Rhodes Drive M63 (Cape Town)

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Lovely views from Rhodes Drive Lovely views from Rhodes Drive - Photo: Photo - Gerhard Marx

Rhodes Drive is a 7 km mountain drive along the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain range and connects Constantia Nek in the south with the suburb of Newlands. This is one of the most scenic wooded drives on the Cape Peninsula and traverses some of the plush suburbs of the Southern Peninsula. It is also the only access road to the world famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. From dense indigenous forests, to towering old pine trees, majestic mountains, hiking trails, picnic spots and world class botanical gardens - it's all there along the wonderful Rhodes Drive.  

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Digging into the details:

The road is named after Cecil John Rhodes. Love him or hate him, he was a man of means who had a huge impact on Southern Africa. There is an entire estate on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in the shadow of Devils Peak, which Rhodes bequeathed to the citizens of Cape Town. He was a flambouyant man, with a legendary appetite for investments. Rhodes Memorial is well worth a visit and is located just 2 kilometers north of the Newlands end of Rhodes Drive.

Cecil John RhodesAn excellent sketch of Cecil John Roads depicting his conquering approach to Africa from Cape to Cairo / Photo: WikipediaThe road starts at Constantia Nek at the traffic circle at an altitude of 223m ASL and heads off towards the east into the dense forests above Constantia. This section of the road is enchanting. So dense is the vegetation (due to much higher rainfall than the western side) that the road is almost inside a tunnel of trees and foliage. It goes into a triple S-curve with some very tight corners. There is absolutely no overtaking allowed along this section and with good reason, as oncoming traffic appears very abruptly, so tight are the corners. Cyclists need to take extra precautions because of the dense vegetation, the sound of approaching traffic is masked. There are also no safety shoulders. Best is to drive nice and slowly. Numerous concealed driveways lead off on both sides of the road to discreetly tucked away private propertiies.

Once out of the esses, the road curves to the left (north). Here there is an intersection with Southern Cross Drive, which heads down into Constantia. Rhodes Drive then has a one kilometer arrow-straight descent with the towering forests to your left and the plush suburbia of Constantia on your right. There is a second turn-off to the right just before the end of the straight section, which goes to Monterey Road.  At the bottom of the straight section, the road curves sharply towards the north west and goes into another double S-bend, then curls through a sharp left hander at the third intersection. To your left is the public parking area giving access to the Cecilia State Forest, whilst the tarred road to your right is Hohenort Avenue.

The next section between Cecilia and Kirstenbosch South Gate reveals lovely views through the trees down steep sided slopes with streams and waterfalls in every ravine, as the road twists and turns through another double S-bend before straightening out briefly to arrive at the kirstenbosch South Gate on the left. Here the road turns through a 90 degree right hand turn and heads south-east again for 1 km of arrow-straight descent.

Rhodes Drive at Constantia nekRhodes drive starts at Constantia Nek circle and carries the M63 tag / Photo: Danie van der MerweKirstenbosch National Botanical Garden lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful garden in Africa and one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to promote, conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa, and was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country's indigenous flora.

Halfway down this descent, there is an intersection. Rhodes Drive is to your left via a 180 degree very sharp hairpin. Thereafter the road descends more gently towards the main entrance gates of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. There is insufficient space here to pay justice to the beauty and beautiful setting of Kirstenbosch. Click on the hyperlink for official information. More than just a garden, Kirstenbosch is part of a nature reserve. The 36 hectare garden is part of a 528 hectare estate that contains protected mountainside supporting natural forest and fynbos along with a variety of animals and birds. The Kirstenbosch Estate borders the Table Mountain National Park, and the Garden merges seamlessly with the natural fynbos and forest of the mountain.

Kirstenbosch Botanical GardensKirstenbosch Botanical Gardens - a must see when in Cape Town / Photo: Allen XieCecilia Forest is a beautiful part of Constantia in which to walk. There are a number of routes to choose from, the most popular of which begins at the Cecilia Forest car park where Rhodes and Hohenhort Drives meet.

This walk is circular and although most of it is flat and easy, you do need to be aware of where the path leads. If you reach a fork where one road heads back and down to the left, whilst the other continues round to the right, you know you've erred. But a lot of people walk this particular Cecilia Forest walk, so follow the odd group and you should easily manage.

A different route is to head to Cecilia Forest's waterfall. This walk is achieved both via the above-mentioned car park, or from Kirstenbosch. The latter heads up past the dam above the gardens and onto the ridge where, once on the contour path you follow signs to Rooikatkloof and subsequently to Cecilia Ravine.

The waterfall is down in the forest area and quite a contrast to the rather dry and hot parts through which you walk to reach it. A stop here is well worth it, the water icy and the coolness of the forest beautiful. 

Take a good walk in Cecilia ForestCecelia Forest offers a haven for walkers / Photo: Wikimedia

Just after the Kirstenbosch main gate, you will see a small, old, stone church on the right. This is a recommended stop even if its just a few minutes to explore this lovely old church and its history with its picture-perfect setting. This is the Church of the Good Sheperd - Protea. Most people in Cape Town, as well as visitors from around the world, will have seen the little stone church across the road from the main gate of Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden; perhaps a few will even have ventured inside. The Church of the Good Shepherd-Protea, blessed with beautiful surroundings, stands on the grounds of a former farm called Protea.

Back then theProtea farm, originally called Bosch Heuvel, was originally granted to Jan van Riebeeck, and stretched from the Liesbeeck River to Wynberg Hill. Although he built a house on it, he never lived there as the house burnt down soon after its completion. Later the farm was bought by Honoratus Maynier, who renamed it Protea.

Stone church nr KirstenboschThe lovely stone church close to Kirstenbosch / Photo: Stephan Van VuurenWhen the slaves were released in 1834, they were allowed to establish a settlement on the farm as long as they continued to work for the landlord, and so Protea Village was established. The farm was then bought by Sir Lowry Cole, the British Governor of the Cape, and in 1848, when Bishop Robert Gray arrived in the Cape, he rented the farm.

In 1851, Miss Burdett-Coutts, a great Victorian philanthropist, purchased the farm for the Bishop for the princely sum of £4000, and renamed it Bishopscourt. Bishop Gray established a school, held prayer services and exercised pastoral care for the 83 villagers.

In due course, the villagers asked the Bishop if they could build a church on the farm and so The Good Shepherd (so named by the Bishop Gray in 1865) was built by the villagers, and opened by Bishop Gray in 1864.

Rhodes Drive continues descending gently into the green suburb of Newlands, where it goes back into the final set of S-bends, before terminating at the M3 Union Avenue.

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
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 (The page you're on)
14. Ou Kaapse Weg
15. Blackhill Road (M6)
16. Boyes Drive (M75)
17. Slangkop Pass (M65)
18. Misty Cliffs Road (M65)

Fact File:


S34.011819 E18.405365


S34.007517 E18.411961


S33.976946 E18.448457














7,06 km




25 minutes


60 kph


Tar (M63)






Cape Town (5km)

Route Map:

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