Knysna, pronounced ‘ny-znah,’ is the most famous town on South Africa’s famed Garden Route. Overlooking the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, we were excited to explore Knysna, which is all about tranquil lagoons, ancient forests, and a sparkling coastline. But our most compelling reason to come to this 18th-century gold rush town is that, surprisingly, it boasts a wonderful gay-friendly vibe. In fact, Knysna is so LGBTQ-friendly that it’s known as Africa’s gayest town! So, it’s only natural that we’d have many choices for gay accommodation in Knysna – and so we did. What’s more, they ranged from traditional hotels to guesthouses and even gorgeous forest lodges that the country is famous for.
Despite the city not having any exclusive gayborhood or bars like the gay-friendly Johannesburg, Knysna brims with an inclusive vibe more than we’ve seen in any other South African city. In fact, even Mr. Gay World South Africa 2019 happens to hail from Knysna! Besides a fabulous Pride parade, the city hosts the mother of all gay parties in South Africa, the famous Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival.
So, it was clear that the Garden Route and South Africa’s funkiest town will make for a great gay destination for us, which it did. Read our guide to gay Knysna – and beyond that too.
Table of contents
- The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa
- Villa Castollini
- Pezula Nature Retreat
- The Mount Knysna
- Amanzi Island Boutique Hotel
- Moontide Guest Lodge
- The Lofts Boutique Hotel
- Thebloem Guest Suites
- Emily Moon River Lodge
- Roseroc Boutique Guesthouse
- Madison Manor Boutique Hotel
- Our Verdict!
- Just So You Know:
The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa
Most romantic. If romance is what you’re looking for in the city, we’d suggest you do what we did and book the Turbine Hotel & Spa. It’s the best LGBTQ+-friendly accommodation in Knysna for LGBTQ+ couples. Housed in a former power station, the gorgeous hotel overlooks the Knysna River and the Indian Ocean, as well as the famed Knysna Heads. So, no matter where we’d lounge, we were treated to superb views.
There are many things to love about this hotel, beginning with the spacious sun deck. Whenever we weren’t exploring, we’d be lounging by the heavenly turquoise pool that’s fringed with foliage and daybeds. In fact, the pool even had views of the Knysna Lagoon and was the perfect spot to read a book or listen to music. Our days began with a fantastic full English breakfast, and in the evenings, the tapas bar was ideal for a sundowner before hitting the Knysna night scene. What’s more, the hotel even arranged for hot-stone massages in the comfort of our room, which was the zenith of our romantic holiday.
The sun-kissed rooms, or rather suites at the hotel, are elegant with parquet floors and light fabrics. Moreover, they feature modern creature comforts like extra-long beds, LCD TVs, iPod docking stations, as well as modern bathrooms. Some suites, like ours, even had separate seating areas and kitchenettes. Nevertheless, they all feature an exposed brick wall that lent a historic charm to the modern digs.
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Villa Castollini might not be gay-owned, but the wonderful owner is a huge supporter of the LGBTQ set. That’s what makes it one of the best gay hotels in Knysna. The villa lies on the other side of the Knysna Lagoon, near Brenton-On-Sea. So, we enjoyed spectacular views of the city, Knysna heads, and the ocean.
This five-star Tuscan-styled villa hotel blends comfort and luxury with privacy in its 10 spacious rooms and is another place perfect for a romantic gaycation in Knysna. What’s more, the rooms are sophisticated and comfortable at the same time and have fabulous views of the pool or the gardens. Moreover, they feature all the high-tech modern flourishes that we needed for a comfortable holiday. Since we had romance on our minds, the Stella Suite, complete with a bathtub, coffeemaker, lake views, and pool with a view, was our obvious choice. They even gave us chocolates!
“We were looking for boutque upscale digs, and Villa Castollini was perfect in every sense of the stay.”WOW Travel
Even though these are boutique digs, the Villa doesn’t skimp on amenities, which are rather spectacular. The standout is the cyan-colored swimming pool with loungers and umbrellas directly overlooking the Knysna Lagoon and the city. It’s one of the most exclusive places in all of Knysna to sit back and relax, and it was right in our backyard. So, whenever we’d find the time, you’d have found us by the pool. We loved heading to the library to relax, too, especially during afternoons. The open-plan lounge, dining room, and kitchen area are the ideal setting for sumptuous breakfasts and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. Moreover, the villa even arranged for a homemade dinner on our balcony when we wanted to enjoy a quiet night.
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Pezula Nature Retreat
Located right by the famed Knysna Heads, the Pezula Nature Retreat is one of the most luxurious gay-friendly accommodations we found in the city. The resort lies on a dramatic Eastern headland and was the perfect upscale gay getaway we were looking for along the Garden Route. After all, it’s surrounded by beaches, lakes, and forests while offering an award-winning spa as well as a Championship Golf Course on the property. Now, what more could we want?
We had the choice of 83 modern African-style suites, which further lie in villas of 4 suites each. Besides the flourish of mod-cons, they feature a bevy of thoughtful touches. These include the likes of tree-trunk side tables that are an ode to Knysna’s past as well as cozy fireplaces. The standout is, of course, the million-dollar views. Our Junior Suite with an ocean view had a fireplace, a bathtub, and even a kitchenette for cooking romantic meals. And, of course, there was the balcony with views of the lush landscaped gardens and the ocean. Sigh.
What’s more, there’s so much to do on the property that we felt like we never wanted to leave! For one, we had the choice to lounge at one of the two pools, of which the indoor one was our favorite since it’s adults-only. After a swim, we headed for an indulgent couples’ massage session at the decadent spa. During hot afternoons, we’d kick back with a drink or a coffee at the library or the cigar bar, where we’d also enjoy a sundowner. Finally, the in-house restaurant, Zachary’s, took care of all our food cravings and served some delicious local food.
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The Mount Knysna
Intrepid LGBTQ adventurers like us love The Mount Knysna to bits. It’s one of the best LGBTQ-friendly hotels in Knysna’s East Head, lying just half a km from the East Head View Point. Hence, we had access to a whole lot of thrilling activities in the area, right from windsurfing to snorkeling to golfing. Coming to the hotel, Mount Knysna Boutique features a year-round (heated) outdoor pool and sun terrace. With once-in-a-lifetime views of the Knysna Heads, it was the perfect place for us to relax and unwind on the property. The in-house restaurant serves all meals from breakfast to dinner, as well as delicious cocktails befitting a Garden Route vacation.
That said, it’s the rooms and suites that are the highlight at this hotel, each of which is equipped with a slew of high-tech mod-cons for a comfortable stay. The private ensuite bathrooms are plush and come with bespoke toiletries and even slippers and bathrobes. What’s more, some units even had seating areas, while others, like our suite, enjoyed the comfort of a patio or balcony with stunning views. Since we wanted something special, we went for a suite with views of the Knysna heads.
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Amanzi Island Boutique Hotel
We’re yet to see a better-located LGBTQ accommodation in Knysna than the Amanzi Island Boutique Hotel, which is why we stayed here. It sits right on the edge of Leisure Island, overlooking the Knysna Lagoon, Knysna Heads, and the Indian Ocean.
Besides a stunning location, we loved a lot of other things about this gorgeous hotel. To begin with, the stunning terrace with the decadent-looking swimming pool was our favorite spot on the property. We’d sprawl on the cushy sun loungers and rattan and wicker furniture, enjoying a drink or a light bite by the poolside. Even the spacious lounging and dining space was ideal to relax, read a book, and dig into the excellent food from the hotel’s bistro. Since we were itching to explore the surrounding region (and water), the hotel even offered us free canoes and bikes.
Hence, it was of no surprise to us that even the rooms and suites at Amanzi are lovely with a distinctly nautical theme. An element of shabby chic lends the rooms a sense of homeliness. Modern ensuite bathrooms, a bevy of high-tech mod-cons, and sun-kissed patios and balconies with sweeping Knysna and sea view complete the picture of perfection.
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Moontide Guest Lodge
Best value-for-money. The Moontide Guest Lodge on the banks of the Touw River is one of the best LGBTQ-friendly accommodations in Knysna’s vicinity, a mere 30 minutes to its west. In fact, we found it an excellent base for exploring the famed South African Wilderness as well as the Garden Route. Moreover, the value-for-money thatched lodge accommodation is also a mere five-minute stroll from the beach – doubly amazing! After all, South Africa is one of the best destinations for a safari adventure in 2023!
A laidback, peaceful atmosphere permeates the sprawling place that features discrete cottages in a lush, tree-filled garden. All spaces are filled with interesting objets d’art, rugs, and other curios from the owner’s personal collection. We felt like we were on a bespoke Instagram page! Despite there being a pool on the property, we loved swimming in the refreshingly clean waters of the Touw River. In fact, we even grabbed a floating sun deck to lounge on the river! Our days would begin with a sumptuous breakfast buffet of croissants, toast, cheese, yogurt, and fruit salad. During good weather, the hosts even arranged for picnic baskets.
All rooms radiate a distinct character, but they’re all comfortable and spacious, with outside seating areas even. TVs, milk and coffee, and well-stocked minibars complete the offerings. Since we wanted more space, we chose the one-bedroom suite. Not only did it have a fireplace, but it also came with cable TV, a minibar, a separate seating space, and a terrace with garden views.
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The Lofts Boutique Hotel
Are you looking for unique and offbeat LGBTQ-friendly accommodation in Knysna like us? Then consider the Lofts Boutique Hotel on Thesen Island, overlooking the Knysna Lagoon and the Indian Ocean. Even though it lies right on the tip of the island, the Knysna Waterfront and Golf Club are a mere 5-15 minute drive from the hotel.
There’s a lot to love about this hotel, right from its amenities to the accommodations. To begin with, we loved the stunning outdoor splash pool with unobstructed views of the Knysna Lagoon and the lush surrounding greenery. After a dip, we unwound and relaxed with massages at the Le Spa Tranquil. It even features everything from hot stone therapy to shower scrubs. Right next to the splash pool is a towering atrium with lots of comfy areas to lounge as well as a service bar. We even ordered poolside drinks from this bar and made it into a day of relaxing on the property.
When it comes to the accommodations, we were impressed and delighted in equal measure. The contemporarily designed rooms feature wooden beams, plush, extra-long beds, tea/coffee makers, and flatscreen TVs. Furthermore, some rooms even have sliding doors that open out to a private patio or balcony. Since we got the spacious king room with a lake view, we even had fabulous complimentary breakfasts awaiting us every morning.
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Thebloem Guest Suites
Best for Knysna nightlife. There’s more than one reason that the Thebloem Guest Suites are one of the best gay suite accommodations in Knysna. Firstly, it’s a mere 20-minute walk into Knysna Central, as well as its great nightlife. Secondly, it offers excellent all-suite accommodation at a wallet-friendly price.
Finally, and most importantly, it offers an entire bunch of amenities too, despite being a budget suites accommodation. Firstly we loved the outdoor pool, which is a rarity for a suites hotel. Even though it doesn’t have a restaurant on-site, we were treated to a superb full Irish/English or an à la carte breakfast every day. That said, it does have a bar with spectacular views of Knysna Lagoon and the ocean. That’s where we’d enjoy pre-dinner drinks before stepping out to enjoy the nightlife. Both the terrace and the garden are also excellent places to relax with a drink in hand. Free Wi-Fi and a 24-hour front desk complete the facilities here.
Rooms, or rather suites, at this hotel, are plush and come with soft beds, a litany of mod-cons, as well as seating areas. Private, modern bathrooms and kettles and desks complete the comfortable space. Since we didn’t mind splurging, we went for the king room, complete with an in-room bathtub and a balcony with alfresco seating.
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Emily Moon River Lodge
Best for nature lovers. There’s no better nature lover’s LGBTQ-friendly accommodation in Knysna’s vicinity than Emily Moon River Lodge, around 30 minutes east of the town. The 16 cottage-suites lie on a ridge overlooking the Bitou River, gorgeous green wetlands, and the Keurbooms lagoon, eventually emptying into the cerulean Indian Ocean. With excellent facilities complemented by Afro-chic décor, we found it to be excellent for nature lovers like us.
Despite the views being the main draw here, the owners have left no stone unturned to make this a place to reckon with. We loved admiring the Polynesian, Asian, and African pieces like door frames, masks, and even artwork all over the place/. Overall, it’s the perfect barefoot-chic ambiance we wanted for a truly African holiday. Since we wanted to explore the area on our own, we had to simply grab the canoes and bicycles available to borrow. Moreover, the place offered us the luxury of enjoying our meals on our room deck and even unwinding with spa treatments in the room. There’s even a striking pool with sun loungers and two restaurants that take care of all meals. Breakfast was a particularly grand affair, with a hot breakfast complemented by cold cuts, cheese, bread, pastries, yogurt, fruit, and more.
All spacious rooms have separate lounging areas that open onto a private deck, with two of them overlooking the wetlands and the river. The best part? All bathrooms feature bathtubs, so were able to enjoy a relaxing soak at any time of the day. Plus, our Junior Garden Suite even had an outdoor shower.
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Roseroc Boutique Guesthouse
The Roseroc Boutique Guesthouse offers serenity smack dab in the heart of Knysna. It’s one of the best gay hotels in Knysna and overlooks both the Knysna Heads and the Lagoon. It’s surrounded by the gorgeous lush vegetation of the Knysna forest, and we couldn’t find a better romantic ‘nest’ for a gay getaway in the city. Since it’s a boutique guesthouse set in an elegant Cape Colonial home, the service levels were impeccable, despite being no hotel-like amenities. We got ready to explore Knysna by tucking into a full delicious breakfast in the lovely dining area overlooking the Lagoon. The highlight is the heavenly saltwater pool fringed by lush bougainvillea shrubs and lush gardens.
The best part about the rooms at Roseroc is that they all feature private balconies, complete with wrought-iron furniture. Large windows in most of them overlook the Lagoon, while others overlook the gardens and the pool, ensuring lots of natural light. Mod-cons, comfy robes, eco-friendly amenities, and luxury Egyptian cotton linen made our stay here as comfortable as it could get. Of course, the fact that we stayed in the Honeymoon Suite, complete with a lovely bathtub and a patio with alfresco seating with views of the lagoon, helped!
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Madison Manor Boutique Hotel
The Madison Manor Boutique Hotel is the overall best LGBTQ-friendly accommodation in Knysna, with magnificent views over the Knysna Heads as well as Knysna Lagoon. The hotel sits on a hill facing the city and is a mere 10-minute walk into the city center. To begin with, the place has a lovely L-shaped outdoor pool on the terrace. It’s peppered with orange sun loungers, complete with blue umbrellas. That’s where we’d be every day and hour that we weren’t out exploring the city and the region. In fact, we were able to order drinks and snacks directly to our poolside lounger, soaking in the \views of Knysna Lagoon and the heads. The restaurant, which is open for both lunch and dinner, even serves a superb continental or full English breakfast in the morning. The shared lounge is perfect to unwind with a book, and we even enjoyed a leisurely massage and a treatment at the spa. During evenings, we’d enjoy a sundowner on the terrace before stepping out to explore Knysna’s nightlife.
The rooms at the Madison Manor Hotel blend modern conveniences with antique, vintage furnishings. They all also feature coffee/tea-making facilities, satellite flatscreen TVs, separate seating areas, and bathtubs in modern bathrooms. Since we wanted to splurge, we went for the one-bedroom suite. It had a balcony with unobstructed views of the Lagoon and the Heads.
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While we love all the above gay-friendly accommodations in Knysna, the ones below are rather special:
- Most romantic: The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa
- Best value-for-money: Moontide Guest Lodge
- Best for Knysna nightlife: Thebloem Guest Suites
- Best for nature lovers: Emily Moon River Lodge
Just So You Know:
- Another lovely little gay piece of paradise in Knysna is the Rexford Manor Boutique Hotel. It’s gay-owned and has King and King pillows on the beds!
Get Some Culture in Knysna:
- Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival – This is one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the whole of South Africa. It includes an art festival, a bear fest, and a drag queen festival, culminating in a vibrant pride parade.
- The Peacock Festival: Knysna held its very first official pride celebrations in 2022 with the inauguration of the Peacock Festival. The theme of the 2023 edition was “Love is love,” and hosted much-loved local and international LGBTQIA+ personalities.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Knysna:
Even though Knysna doesn’t have exclusive gay bars and clubs, the places mentioned below are extremely gay-friendly:
- Muse Fusion Food: This gay-friendly place is a great choice to enjoy a spot of casual dining with delectable comfort food. In fact, we saw the sign for Muse with a rainbow flag proudly displayed as we entered the city. It’s been put there by one of its waitresses, which was a beautiful touch.
- Vinyl – When it’s late at night, that’s when the party gets going at Vinyl. Moreover, it’s got a great terrace area for lounging.
Best Gay Saunas in Knysna:
Knysna doesn’t have an exclusive gay sauna yet. However, the Garden Route is home to some of the most fantastic, pristine beaches in the world – take your pick!