Chappies in open shutter mode
Chappies in open shutter mode - Photo: Panoramio

Chapman's Peak Drive dates back to the early 1900's and is without question one of Cape Town's Top 10 tourist destinations. Its popularity is due to the incredible scenery on offer, viewed from a road which has been literally hewn out of the almost vertical cliff faces on the Cape Peninsula's western side.

The 10 km long pass connects Hout Bay in the north with Noordhoek in the south and was converted into a toll road in 2003 to cover the high costs of maintaining the road to a safe standard. Along its length you will drive through more than 80 bends, corners and curves and see some impressive modern engineering, including massive steel catch nets and two semi-tunnels. Many sections of unstable rock-face have been reinforced with shotcrete.

This pass is loaded with drama and history dating back to 1910 and is best appreciated driven slowly. It must have seemed an impossible task building a road on such an inhospitable and dangerous cliff face, but the road building pioneers did the job!

The more observant viewers will notice that we have not included our standard vertical profile nor simulated fly-past clips in the first video. The reason for this is that Google Earth simply cannot 'read' the road correctly and the results are too distorted to provide an accurate simulation. This is the only pass in South Africa, where this has occurred.


Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in 4K HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 4K)  Wait a few seconds for the videos to display.....


[Video cover photo by Trygve Roberts] 

FULL-SCREEN MODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.

Digging into the details:

Getting there: To drive the pass from north to south (in the direction which we filmed it), from Cape Town, take Victoria Road to Hout Bay and follow the signs to Chapman's peak Drive. The pass begins adjacent to the well-known Chapman's Peak Hotel, where the climbing begins; revealing views to the right of the wide expanse of Hout Bay's white beach and turquoise waves, with the picturesque harbour in the background. Slightly to the left across the bay is the distinctive shape of the oddly shaped mountain - The Sentinel. Just before the first sharp left-hand bend, you can view the 'Bronze Leopard statue'.

Leopard RockLeopard Rock / Photo: Bruce Mc Clean

For those wanting to drive it in the opposite direction, go to Sunnydale/Fish Hoek and from there take the M6 to Noordhoek Village. Continue straight through the village where you will reach the southern start of the pass.

The pass has over 80 bends, corners and curves - some of them with very sharp turning arcs. This is not a road to be in a hurry on for a number of reasons. Being a major tourist attraction, the mood on the pass is slow and leisurely. If you want to drive fast, rather opt for the Ou Kaapse Weg route which is also attractive, but much quicker.

Chapman's Peak Drive is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike and you will find large numbers of cyclists, runners and walkers enjoying the fantastic views and fresh air. Motor vehicles are 'tolerated'. The large numbers of tourist buses and other sight-seeing vehicles will frustrate any driver in a rush. Drive this road in a calm manner and understand that you are merely a guest if you are driving in a motor vehicle. Every driver needs to be acutely aware of the possibility of knocking over a pedestrian or a cyclist, so concentration levels need to be high.


Chapman's Peak Drive is subject to dangerous and frequent rock falls, to the extent that the road was closed for a long period of time before 2003 and then given a major facelift, featuring cantilevered bridges and massive catch-nets. The road is dear to the hearts of Capetonians who refer to it fondly as "Chappies" and relish its existence akin to Table Mountain itself. The world famous Cape Town Cycle Tour (commonly referred to as 'The Argus', routes over "Chappies" where some 35,000 cyclists are treated to the marvellous spectacle of steep cliffs, thundering surf and blue skies.

Looking north over Hout Bay from one of the picnic spotsLooking north over Hout Bay from one of the picnic spots / Photo: w.i.m
The road is famously remembered for that famous German luxury car (the one with the three-pointed star) TV commercial in the 80's that featured a car plummeting over an 80 meter cliff on Chapman's Peak Drive and the driver surviving to tell the tale. This was countered a few months later by an opposition German car company ad which featured the same road and sharp corner where their product made it safely through the bend and a by-line which read: "The car that beats the bends (Benz)" As clever as it was, the ad had to be removed. 

The road twists and turns through some very sharp corners over the first 500 metres and passes some residential apartments clinging onto the cliffs. This was the scene of serious landslides during the winter of 2013. About 1.2 km from the start, there is a dangerous left hand corner, which is concrete and pebble paved, making it easy to identify and cyclists in particular need to slow down for this bend as the surface is much rougher than the tarmac sections. Just before the corner is a slip road going to the right which leads to a war memorial. Here you can see canons which were used to defend the bay from the British [circa 1795]. Just after the corner is a place to park just off the road. You can take a short walk up the slope of the mountain to visit the ruins of the East Fort Gun Battery.

East Fort Gun BatteryEast Fort Gun Battery / Photo: Danie van der Merwe

The next 400m of the pass consists of an S-bend. Another parking recess can be seen to the left. Hikers wanting to get to the summit of Chapman's Peak itself as well as several other loops can follow the jeep track up the mountain. During winter the mountains are smothered in fynbos, proteas and ericas.

The road enters a 90 degree tightly radiused left hand bend, as it heads into a ravine, then goes into a sharp S-bend. After the S-bend there is a large parking/picnic area on the right hand side (east) of the road, which provides excellent views over Hout Bay. From this spot, a private road zig-zags its way down to the sea to a boutique hotel - the Tintswalo Atlantic (which burned to the ground during savage mountain fires a few years ago and has subsequently been rebuilt).

Two hundred metres after the picnic site, the earthy and square bulk of the toll station buildings make an appearance. It operates 24 hours per day and as the toll fees change regularly, we have not posted any prices here. Once you've paid for the privilege of driving on Cape Town's most iconic road, you can proceed. The pass is hugely popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists and motor vehicles are not king on this road.

Drive with due care and understand that you need to give way to everyone else if you're in a car. If you knock someone down, you're going to be in serious trouble. The road carries large volumes of tourist traffic and lots of sight-seeing buses, so be prepared for anything. The entire route is monitored by CCTV cameras for traffic offences, illegal overtaking, reckless driving, alcohol consumption, graffiti and littering and you WILL get caught if you break the law.

After 600m there is a wide optional loop to the left - which is where the original road ran - This is now a lovely picnic site and there are also ablution facilities here. After 500m the road passes a view-site (on the right) and another substantial picnic area a little further on. After this the road turns sharply to the left and curls just as quickly back out of a ravine to resume its south-westerly heading. There is another view-site on the right.

With the summit in sight, there is still the last bit of climbing to do. The last sweeping left hand curve has the road maintaining altitude through another ravine. In this corner is another good picnic spot. The road swings sharply to the right and heads in a long, straight climb towards the summit. Throughout the ascent, the pass offers ever changing perspectives of Hout Bay and surrounds.  

The final leg to the summit is 800m long. In peak times, there will be a traffic monitor along this section, who will control the flow of traffic via a stop/go system. There is a small parking area at the summit for about 10 vehicles. A solid barrier line prevents south bound traffic from accessing the view-site, but rest assured, ninety percent of drivers ignore this law and cross to the right, despite the obvious blind corner. So take note of this, if you are driving the pass in the opposite direction and expect this behaviour.


The descent towards Noordhoek is far more rugged and dramatic than the ascent and presents a visual feast of steep cliffs with big surf thundering onto jagged rocks far below the road, which is literally carved out of the mountainside. Satellite imagery shows the road to 'disappear' under the cliffs, which illustrates just how steep these cliffs are and how precariously the road has been carved into its side.

Chappies13halftunnelxFanieGousThe two half tunnels viewed from the south / Photo: Fanie Gous

The road is narrower along the descent and the corners much tighter. There is one bridge crossing a narrow ravine in its sharpest corner and many S-bends, with the last one before the half-tunnel easily being the sharpest. Here the road curls back towards the mountain. This section proved to be very troublesome to the roadbuilders over the years and major landslides obliterated the road at this point in the past. Engineers came up with a novel solution in building an open sided, cantilevered concrete tunnel. This is followed a half tunnel of approximately 150m in length, where some effort has been put into making the structure look as natural as possible. Long sections of the cliff-faces have been shotcreted in an attempt to stabilise the mountainside.

In addition, the southern section has huge metal catch nets anchored into the rock face. These have already proven their worth in preventing many big rocks from falling onto the roadway. Whilst they are unsightly, they are a necessary evil in the interests of safety.


The road descends gradually to a lower altitude, then levels off for 200m, before turning to the left for the short ascent up "Little Chappies" where one can enjoy exquisite views over Long Beach towards Slangkop light-house and the well wooded village of Noordhoek. The final 2 km into Noordhoek village is steep and curls through a very sharp right hand bend of 130 degrees, then reverts in direction into the east and 12 bends have to be negotiated before the road drops down to the equestrian village of Noordhoek which has lots of pubs and eateries and is well supported by tourists and locals alike.

Long Beach, NoordhoekLong beach looking north past Little Chappies towards The Sentinel and Hout Bay / Photo: Wikimedia

History: Chapman’s Peak is named after John Chapman, the Captain’s mate of an English ship the Consent. The peak which looms overhead was not named after a governor or brave mountaineer, but a lowly ship's pilot. In 1607 the skipper of the British ship found his vessel becalmed in what is now Hout Bay and sent his pilot, John Chapman, to row ashore in the hope of finding provisions. The pilot later recorded the bay as Chapman's Chaunce (chance) and the name stuck, becoming official on all East India charts.

In the early 1900’s Sir Nicolas Fredrick de Waal, first administrator of the Cape Province, ordered the construction of a high-level road linking Cape Town with the southern suburbs. The roadway (De Waal Drive) was extremely well received. Enthused with this success he called for another road linking Hout Bay to Noordhoek. Two possible routes were under consideration in 1910. The route over the low neck between the Chapman’s and Noordhoek Peaks was second to the more spectacular route along the vertical sea cliffs.

In 1914 preliminary surveys on the road got under way. Surveying the route was a scary business. The cliffs and ravines were steep and unstable, and at times the surveying party was on all fours as they investigated the perpendicular terrain. The route over the neck appeared to be no better; and the project appeared to be expensive and a ‘mission impossible’. De Waal however, would not take no for an answer and eventually he ordered the ‘go ahead’ for the road along the cliffs which appeared, at the time, to be the better option.

Noordhoek - a suburb on the southern end of the passCroft Valley, Noordhoek - a suburb on the southern end of the pass / Photo: Webley

The road was cleverly planned with the road surface based on the solid and conveniently located 630 million year old Cape Granite contour, while the many roadside cuttings would be carved out of the more workable Malmesbury series sediments.

In 1915, with the use of convict labour supplied by the newly formed Union Government, construction began from the Hout Bay end, and in the following year work began from Noordhoek. The first portion of the road to the lookout was opened in 1919. This spectacular roadway took seven years to complete, at a cost of ₤20 000. The Hout Bay - Noordhoek Road ‘hewn out of the stone face of sheer mountain’ was opened to traffic on Saturday 6 May 1922 by the Governor of the Union of South Africa, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught.

In 1962 a section of the road was widened, and in 1977 a portion of road was washed away. Subsequently the road was closed on 14 May, after a large section was washed away and the damaged section was replaced by a bridge at a cost of R150 000.

In 1994, Noel Graham was injured and partly paralysed in a landslide incident on Chapman’s Peak Drive, which resulted in a court case against the Cape Metropolitan Council who was the road management agent at the time of the incident. In February 1999 a High Court judgement was given against CMC for negligence in management of the road. The matter was appealed by the CMC but the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in November 2000, thus reaffirming the Cape High Court’s decision and CMC was ordered to pay all claims and costs.

East Fort Gun BatteryEast Fort Gun Battery / Phptp: Shutterbug

Amidst increasing concern for public safety and legal liability the South Peninsula Municipality (SPM) – the new road management agent appointed in 1997; established a sub-committee of officials from the local, metropolitan and provincial authorities to guide the management of Chapman’s Peak Drive, who instigated high visibility rockfall warning signs to be erected on Chapman’s Peak Drive during 1999. The sub-committee also adopted a specific Chapman’s Peak Drive closure policy which inter alia stipulated that the road had to be closed to traffic in rainy weather (very light drizzle excluded) and remain closed for a number of hours after cessation of any rainfall and until deemed safe by SPM’s road management staff. This closure policy/procedure was implemented by SPM’s road management staff with lockable booms put in place to prevent unauthorized entry.

On 29 December 1999 however, a falling rock caused the unfortunate death of a Noordhoek resident. In early January 2000, Ms Lara Callige was killed and a passenger in the same car seriously injured in a rockfall incident on Chapman’s Peak Drive in good weather conditions when the rockfall risk on the road was not considered to be high. This was of serious concern to the local and provincial authorities alike and emergency meetings to discuss closure of Chapman’s Peak Drive were held between the relevant political bodies. Before a decision could be taken on the matter and still in January 2000 the worst mountain fires in many decades raged in the Cape Peninsula including in the mountains above Chapman’s Peak Drive causing numerous rockfalls onto the road and effectively rendering the road impassable.

Looking south from the main view site Looking south along the rugged section of the pass / Photo:

As a result of these incidents Chapman’s Peak Drive was officially closed to traffic indefinitely by the Provincial Minister of Transport in January 2000.

The legal road authority for Chapman’s Peak Drive being the Provincial Administration Western Cape (PAWC) realized early on in 2000 that financial limitations would be the single biggest stumbling block to the safe re-opening of Chapman’s Peak Drive to traffic. To solve these financial problems the plan was to implement a public private partnership and proclaim the route a Toll Road under Western Cape Provincial Toll Road Act. The feasibility study concluded that the majority of the costs attached to the Chapman’s Peak Drive reopening and operation could be obtained through tolling the road and that a public private partnership with a concessionaire demonstrated value for money in terms of the risks transferred to the private sector.

After intensive design and reconstruction Chapman’s Peak Drive was re-opened to traffic as a toll road on 20 December 2003. The opening was a welcome return for the drive as an “international tourist destination” complementing other tourist destinations in the Western Cape. Local business also welcomed the re-opening.

Little ChappiesLittle Chappies with Long beach in the background / Photo: CarnivalCourt

The new rock fall measures were however put to the test and during July and August of 2004, three rainfall incidents occurred of extremely high intensity. A total of 396mm was recorded in the 2 months, compared to the mean annual precipitation for the area of 740mm! Shortly thereafter several debris slides and rock fall incidents occurred resulting in damage to the catch fences and Chapman’s Peak Drive was closed for 55 days to clear the debris and replace the 4 catch fences.

The much loved road, was back in the news when Chapman’s Peak Drive was once again declared unsafe for road users in June 2008 and the drive was closed for major upgrades and repairs. The construction work took over a year and was eventually reopened on the 9th October 2009. Chapman’s Peak Drive has remained open since then, albeit with temporary closures for routine maintenance and during dangerous weather conditions.

[History supplied courtesy of Chapmans Peak Drive and Entilini]

Enjoy this aerial footage courtesy of Aerospective which mainly features the more rugged southern section of the pass.


Try these other scenic suburban passes in and around Cape Town:

01. Kloof Nek Road
02. Tafelberg Road 
03. Kloof Road (Camps Bay)
04. Victoria Road and 12 Apostles
05. Suikerbossie
06. Chapmans Peak Drive (The page you're on)
07. Red Hill Road
08. Smitswinkel Road
09. Tyger Valley Road
10. Signal Hill Road
11. Camps Bay Drive
12. Constantia Nek
13. Rhodes Drive
14. Ou Kaapse Weg
15. Blackhill Road (M6)
16. Boyes Drive (M75)
17. Slangkop Pass (M65)
18. Misty Cliffs Road (M65)

Fact File:


S34.047341 E18.361345


S34.077660 E18.357037


S34.096581 E18.372854














9,8 km




30 minutes


30 - 60 kph


Tar (M6)






Hout Bay (1 km)

Route Map:

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Route files:

||Click to download: Chapmans Peak Drive (Note this is .kmz file which can be read in Google Earth and most GPS software systems)