Clarence Drive (R44)

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Clarence Drive looking west Clarence Drive looking west - Photo: Panoramio

Clarence Drive is a magnificent scenic coastal drive between the windswept hamlet of Rooi-Els and the naval town of Gordons Bay, which nestles in the north-eastern crook of False Bay in the shadow of the Hottentots Hollands mountains. This beautiful, coastal drive stretches between the two towns over 21 km, hugging the wild turquoise Cape coastline all the way. If you like passes with lots of corners, then this one is for you, as it contains 77 bends, curves and corners of which four are in excess of 150 degrees. The road is in a beautiful condition and attracts tourists, locals, bikers and cyclists in their droves. Overtaking is fairly limited and in general one can expect to average well below 60 kph.


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Digging into the details:

The road is in impeccable condition after a recent revamp. It is one of those drives that national and international tourists alike should not leave Cape Town without experiencing! The road is named after Jack Clarence, who'se vision and foresight motivated the construction of the road. There are 2 stone cairns erected on the side of the road at different points. One is in honour of Jack Clarence and the other is to commemorate the modernisation and upgrading of the road in 1998.

In honour of the road buildersOne of the stone plaques commemorating the upgrade of Clarens Drive / Photo: PanoramioThis is one of those roads that should ideally be driven at a leisurely pace. The 1998 upgrade has created a marvellous, safe road with lots of safe places to stop to enjoy the breathtaking views over the dramatic scenery of towering mountains meeting the rugged coastline. The road has become a standard must-do trip for tourists on their Cape Peninsula bucket list. The route will take approx. 30 mins to drive. It ends at Gordons Bay, which is named after a Scot – Col. Robert Gordon, who was the last commander of the Dutch East India Garrison in the Cape.

This video starts on the R44 heading westwards towards Rooi-Els. There is a beautiful beach here with its own estuary, but beware of a dangerous backwash. As the road starts climbing out of Rooi-Els, keep a look-out for some dark rocks on the side of the road, where there was once an old tunnel and a manganese mine.

The road has a multitude of well designed places to stop. During the winter whale watching season, Clarence Drive is a popular place for local and international visitors to enjoy the sight of whales breaching and frolicking close to the coastal road. There are many crosses and memorials erected along the road – these are mainly for fishermen who have lost their lives along this treacherous coastline.

Keep a look-out for the Sparks Bay Day camp, which is a popular picnic area, which overlooks a small stony beach, but if you go a little further, beyond the public toilets into the next bay, you'll find a lovely, sandy beach surrounding a calm, walled  tidal pool.
Perfect scenery on this driveLooking east towards Rooi-Els over a calm False Bay / Photo: Panoramio

Further along one arrives at a spot named Koeelbaai. This translates into Cannonball Bay. The bay was originally named 'Coldbrook', after a British sailing vessel, which was wrecked here in 1778. Here you will also find the Kogel Bay Holiday Resort, where there is camping available on a lovely, level grassy area, next to a beautiful, long sandy beach in a magnificent setting. However the sea here is dangerous with rip currents and other dangers. This spot is also very popular with the surfing fraternity. False Bay is perhaps best known for its healthy population of Great White sharks.

Just after the entrance to Kogel Bay, at the top of the hill, there is a small parking area. From here you can take a footpath down to the beach to a spot named Dappat se Gat. According to locals Dappat was a wanted stock thief, who hid out in a small shelter at this spot, evading the law. From the summit of this second steepest part of Clarence Drive, the road now starts descending towards the Steenbras River mouth via a series of very tight bends followed by a fairly long, straight stretch towards the bridge. At the outer edge of the sharpest of the corners near the summit, is a triangular stone obelisk, which was erected to commemorate the upgrading of the road in 1998.

Looking west along Clarence DriveWith the south-easter whipping a cloud over the mountain, it paints a perfect picture of Clarence Drive / Photo: PixmagOn the eastern side of the bridge is an ample parking area, which gives access to the bridge and a hiking trail that leads to a spot up the ravine, named Crystal Pools. A series of five cascading fresh-water rock pools each with a small waterfall, makes a stunning setting. Watch out for baboons, who are quite cheeky here and have been known to steal rucksacks in search of food. It is best to check with Cape Nature on the status and accessibility of the trail, as it is controlled per permit and is also sometimes closed.

As the road curls into the north towards Gordons Bay, there are several excellent whale spotting vantage points. The whale season runs from May through to October each year, when the whales arrive in the warm and sheltered waters of False Bay and Walker Bay to calve.

Photo collage by Lisa RobertsPhoto collage by Lisa Roberts/ Sailing pix by Trevor WilkinsAs the road drops down towards Gordons Bay, you will have a good view of the small harbour with it's famous Bikini Beach just before the harbour wall. If the predominantly gale force south easterly wind is not blowing, you'll probably see yachts sailing in and out of the harbour at any time of the year. On a clear day you will be able to see Cape Point on the western side of False Bay, which is packed with marine life including seals, dolphins, sharks and whales.

If you have never driven this fabulous coastal road, then put it on your bucket list and if you really want to enjoy it, try driving it at sunrise. You'll have the road virtually to yourself and the soft light of dawn drapes the wild land and seascape in gentle pastel colours, which make for great photographs.

There is a small restaurant in Rooi Els which is extremely popular and we recommend maling a booking to avoid disappointment. Watch out for large troops of baboons that frequently parade around the village and in the car park.

On the western side of Clarence Drive, Gordon's Bay offers an array of coffee shops, restaurants and pubs to satisfy every taste and budget, including at least two restaurants inside the harbour area.

Fact File:


S34.307948 E18.827616


S34.208258 E18.833207


S34.167189 E18.857194














21,4 km




25 minutes


40 - 60 kph


Tar (R44)






Gordons Bay (5km)

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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

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