Fun and flavours at the 2013 Pick ‘n Pay Oyster Festival

Posted on 18 July 2013

By luck of some star-crossed twitter-social-media magicalness, I was chosen along with Natasha Clark to attend the 2013 Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival as Getaway bloggers.  For an entire week we were given full access to everything that this fast-growing festival in one of South Africa’s most picturesque towns has to offer.  To write one article on all the fun is virtually impossible.  But since I love food and wine and was encouraged forced to do a bit of fun-filled adventuring, these are of some the things I will share with you – in an oyster shell.


Eating at the Pick ‘n Pay Oyster Festival

Tash and I about to demolish vodka oyster shots at The Dry Dock. Day 1.

The Knysna Oyster Festival in conjunction with Tabasco has done the hard work and scouting for all discerning restaurant-goers by selecting certain restaurants as their “Tabasco Hot Spots”.  We were lucky enough to attend three such hot spots: The Dry Dock, 34 Degrees South and Jamie Blue.  All their specialty dishes had to do with oysters, of course.  The Dry Dock is situated right on the harbour with a fabulous view to accompany your meal of choice.  Ours was sushi.


Sushi at The Dry Dock

We also convinced them to make us a vodka, oyster and Tabasco shooter. It was quite a mouthful and a very interesting start to our Knysna adventure – well worth a try!  34 Degrees South is a must do.  Seriously, if you go to Knysna and do not visit this restaurant, you should be ashamed. Also located on the harbour, with excellent and attentive service from Etienne and his friendly team, as well as the most delicious kingklip espatada, a fantastic vibe and a fully-stocked deli, 34 Degrees South is one of the hippest places to eat in Knysna.  The music cranks and everaaaaybody is there.  Even Nick Mallet.  I promise – I saw him.


Juicy fat queen prawns at 34 South

Jamie Blue is a little cafe off the main street which doubles as a shop and an art gallery and serves the yummiest oyster soup ever.  I’m not usually one for cooked oysters, but it was truly delicious. I could have dipped my pony tail in the leftover sauce.  And if we weren’t oystered out enough already, The Flavours of Knysna Festival had twelve of the region’s best restaurants serving up their individual interpretation of the famous oyster for the public to taste.

Tapas and Oysters, another trendy restaurant located on Thesen Island, won the casual dining award for their Chiquila oyster –  a fresh oyster, shucked and loosened in its shell, prepared with a tequila sauce, jalapeno aioli and topped with red caviar.  It really was yummy and let me tell you, their stall was pumping.  Free tequila shots make ladies happy.  If you are a foodie, or simply a food-lover, there is no better place to spend your first week of July than at the Knysna Oyster Festival.  Bring your fat pants.


Beautifully prepared oysters at Tapas & Oysters


Oyster medley at Simola


Gorgeously presented lamb burger from Zucchini at Timberlake Organic Village

Cappucino's and ALL the cake from The Windmill Cafe a Timberlake Organic Village


Drinking at the Pick ‘n Pay Oyster Festival

We were lucky enough to attend the Knysna Wine Festival (the night before we bungy jumped – we took it as a sign to drink more) and were treated to some of the best wines in South Africa.  The big dogs were all there – Waterford, Stellenrust, Ataraxia, Painted Wolf, Creation, Jordan, Fairview, Steenburg and De Grendel amongst others.  I was in wine-heaven, and left with some firm new favourites. For those who prefer beverages in pint glasses, the Knysna Craft Beer Project held at Pezula, offered eighteen different types of South African beers and ciders.  I found one which I loved – it was cherry-flavoured and a bit girly, but it was still beer. Paired perfectly with the absolutely phenomenal view of the Pezula golf course and the Indian Ocean, with a post-card setting sun, it could not have been a better location for a girl’s first encounter with ale.


The Craft Beer Project at Pezula

I also attended a Glenfiddich food and whiskey pairing at Simola, led by the extremely entertaining and unflappable national brand ambassador, Thami Banda.  I have never been the biggest whiskey drinker, but, as I discovered that evening, I haven’t been drinking it properly!  The secret to drinking whiskey, especially the younger varieties, it to take a small sip, swallow and then breathe OUT.  This enables you to experience the different flavours and textures of the whiskey, without the burn of the fumes.  Amazing!  I think I may be a convert.


Tash and I at The Knysna Wine Festival


Stellenrust Method Cap Classique - we got to taste the new vintage first

Fun at the Pick ‘n Pay Oyster Festival

The Pick ‘n Pay Oyster Festival is held in Knysna, which is within close proximity to some of the most amazing adventures, activities and excursions in South Africa.  So if you’re there for the full festival (or even just a couple of days), there is plenty more on offer other than oysters and marathons.  Tash and I went on a boat cruise through the Knysna Heads with Ocean Odyssey, and although there had been numerous sightings of whales a couple of days before, the weather was unforgiving when we went out.  We headed bravely to sea through the notoriously dangerous heads, in the pounding rain and choppy waves, but unfortunately were unable to see anything.  It was quite an adventure and we felt as safe as bank vaults in our skipper’s experienced hands.  Definitely something I will be doing again next year, if only to see one perfect whale tail.

Boat trip through the famous Knysna Heads

The township tour run by Emzini Tours was one of my favourite things of the week.  All the profits from the tour are put back into the community and into running a safe house for abandoned and abused children.  As heartbreaking as the tour was, it is vital for people from all corners of society to experience the other side of the Knysna Oyster Festival.  Two thirds of the township population are employed through tourism in the area, and the tour is a great reminder of how every little bit can go a long way in helping a community prosper.  It left me inspired, hopeful and eager to start making a change in my own community back home.


Emzini Township Tour


Selfie with the sweetest kid


The Bloukrans Bungee, run by the awesomely efficient team at Face Adrenaline, was something I had been dreading.  I am terrified of heights, to say the least, and a bungee jump has never, ever been in my life plan.  But I’ll tell you something, it was THE best thing ever.  It left me feeling like I could conquer the world and take on anything and anyone.  Honestly, a must-do for everyone, if only to boost your self-confidence. The weight limit is 35-150 kgs and there has not been one single incident in twelve years, so feel safe and take the leap.  You won’t regret it.  I promise.




The face of terror/ecstasy


Obligatory post-jump photograph - on top of the world!


For those with kids, the Knysna Elephant Park and the Wildwoods Aerial Adventure at Timberlake Organice Village is  a no-brainer.  They will love the close encounters with one of Africa’s top five giants at The Elephant Park, and will be entertained for hours on the zip-lining and obstacle courses at Wildwoods.  Mom and Dad can either join them on the adult course (trust me, it’s a lot more challenging than you’d think) or sit back and relax at one of the many eateries at Timberlake Organic Village – I will have you know that the homemade burgers at Zucchini and the carrot and cheesecake at The Windmill Café are to die for!


Touching Africa's gentle giants at The Knysna Elephant Park


Kids enjoying the obstacle course at Wildwoods


Tash loving the zip-lining at Wildwoods


Natasha and I were lucky enough to be put up the Knysna Hollows hotel for the week, a safe, homey and country-style hotel with lovely rooms and a great outdoor pool area for kid and adults alike.  We spent a lot of time at the bar and can safely say that the service is excellent – especially the night before JUMPDAY.


Knysna Hollows

Thank you again to Getaway Magazine and Thereza and Jacques from the Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival for the trip of a lifetime. I am so going back next year.  And so should you.

For more information on the Knysna Oyster festival, visit

Images: Keri Bainborough and Face Adrenaline


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