Michell's Pass (frequently misspelt as Mitchell's Pass) was named after Charles Michell who planned the original route through the Skurweberg & Witzenberg Mountains from Tulbagh and Wolseley through to Ceres. He was a talented military engineer, who perhaps gained more fame for his exploits by eloping with the 15 year old daughter of a French colonel. This might explain why he was "transferred" to the Cape of Good Hope! Michell went on to become the Surveyor-General for the Colony and designed and built several prominent Cape passes and bridges and was a major influence in road construction in the Cape, together with the popular Colonial Secretary, John Montagu, had the vision to plan a network of roads through the Cape Colony that would pave the way to a successful growth in the region's economy.
The Middelberg Pass is a real classic offering exquisite views and rugged, mountainous terrain on a mix of gravel and tar with hairpin pins and some very steep drop-offs. It traverses the Middelberg mountain range between the Koue Bokkeveld and Citrusdal. It is suitable for all vehicles and together with the Buffelshoek pass which precedes it from the south and the Elandskloof Pass which follows it in the north, this trio of passes is virtually one long pass.
On the flatter plateau areas there are farms peppered with citrus orchards and rooibos plantations, with blue dams with crystal clear, high quality water. The pass has a stiff average gradient of 1:14 with some sections (which are tarred) as steep as 1:5. This is a fairly modern pass having been constructed some 50 years ago.
Be aware that the maintenance of this road is not great, which means the gravel sections can be rough, rutted and corrugated. We recommend tyre deflation for improved traction with the added benefit of providing a softer ride. Take the pressures down to at least 20% of normal.
This attractive 5 km stretch of coastal road is located on the western side of the Cape Peninsula and connects Kommetjie and Noordhoek with the tiny settlements of Misty Cliffs and Scarborough in the south. It is has plenty of twists and turns, but a small variance in altitude, making it an enjoyable road for cyclists. The views to the west are wonderful of the Atlantic surf thundering onto the rocks close to the road and at the northern end the distinctive shape of the Slangkop Lighthouse with its crescent shaped white beach seals off the northern views.
This beautiful coastal drive contains 18 bends, corners and curves but none of them are of a serious or dangerous nature, providing speed limits are adhered to. The road surface is getting old and a bit bumpy from various repair works and the road is also fairly narrow over most of its length. Overtaking is awkward and dangerous due to the many corners. Sit back, relax and take in the stunnng scenery. Expect slow, tourist paced traffic.
Beaufort West and its environs sport several interesting passes. Just 10 km north of the Karoo town is the 15 km long Molteno Pass - a mix of tar and gravel that ascends or descends 647 vertical metres to summit on the high plateau at 1574m. The pass connects Beaufort West with Loxton some 110km to the north.
This is a scenic drive offering a variety of landscapes to gaze on, plus it gives access to a bush camp, the Gamka Dam and the Bontebok Pass. The road follows the eastern boundary of the Karoo National Park for most of its length. It is on route R381 and it's administrative number is P0058.
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 17,1 kms of magnificently scenic narrow, gravel road driving, ascending from the tiny hamlet of Herold, on the northern side of the Outeniqua Mountains up and over the summit and then all the way down to the outskirts of George.
The road compresses 126 bends corners and curves into its length and gradients reach a maximum of 1:6. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather, but please drive slowly and due to many sections being only single width (especially on the southern side) it might be necessary to reverse back to a wider point to allow passing oncoming traffic.
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 John Montagu, who was the colonial secretary of the Cape at the time.
Moodies Pass is not known by many and taken for granted by those who use it on a daily basis. It is situated on the gravel road designated as the R322, and connects the Moravian settlement of Suurbraak to the West with Heidelberg to the East. It primarily serves the farming community and those adventure and nature lovers wanting to access the Boosmansbos Wilderness area and Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. The pass is on the short side at 3,34 km but it rises a substantial 185m vertical meters over that distance to produce an average gradient of 1:18 with the steeper sections being at 1:6.
If you didn't know this was an official pass, you would drive right over it and be none the wiser. Technically, it doesn't fit the description of a pass or a poort, but the government has decided it is a pass, so it's a pass! We have a number of these little minor passes on our database and we faithfully record each and every one for the sake of having a complete and accurate record of every listed pass.
It's short at 3,4 km and climbs only 38m producing an average gradient of 1:89 and never gets steeper than 1:16. What this little pass lacks in impact, it makes up for in the beautifully tranquil Karoo surroundings. A small flock of sheep; a creaking windmill; a solitary kestrel floating on the still air; a donkey cart carrying its occupants to the next farm. The Karoo has a magic all of its own.
This road is also the southern gateway to the wonderful Anysberg Nature Reserve.
This lovely unofficial gravel pass runs on the east/west axis over the coastal plateau connecting the Kleinvlei farming area in the east (north of Groot Brak Rivier) with the Hamelkop farms in the west, which lie north of Klein Brak Rivier. The pass is 4,2 km long and has some very steep gradients at 1:5
This short, steep tarred pass on the N2 sweeps down a long hill as a bypass to the bustling seaside town of Mossel Bay, providing perfect views of the bay via a sharp left hand bend of 90 degrees as the direction switches into the north and drops down to the outlying suburb of Hartenbos. The pass is fairly dangerous for heavy duty vehicles in that the descent is long, steep and momentum gaining. Any issues with braking systems and lack of driver skills will come to the fore on this pass.
This is a minor little poort of 1,5 km tucked into an east-west running ridge called Rooirant just off the R381 between Beaufort West and Loxton in the Great Karoo. It's quite a mission finding it, involving complex navigation through a number of farm roads. The poort only has a 10m altitude variance, so don't expect exciting driving through this one, as the average gradient is a very gentle 1:150 and the steepest section is at 1:16.
However, it's often the complete sense of solitude that brings the greatest rewards on these far flung farm roads and perhaps the opportunity of spotting some rare bird or animal not normally seen on the busier roads, that bring the greatest rewards.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.