This was the first road between George and Oudtshoorn. The Montagu Pass was opened in 1848, having taken 3 years to build by some 250 convicts at a cost of 36,000 Pounds Sterling. It lays claim to being the oldest, unaltered pass still in use in South Africa and covers 17,3 kms of magnificently scenic narrow, gravel road driving, ascending to the tiny hamlet of Herold, on the northern side of the Outeniqua Mountains. The pass was built to replace the highly dangerous and extremely difficult Cradock Pass, which still exists today, but as a tough hiking trail. The pass was named after Sir John Montagu, who was the colonial secretary of the Cape at the time.
The mysteriously named Phantom Pass is the final pass on the Garden Route's string of "Seven Passes" between George and Knysna. The 7,4 km of narrow, gravel road descends to the famously picturesque Knysna River Lagoon, and finds its end-point at the N2. The other six passes are listed at the bottom of this page for easy reference and access.
Lying 6th in the string of 'Seven Passes' between George and Knysna, the narrow, gravel Homtini Pass covers 5km of wonderfully scenic driving, descending to the river from which it takes its name, and ends at the Rheenendal Timber Mill. The name is apparently of Khoi origin and means either "mountain honey" or "difficult passage". This pass is also known as the Goukamma River Pass.
Karatara Pass is found on the 'Seven Passes Road' immediately after the forestry village of the same name. Like all gravel road passes in rainy regions, the usual cautionary of 'slippery when wet' applies. This road is usually corrugated, which can cause loss of traction and control, particularly on corners with non 4x4 vehicles. This was one of the easier of the seven passes in terms of construction and technical difficulties.
The Thomas Bain-built "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna features the Hoogekraal Pass, covering 2,98 kms of breathtakingly beautiful views along its narrow gravel road. It descends to and from the Hoogekraal River, and ends just before the Geelhoutsvlei Timber Mill - another Garden Route location, rooted in the history of the Knysna woodcutters. This pass ends west of the forestry village of Karatara.
The Silver River Pass, is one of the Garden Route's 'Seven Passes', and covers 2,68 km of narrow, tar-road driving, descending to and from the Silver River starting where the Kaaimansgat Pass ends and finding its end at picturesque Wilderness Heights. (Circa 1882.)
The historic "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna includes 'Kaaimansgat' - a twisting, turning tarred road, close to the town of George, which passes down through heavy, lushly indigenous forest to this area's famous 'black water' rivers. The road is old, narrow and the tarring is in sub-standard condition, but the beautiful indigenous forests through which it passes more than makes for this minor inconvenience. The pass has an old bridge (a national monument) worth stopping at. The pass ends at the start if the Silver River Pass. It was built in the 1800's by Thomas Bain's brother in law - Adam De Smidt.
The Kaaiman's River Pass boasts several records. Although a fairly short pass in terms of distance, the curves are extremely sharp and the gradient is steep. The pass connects George in the west with Wilderness in the east and traverses magnificent scenery with steep mountainsides, where the amber coloured waters of the Kaaimans River are crossed via the first curved bridge built in South Africa in 1952. The pass provides perfect views of the famous rail bridge at the mouth of the estuary and plays host to Dolphin Point - a perennial favourite with tourists offering 270 degree views including one of the best panoramas of Widerness beach. When commissioned in 1952 it ended a 70 year period where the Old Cape Road (including the 7 Passes) became much less used.
"White's Road" meanders gently up Wilderness Heights - a quiet, country road where Welsh ponies on the local stud farm add to the almost English charm. This lovely drive is also popular with cyclists and walkers.
The Grootrivier Poort on the R332, was one of the last passes to be built by South Africa's most famous road engineer, Thomas Bain. This masterpiece opened up the seemingly impassable 200km mountain wilderness of the Baviaanskloof between Willowmore and Patensie. (Note: The poort was filmed 'in reverse' i.e. from west to east.) If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip.
Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
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