In July 1869, Arndt Leonard Thesen, a timber merchant from Norway, left his home with his wife and nine children, with plans to start a new life in New Zealand. Their ship encountered problems near Cape Town, and they decided to stay in South Africa. Arndt settled down with his family in Knysna, where they started a timber trading company. They then bought Paarden Island in the Knysna River estuary and established a timber processing plant on the island. Paarden Island thereafter became known as Thesen Island.
The Thesens were quite successful and The Plettenberg Hotel was once their holiday house. In the 1980s, Barlows, one of South Africa’s industrial conglomerates, bought the island. They wisely decided that the timber processing activities would be harmful to the eco-sensitive lagoon, and shut down the plant’s doors. Redevelopment of the island began in 2000. Today, Thesen Island consists of an exclusive residential waterfront village with 19 islands linked by bridges over waterways. It is home to over 500 houses and a commercial centre, called Thesen Harbour Town.
Many of the old buildings on Thesen Island were repurposed. One of them was the old boat shed on the edge of the Knysna Lagoon, where boats were once built. It was refurbished to form The Lofts Boutique Hotel while retaining its original timber frame, high ceilings and historic character. Designed to resemble the interior of a sailing vessel, the building also houses the popular Ile de Païn restaurant and artisan bakery, a spa and several boutique stores.
The luxury hotel accommodation consists of seven suites with sweeping views of the lagoon, as well as five loft rooms and six 2-bedroom self-catering units overlooking Thesen Harbour Town.
We stayed in the latter, which was ideal for families with children. The rooms surround the atrium lobby and the upper units are entered via a “gang plank,” similar to that of a ship. The bottom floor of the two-storey apartment consisted of the en-suite main bedroom and an open-plan living room, dining area and fully-equipped kitchenette. Sliding doors opened on to a small balcony.
Upstairs was a loft with two single beds and a bathroom, amid 100 year-old wooden trusses. My kids loved sleeping there. The rooms had air-conditioning, underfloor heating, a television and complimentary wi-fi.
The atrium lobby lounge area is a comfortable space to relax in with a cup of coffee and a good book or magazine.
The splash pool which overlooks the lagoon is great for a dip on sunny days or for lazing on a sunbed.
If your stay includes breakfast, you are given a voucher which can be used at one of four different restaurants, including Ile de Pain and the hotel’s Atrium. According to Getaway Magazine, “Not to visit Ile de Pain, on Thesen Island, whilst holidaying in Knysna would be like skipping the Eiffel Tower while touring France.” Unfortunately for us, the bakery was closed the day we were there, so we ate at the Atrium, where we enjoyed delicious coffee, freshly-baked muffins and eggs.
The Lofts Boutique Hotel is a unique and charming place to stay in Knysna. The hotel’s location on the waters’ edge will enable you to enjoy the serene island living lifestyle, the magnificent views of the surrounding green hills and the changing moods of the lagoon.
It is also a great base for exploring Thesen Island and Knysna, one of South Africa’s top holiday destinations. Located in the heart of the picturesque Garden Route, Knysna is known for its lagoon, forests and oysters. It is a beautiful town that is often chosen as South Africa’s “Town of the Year”. In fact, it was once recognised as one of the top 100 destinations in the world in the Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Destination Awards.
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