South Africa has several scenic driving routes, of which Clarence Drive near Cape Town is just one! In this article, we explore where the Clarens Drive is, how long it is and why you should do the Clarens Drive near Cape Town. We also consider towns and attractions nearby.
Where is the Clarens Drive?
Clarens Drive is a beautiful coastal drive between Rooi-Els to Gordon’s Bay in the False Bay region. Gordon’s Bay is near Cape Town, only about 60 km away.
The entire route follows the coast from Rooi-Els to Gordon’s Bay. The route is between the enormous Hottentots-Holland mountain range on one side and the ocean on the other side. I love mountains and the ocean, so this route gives me the best of both!
You can make a day trip out of doing the Clarens Drive as there are some small towns and activities you can explore while doing Clarens Drive. Here is a map with the route Clarens Drive follows and the nearby towns and attractions.
How long is the Clarens Drive?
Clarence Drive is just 21 km long, making it easy to stop to take photos of the pretty scenery along the way and to explore the other towns and attractions in the area. You need a car to drive Clarens Route, hire one here!
The road is in excellent condition, making it perfect for driving by car, bike and bicycle. There are over 77 curves, corners and bends, four exceeding 150 degrees. It is best to drive the route slowly to allow you to take in the scenery along the way. There are only a few sections that allow you to overtake a slower vehicle.
Why should you do the Clarens Drive near Cape Town?
Clarens Drive is a scenic route, similar to Chapman’s Peak drive in Cape Town. However, driving Clarens Drive is free, whereas Chapman’s Peak has a toll fees. Chapman’s Peak drive is also closed in bad weather, whereas Clarens Drive is always open.
While driving, you’ll feel insignificant against the extensive and rugged mountain range. There are specific parking spots where you can stop to take pictures of the stunning vistas.
With luck, you may spot whales from the route in winter and dolphins at other times of the year. There are also baboons roaming the mountains; sometimes, they come close to the road.
What is the best time to do the Clarens Drive?
Although Clarens Drive is always open, you may want to do Clarens drive during the week to avoid the weekend visitors, especially if you want to take your time and drive the route slowly. Early in the day is also better than later in the day and may be the perfect time if you want the road to yourself to drive as slow as you want.
History of Clarens Drive
Clarens Drive is named after Jack Clarence. He and two other men, Harold Porter and Arthur Youldon, bought the land in this area but eventually sold it for holiday homes. This led to the establishment of the towns of Rooi Els, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay. Betty’s Bay’s name came from Arthur Youldon’s daughter.
Towns along the Clarens Drive near Cape Town
Here are the two towns from where the Clarens Drive’s route starts and ends:
You may drive the Clarens Route from Gordon’s Bay to Rooi Els or the other way around. We usually prefer visiting Stony Point and then doing the Clarens Drive from Rooi Els to end in Gordon’s Bay, where we may have a bit to eat before exploring the area further.
Rooi Els is the smallest town along Clarens Drive. It is a pretty little town with a beautiful beach. Here, you can see a landmark called “Beach House”, a large, steel-framed box with a hull-shaped roof. If you like to dive, you can see the Coral Gardens, a rocky reef in the ocean near Rooi Els. You can explore the Rooi-Els Cave, where they discovered Stone Age relics.
Gordon’s Bay is only 60 km from Cape Town. It is an excellent location to explore the Overberg region. Some activities in or near Gordon’s Bay include:
- Picnic at the Sparks Bay Day Camp: this is one part of Kogel Beach. You can have a picnic here or fish. There are picnic tables and toilets. The shoreline at the Day Camp is filled with stones, and you can hear the waves in the background. You have beautiful views across False Bay from here. The best time to visit is during the week, as the Day Camp is popular over weekends. Take a dip in the Sparks Bay Tidal Pool. Sparks Bay is a resort near Gordon’s Bay, where you can find the Sparks Bay Tidal pool. This is a good spot for a barbecue and whale-watching.
- Visit the Crystal Pools beyond the Sunbird/Pitstop Lodge.
- Visit the Dappat se Gat. Here you can find a beautiful sandy beach from where you can watch the surfers. Don’t swim here! There is a dangerous rip tide here. You may spot dolphins or whales from here.
If you are interested in spending a night or two in Gordon’s Bay, here are some accommodation options:
- Budget option: Blue Rock Accommodation
- Mid-range: Le Bay Lodge
- Luxury: Gordon’s Shore Luxury Apartments
Other towns and attractions near Clarens Drive in the Western Cape
Here are some of Clarens Drive’s attractions and sights:
Pringle Bay is a small town at the mouth of the Buffels River. The land was originally going to be used as a port to ship produce from False Bay to Simon’s Town, but they eventually abandoned these plans. Pringle Bay has a small community of artists, retirees and restaurant owners who live here permanently. Most of the houses are near the ocean or on the mountain with spectacular views.
We recommend stopping in Pringle Bay. There are several coffee shops, restaurants, gift stores and even a pottery studio, the Lynette Morris-Hale Pottery Studio, to explore. You can also visit Pringle Bay’s beach and hike to Hangklip Lighthouse from the Maasbaai slipway.
Betty’s Bay is a popular spot for weekend visitors. It has incredible beaches and sand dunes for sand boarding. Although small, the town does have a shopping mall and several activities visitors can choose from.
- Visitors can choose between Betty Bay’s beach and Silver Sands beach.
- They can hike Rod’s Trail along the base of the Kogelberg Mountains to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. This is an easy walk and popular with runners. You may spot several bird species while hiking.
- Stony Point is near Betty’s Bay. It is cheaper than Boulders Beach and not as busy, making it one of the best places to see the Jackass or African penguin n South Africa.
- Shop at the John the Potter gallery. The gallery only features the handmade works of John Ellis, which include dinnerware, raku pots and salad bowls. John uses unusual glazes for his products which make them unique and beautiful. You may even meet John while visiting the gallery. Children can keep busy with the jungle gym outside the gallery.
- Visit the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens with its fynbos. The garden features beautiful waterfalls and amber pools. It has indigenous plant life from flatlands, forests, marshes and mountains. This is a beautiful place for a picnic, and you can bring your dog with you. There is a coffee shop in the garden.
- Hike the Disa River trail in the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. This beautiful trail ends at the Disa River Waterfall. At the foot of the waterfall is a 16-metre deep pool. The crystal clear water becomes black 2 metres below the surface, giving visitors an eerie feeling. As part of the trail, you can cross the Olive May Porter Bridge, from where you can spot several bird species in a wooded area.
Kleinmond’s centre is its Harbour Road, which leads to a waterfront. Here, you can find a supermarket and medical offices. Kleinmond has a beautiful beach, Kleinmond Beach. Other activities visitors may find interesting include:
- The Kleinmond Lagoon has a beautiful beach with a lagoon fed by the Palmiet River. It is the perfect spot to swim and paddle in summer.
- The Three Sisters Walk is 16 km long and takes about 6 hours to complete. It offers beautiful ocean views while hiking through indigenous plants and scenery. The best time for this walk is from August to October to see the area flowering. Bring water to drink as there is no drinking water on the trail.
Kogelberg Nature Reserve
The coastline of Route 44 and Clarens Drive forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. The reserve protects the Cape Floral Kingdom with an area that has a higher floral density per unit than anywhere else in the world. You can enter the Kogelberg Nature Reserve near Kleinmond.
In the reserve, you can choose from many hiking trails. You can walk the Highlands Trail over two days. Only 10 people can do the route at a time and must make a booking. This is a challenging hike, crossing farmlands, beaches and fynbos. Another hike is the Palmiet River Trail, which is four hours long. The trail has stunning scenery with beautiful flowers, and you can swim in several pools.
Other activities in the reserve include mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, bird watching and swimming.
To explore the area, here are some of the accommodation options you can choose from: