane forests of the Garden Route National Park. This popular hide-away is 22 kilometres from Knysna. Nestled in the lower slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains the area has a magnificent variety of fynbos, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammal species.
Rastafarian Earth Festival 22 - 30 July
July 23rd marks the birthday (or what is referred to as the 'earth day') of the Rastafarian's spiritual messiah, His Majesty Haile Selassie I. The annual Earth Festival, which takes place from the 22nd to 30th July 2020, honours this special date on their religious calendar and is a joyous and colourful celebration of this fascinating and vibrant Knysna community. It also serves as a platform for these residents to openly share with others the traditions and roots of their faith.
Judah Square is South Africa’s largest Rastafarian community, and is based in a small river valley in the Khayalethu township of Knysna. It was established in 1993 in a stance of solidarity against the suppression of their religious and social belief systems. Before Judah Square was formed, this community was a largely misunderstood and marginalised minority. After negotiations with the Knysna Municipality, they were granted a portion of land on which to settle, which marked the beginning of their positive and collective upliftment. Although there are many Rasta families living within this community, their spiritual union is such that they are in effect one large extended family.
Judah Square is the administrative Rastafarian capital of the Southern Cape and this annual festival draws both members and non-members from across South Africa and abroad. The festival includes 7 days of Nyahbingh (church) services and then 3 days of music, concluding in the Emancipation Celebration, which celebrates the abolition of slavery (Slavery was abolished in Jamaica on August 1st 1834).
The Emancipation Celebration includes a host of musical acts, dancing and the singing of old traditional songs. Members wear traditional dress and many tell stories and recite poems. This is a family day open to the public, and people are encouraged to celebrate their freedom through various forms of expression. Tourists are welcome to bring their cameras and come enjoy and learn what Emancipation Day is all about.
Venue: Judah Square
Dr Evil Classic 17 - 19 September
The Dr. Evil Classic 3-day Stage Race will be 9 years old this year. It has become the best reason to head to the Garden Route on the Heritage Day weekend! Each stage of the 3-day event will be unique.
Day 1 strikes a fine balance of single track and jeep track in mountain bike heaven. The first stage leaves from Plett Game Reserve with wildlife such as zebras, wildebeest and even elephants on view from the bike, then you head out for a scenic 70km mountain ride.
Day 2 is a distance is 45.3km (884m elevation), in order for riders also doing the Lions Karoo to Coast to save their legs. It starts at Kurland Hotel and Polo Estate and is mostly made up of indigenous and plantation forest.
Day 3 is a distance of 51km (789m elevation). starting at Cairnbrogie Dairy Farm with its renowned network of single track along a coastline which forms part of the Robberg Coastal Corridor. Riders will enjoy a day of riding with magnificent coastal views, fynbos as well as some superb single track action.
BUCO Karoo to Coast 100km Mountain Bike Challenge 20 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 2020.
Leisure Isle Festival (awaiting 2020 dates)
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.