St James of Knysna

St James of Knysna: Our full report

15 rooms
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 1 review
Best for aged 5+
All year

The St James of Knysna is a privately owned luxury hotel set in three acres of lawned gardens on the edge of the Knysna Lagoon. It has uninterrupted views across the water to the Knysna ‘Heads’ and the town of Knysna in the distance.

The St James is divided into two buildings: the Manor House and the adjacent Courtyard, both of which are set on the edge of the lagoon.

Spread between these two buildings are 15 rooms and suites in various guises, all tastefully decorated in pale creams, yellows and blues. In some, there is a balcony or patio with views over the lagoon or the gardens. Every room has an en-suite bathroom, some with bath and separate shower, as well as air conditioning, WiFi, a TV, a digital safe, tea- and coffee-making facilities, and a direct-dial phone.

Accommodation in the Manor House comprises a ‘standard’ double room, two ‘deluxe’ suites, a ‘superior’ suite and the ‘presidential’ suite – all on the first floor.

  • The Standard Double Room is a 29m2 bedroom with a king-size bed and a garden view.

  • Two Deluxe Suites each have a bedroom and a separate lounge, facing the garden. In the twin suite (42m2), the bedroom has two double beds, whereas the slightly larger double (47m2) has a king-size bed.

  • The Lady Anne Superior Suite is similar in size, at 42m2, but has an entrance hall, a bedroom with a king-size bed, a separate lounge and a balcony overlooking the lagoon.

  • Last up is the sizeable George Rex Presidential Suite, at 67m2, which boasts a bedroom with two double beds, a spacious marble bathroom with a sauna, a separate lounge and a balcony overlooking the lagoon.

In the Courtyard you’ll find another double room, plus four further ‘superior’ suites on the upper floor, as well as three ‘deluxe’ suites and two ‘junior’ suites tucked around the Mediterranean courtyard, which has a swimming pool at its centre.

  • The Standard Double Room is 30m2 with a king-size bed a view of the garden.

  • The four Superior Suites, of 46m2, have a king-size bed and lounge area. Three of these are lagoon facing with balconies, and one overlooks the garden.

  • Two Junior Suites are a spacious 55m2 with two double beds and a lounge area facing the garden.

  • Three Deluxe Suites are even bigger, at 60m2, with a king- size bed and lounge area. These rooms are lagoon facing.

The main area of St James is focused on the Manor House, which is home to the restaurant, bar, two lounges and the reception.

The smart Twin Palms Restaurant is named for the two palm trees that stand on the edge of the lagoon. Windows and doors on two sides make it light and airy with uninterrupted views of the lagoon, and lead out onto a patio offering outside dining, right on the water’s edge. The menu incorporates a range of dishes with a local twist, accompanied by an extensive wine list. The restaurant has an on-site pastry chef, ensuring that all the breads, desserts and cakes are homemade and fresh. It also offers a terrace menu, for lighter meals during the day.

The Paquita Bar, fronted by bar stools, sits in the corner of one of the lounges, which has a large fireplace surrounded by comfy sofas. This is a great spot to meet other guests for pre-dinner drinks. In the double-height main hall is another lounge with more sofas and armchairs in front of a large fireplace. A wooden staircase leads from the hall to the upstairs bedrooms.

The vast lawned gardens of The St James offer peaceful walks, a large koi carp pond, one of two swimming pools (the other is at the Courtyard), croquet, pétanque and angling off the private jetty in front of the hotel. The lagoon is also a magnet for water birds. For on-site activities, fishing rods are provided and canoes are available for guests to explore the lagoon, while the surrounding area offers hiking, birdwatching, golfing and beaches. The hotel can also arrange mountain-bike tours, Quad Biking, fishing charters, and whale- and dolphin-watching trips in season. (NB: It’s essential that you read the Quadbike warning in the ‘Health & Safety’ section below for our comments on insurance issues regarding this activity.)

Our view

The St James is a very comfortable hotel offering good-quality accommodation and a high level of service. Although it is very close to Knysna, it is tucked away in its own tranquil lagoon-side setting.


Location: Knysna | Garden Route, South Africa

Ideal length of stay: Three or four nights here is ideal to enjoy this part of the Garden Route.

Directions: The St James is 2.8km from the centre of Knysna, 60km (1hr) from George Airport and 260km (about 2½hrs drive) from Port Elizabeth Airport. From Cape Town it is 485km, which is approximately a six-hour drive. Approaching Knysna on the N2, cross over the Knysna Lagoon. Continuing for approximately 2.5 km you will see a sign on the right to ‘The Point’. Turn right onto a gravel road and you will find The St James entrance in front of you.

Accessible by: Self-drive

Food & drink

Usual board basis: B&B

Food quality: On our visit to The St James in May 2014, we found the food here to be good and imaginative. All meals are served either in the restaurant or outside on the terrace.

Breakfast, between 8.00am and 10.00am, consists of freshly baked bread, muffins, croissants, a range of cereals, porridge, yoghurts, and a selection of cold meats and cheeses. For a hot breakfast, there are eggs cooked to order, including omelettes and eggs Benedict, along with bacon, grilled sausages, and smoked kippers or haddock.

The light lunch menu offers oysters (for which Knysna is famous!), a selection of salads and sandwiches, fish and chips, calamari, burgers and pasta, as well as vegetarian options, followed by desserts.

Dinner, served between 6.00–9.30pm, is slightly more formal. Locally sourced seafood features highly on the extensive menu. When we visited, starters included beetroot salad with feta and sage, oysters, escargots, soup of the day, venison carpaccio or smoked salmon. Main courses were line fish of the day, mussels in white wine and garlic, grilled prawns, Karoo lamb shanks, fillet of beef, slow roast pork belly, Moroccan chicken breast and roast duck breast, as well as vegetarian options. Follow this with a dessert of apple tart, Cape brandy tart, cheesecake, chocolate mousse or a South African speciality – a Dom Pedro: ice cream blended with a liqueur of your choice served in a large glass (a cold version of an Irish coffee!)
If arranged with reception the day before, picnic baskets can be provided at R135–315 for two people.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £5-10

Drinks included: Drinks are not included

Further dining info: Room service is available at an extra charge of R20.


Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at the St James

Property’s age restrictions: There is no age restriction

Special activities & services: Fishing rods, canoes and board games are available. There is no babysitting service.

Equipment: Cots and highchairs are available.

Notes: Parents need to supervise children at all times as the two swimming pools are not fenced and the gardens run straight to the lagoon with no protective fencing.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Communications: Direct-dial phones are available in the rooms and there is also cellphone reception.

TV & radio: TV’s are in the rooms with some satellite channels

Water supply: Mains

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: No

Medical care: There are doctors and hospitals in nearby Knysna.

Quadbike warning: quad-biking is sometimes available as an activity from St James of Knysna. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it’s vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quad-bike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.

Dangerous animals: Low Risk

Security measures: The property is fenced and has security gates, but it is open to the lagoon.

Fire safety: There are smoke detectors in all rooms and a fire alarm in each area. There are instructions in each room of what to do in case of fire.


Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A same-day laundry service is available at R5–R50 (25p–£2.50) per item.

Money: Each room has a digital safe. There is no currency exchange available however banks and ATM’s are available in Knysna

Accepted payment on location: Most credit cards can be used at no additional charge.

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