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 Heads Marathon 21 January
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.
TransCape MTB 4 - 10 February
TransCape is an iconic seven-day South African mountain biking journey over 614km taking 270 intrepid adventurers over seven incredible stages and 10 200m 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 270 riders.
Knysna Arts Festival 21 - 24 February
The main venue at The Premier Hotel on George Rex drive will exhibit paintings, sculptures, ceramics and photographs... Visit the ‘Displays of Brilliance’ on 21st – 24th February 2018 at the Premier Hotel off George Rex Drive and the art route. Paintings, sculpture, demos, plays, musicals and interesting talks can all be enjoyed during the Festival. The Premier Hotal (main venue) will show a feast on the displays. Listen or participate in demos, talks and excursions. Marvel at the music and shows in the evening. The Gala opening Evening has a little of everything and is usually a sell out.
The Festival will be held immediately after the Celtic Festival from February 21th-24th 2018 . It will run from Monday through to the Saturday.
There will be 4 sectors: Visual Arts, Performing Arts, the Fringe, and the Schools. The Opening Gala Evening is always very popular. A new feature will be a Light Classical Evening on the Wednesday, and a Schools Evening on the Saturday. Both public and artists can look forward to another exciting week of creative art with something to please all tastes.
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!!
Garden Route Walking Fest 30 March - 2 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 2018 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 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
The Jaguar Simola Hillclimb 2018 will be the ninth running of the event and will no doubt continue the growth trend that it has shown since its inception and build on the record setting success and international recognition achieved by the 2017 event.
Scheduled for 3-6 May 2018, the Hillclimb will be the fifth edition 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 2017 event was run, we were already putting some of the blocks in place for the 2018 edition. Our objective is to always keep improving the Hillclimb therefore, as always, we evaluate what was good and not so good from 2017, listen to all our stakeholders, take a look at other global events for inspiration and ideas and then decide which factors to implement with the view to make it a better experience for all.
The success of the 2017 Hillclimb, which saw over 15 000 people through the gate – including miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, author Khaya Dlanga and comedian Jason Goliath – continued to draw unparalleled interest in South African motorsport and word of the event has spread far and wide with not only South African interest reaching new heights, but international recognition growing too thanks to the participation of American drivers Randy Pobst, Kai Goddard and Steve Kimpton. Coverage in Motor Trend online magazine this year and in Octane Magazine in 2016, as well as other motoring publications and third party video channels, has spread the word internationally.
Whether you have attended the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb before, or not, you won’t want to miss the 2018 event 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.
As is now the norm, activity kicks off on Thursday 3 May with the Classic Car Parade through town and the Speed Festival Charity Golf Day.
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras 24 - 27 May
2018 Sequins & Mascara
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 29 June - 8 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.
From concerts to comedy, talent show to fashion shows, parties and theatres – the best 10 days of your winter has it all.
Momentum Weekend Argus Knysna Cycle Tour 30 June - 1 July
30 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!
We also introduced a Buffalo category to the 50 km MTB race. Read more here.
There will be prizes for fun riders and plenty of pre- and post-race activities over the weekend.
1 July - Road races. This year for the first time, due to demand, we have introduced MTB categories to the 115 km and 50 km Road Race events for MTBs with knobbly tyres!
Momentum Knysna Forest Marathon 7 July
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 2018 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 20 - 22 September
Day 1: The route will include magnificent riding through a NEW venue (Plettenberg Game Reserve) and includes Game Farm and Forest area and is around 70km in distance. Day one strikes a fine balance of single track and jeep track in mountain bike heaven.
Day 2: Kurland Hotel and Polo Estate. The distance is around 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.
Day 3: Cairnbrogie Dairy Farm situated on the Plett Airport Road in the ecologically sensitive twenty kilometre stretch of unspoiled coastline between Robberg Nature Reserve and Harkerville State Forest. This area is known as the Robberg Coastal Corridor (RCC) and has beautiful coastal land and it links the Robberg Nature Reserve in the east to the Garden Route National Park in the west. In 2015 a Mountain Bike & Trail Park was built on the farm in association with DirtLab, an industry leader in the construction and design of pumptracks and trails, adding to the this superb biking destination. Riders will enjoy a day of riding with magnificent coastal views, fynbos as well as some superb single track action. The distance will around 50km – final route maps and profiles to be provided shortly.
Please note: There will be no breakfast served in 2018's event.
BUCO Karoo to Coast 100km Mountain Bike Challenge 23 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. In order to maintain the quality of the event, it has been decided by the Lions Clubs of Uniondale and Knysna that only 4500 entries will be made available in 2018. Entries will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.
The entry fee includes dinner in Uniondale on Saturday 23rd September. The event is owned by the Lions Clubs of Uniondale and Knysna and all proceeds from the event go to Sightfirst, the South African Guide Dog Association and other urgent needs in the community.
Knysna Timber Festival (still awaiting 2018 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.