#LoveSA: 11 Garden Route festivals perfect for long weekend escapes

2018-04-14 10:30 - Kavitha Pillay
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Long weekends are perfect for “stay-cays” - and with another long weekend on the horizon, we’re all for keeping it local.

Stay-cays are vacations in or around your home that are far enough to escape your everyday life, yet close enough for quick and easy travel.

Following the busy Easter long weekend, opting to visit a local destination is a cost-effective and reasonable travel choice with family or friends. In addition to this, plan your holiday around a special event or festival and you’re bound for heaps of good times.

One of the much-loved destinations for local and international travellers – bursting with numerous festivals and events all year long – is the Garden Route.

With a few festivals and events lined up around the Freedom Day (27 April) and Worker’s Day (1 May) public holidays, South Africans need only book a few days off work to get a week’s worth of leave to enjoy as many events and sites in the Garden Route as possible.

While public holidays help extend leave periods and vacations, you don’t have to wait for public holidays to turn an event into a long weekend escape. Why not plan your leave and trip so that you create a long weekend to suit the events and festivals you don’t want to miss.

In Knysna, there are three events taking place over the upcoming long weekend, and a host of festivals throughout the year to get you planning many-a-trip to this beautiful part of SA.

Here are major Garden Route events to start planning your long weekend escapes:

GR300 & GR Lite

An event for nature-lovers and avid cyclists, the GR300 cycling race has been reinvigorated over the years to ensure that it provides more fun on the trails than it does stern challenges. The event dates for 2019 have yet to be announced.

For a slightly easier ride, opt for the GRLite, which is about 20km shorter, cutting out the tougher climbs, ensuring you get to take in Knysna’s breathtaking sights.

When: 2019 dates TBC 

Bookings and info: Call 044 382 6852 or email Patric Mosterd at pax@gardenrouteevents.co.za or Louise Wilson at louise@gardenrouteevents.co.za.

Knysna Motor Show

Motor heads will delight in the Knysna Motor Show, which attracts hundreds of the best classic cars from across South Africa.

The show provides the “opportunity for owners of high quality and unique cars to be displayed in a country style and relaxed atmosphere”, says Knysna Tourism.

In addition, the show is a platform to showcase veteran, vintage and classic road and racing motorcycles, and also serves as a fund-raising event for local charities including Hospice, animal welfare and children feeding scheme E-PAP, among others.

When: 2019 dates TBC

Where: Knysna High Sportsfield.

Cost: Entry fee is R40 for adults, R10 for scholars and under 12 enter free of charge.  

Bookings and info: Brian Gibson at 082 467 2145 or email gibbo@mweb.co.za.

Jaguar Simola Hillclimb

The Hillclimb will see a line-up of cars and good entertainment, with the Speed Festival Charity Golf Day. Knysna Tourism says that the spectacle will delight petrol-heads, speed-lovers and anyone looking for a good time.

When: 2019 dates TBC 

Where: Simola.

Bookings and info: Call 044 302 5777 or email info@speedfestival.co.za.

Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival

The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival promises a long weekend of dancing, fun and music, with daily shows held at various locations throughout the town of Knysna.

The grand finale of the festival - the Parade and after-party - is held on the final weekend of the celebrations.

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The festival attracts floats, performers and DJ’s from all over the world and local businesses also get involved by competing for the best Pink Loerie window display.

The 2018 event also played host to the 10th edition of the Mr Gay World competition. "This will be the third time that South Africa has presented the prestigious event; a world first," says Visit Knysna.

When: 2019 dates TBC  

Where: Knysna.

Bookings and info: Contact John ONeil at 083 347 9570 or john.oneil@pinkloerie.co.za.

Greenpop Eden Festival of Action 2018

The Greenpop Festival of Action is a new event on the Garden Route’s calendar, set to bring people together from around the globe to learn, connect, give back and get active.

“For the past 6 years, this event has taken place in Livingstone, Zambia and for the first time in 2018, the Festival of Action is being hosted in the Eden District, Garden Route,” says Knysna Tourism.

There’s a youth programme which promises to be an eco-education adventure for future leaders and active citizens between the ages of 13 and 19.

When: 23 June - 15 July 2018.

Bookings and info: Contact Carla at 021 461 9265 or eden@greenpop.org.

Knysna Oyster Festival

Oysters and sport are the focus at one of the most popular annual events in the Western Cape - the Knysna Oyster Festival.

The festival has taken place since 1983, where it began as the Knysna Winter Festival - a combination of sport that drew people to Knysna during the cold and quieter season.

SEE: Warm up this winter with 10 adventure-filled days at the Knysna Oyster Festival

The festival is spread across two weekends of family fun, with the two major sporting events being the Momentum Knysna Cycle Tour and the Momentum Knysna Forest Marathon.

When: 29 June - 8 July 2018.

Where: Knysna.

Bookings and info: Contact Glendyrr Fick at 044 382 5510 or glendyrr@worldsport.co.za.

Click here for the full programme, more information, and registration and ticket details.

126th Rastafari Earth Festival

Earth Day, or the birthday of the Rastafarian's spiritual messiah, takes place on 23 July, and is honoured as part of the annual Earth Festival from 22-30 July.

The festival includes musical acts, dancing and singing of traditional songs. Members wear traditional attire, tell stories and recite poems.

The event is family-friendly and open to the public - and serves as a platform for Rastafarians to openly share the traditions and roots of their faith. Tourists are welcome to bring their cameras and learn what Emancipation Day is all about.

When: 20-30 July 2018.

Where: Judah Square Knysna.

Bookings and info: Contact Br Dawie Afrikaner/ Zebulon/ Zebs at 076 649 1034 or dawieafraker99@gmail.com.

Knysna Timber Festival

The Knysna Timber Festival, which is part of the heritage of timber-related activities in the area, is the creation of the Knysna Timber Initiative.

The festival is not limited to local creators and woodworkers, and serves as a platform for National and International brands to expose their products, as well as for hobbyists, DIY enthusiasts and visitors.

When: 5-7 October 2018

Where: Timber Village

Cost: R20

Bookings and info: Contact Picca at 082 571 2462/ info@timberfestival.co.za.

Eden Kite Festival

The Kite Festival takes place at the Eden Lawns fields in Sedgefield on 21 October 2018.

Boasting a spectacular display of kites of all shapes and sizes, the event promises a special day for families and kiting enthusiasts.

When: 21 October 2018

Where: Eden Lawns - Sedgefield

Bookings and info: Contact Belinda Hobson at 044 343 2007/ belinda@visitknysna.co.za.

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Leisure Isle Festival

The Leisure Isle Festival is a craft and food market that encourages the sale of local products.

Expect stalls offering an array of food and drink, fresh produce, arts and crafts, toys, books, indigenous and other plants and many other delights.

There’s also a barrel train and jumping castle for children, doggie walk around the island for all ages, a wheelchair walk along a selected route, and the Knysna Embroiders Guild will return with another exciting exhibition.

“The objective of the Festival is to support the broader community by providing financial support to selected charities and to develop community spirit among all those who attend,” says Knysna Tourism, adding that financial support is provided to five charities as part of the Festival.

When: 3- 4 November 2018.

Where: Leisure Island.

Bookings and info: Call 083 754 5390/ 044 384 1896 or email info@leisureislefestival.co.za.

Knysna Extreme Triathlon

Knysna Extreme is a triathlon covering 240km - 4km swim, 170km cycle, 50km run - with an altitude gain of over 3300m.

The route is scenic, yet challenging, taking athletes along the Garden Route, and each athlete is required to have a supporter follow them on the entire route to provide nutritional, motivational and mechanical support.

A first of its kind in Africa, it has attracted local and international athletes, and boasts a unique,  family-feel event.

When: 24 November 2018.

Where: Knysna.

Bookings and info: Contact Sean Sandiford at 073 613 2984 or info@knysnaxtreme.co.za.