Clarence Drive seems like it was made for bikers who love the finer things in life. Edging along the verge of the Hottentots Holland Mountain range, this gentle mountain pass between Gordon’s Bay and Kleinmond is everything a scenic motorbike tour route should be.
History of Clarence Drive
The Gantouw Pass was originally the route of choice for those moving inland from Cape Town. These paths were carved into the mountainside by the hoofs of migrating eland on their way to summer pastures, and the bushmen soon followed.
A second route, hugging the shoreline and going around the mountains instead was favoured by those who wanted to travel incognito. This secret pathway for escaped slaves and deserting soldiers eventually became an established route, although it remained underused until the 1930s.
At this stage, 3 businessmen arrived in the area, namely Harold Porter, Arthur Youlden and Jack Clarence. They intended to develop a community in the area and purchased several farms with that purpose in mind. Yet, the absence of a road in the area presented a considerable stumbling block for these developers.
The War Changed Things
The start of WW II provided the answers. The military decided to install 2 radar stations in the area, using Italian prisoners of war to do the construction. Clarence decided to employ the services of some of these POW’s. Hundreds of these skilled and motivated artisans set to work building the road and radar facilities, making short work of this massive task.
In 1998, several viewing sites were added to Clarence Drive, adding to the scenic attraction of this stretch of road. You can still see both the upper and lower radar buildings along the way.
Things to See Along the Way
The first thing you’ll notice when you head out on Clarence Drive are the steep, jagged formations of the mountains alongside. Here, all the gentle curves are reserved for the road which meanders this way and that, including 77 corners and bends in the 21km stretch.
Take your time exploring, there’s little room or reason to overtake and plenty of opportunity to rumble along lapping up the scenic ocean and mountain vistas. You may catch sight of whales at play during the season and you’ll want to stop at one of the quaint roadside villages for refreshment along the way.
These villages include Betty’s Bay with its colony of jackass penguins at Stony Point, pretty little Rooi Els and Pringle Bay which has become an artists’ enclave. In the area, you can also visit the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, the wild horses at Kleinmond and the natural bounty of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.
Explore Cape Town on Two Wheels