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The Western Cape

This fairly long, but easy gravel pass is located south of the Breede River in the Scherpenheuwel area and provides an unusual connection between the riverside road, which is interrupted by a nose in the mountain, making the continuation of the road alongside the river impractical. It offers an alternative routing to the R60 as it follows the southern side of the Breede River. The pass heads inland towards a mountain called Scheepershoogte, after which the pass takes its name. The pass is also sometimes known as the Gannaberg Pass. The scenery is lovely at any time of year, but it's best in spring time.

Schoemanspoort forms part of the R328 and connects Oudtshoorn with the Cango Caves. It also doubles as the feeder route to the village of Prince Albert via the fabulous Swartberg Pass. This is the lesser of the three major poorts through this mountainous region. The others are Meiringpoort and the Seweweekspoort. The pass was first in use in 1855.

This poort has a bigger altitude variance than most poorts at 220m but due to the long length of just under 20 km the average gradient is an easy 1:88 and never gets steeper than 1:17. This is one of the most underrated scenic roads in South Africa and lives constantly in the shadows of it's more glamorous local attractions - namely the Cango Caves and the Swartberg Pass. The poort offers magnificent Cape Fold Mountain geology as it twists and turns along the banks of the Grobbelaarsrivier.

 

This lovely gravel road traverses the mountain ridge immediately to the north of Sedgefield in the heart of the Garden Route. The 7,55 km long drive offers a wide variety of scenery including lakes, estuaries, indigenous forests and mountains, plus a birds eye view of Sedgefield itself. The careful observer might spot one of the resident fish eagles soaring the ridges.  It is possible to drive the route in a normal car, but some of the sections on the western side can get quite sandy during the summer months. The road becomes fairly busy over weekends, when the paragliding fraternity head for the summit area to launch their colourful paragliders.

This substantial gravel pass can be found in the foothills of the Langeberg about 15 km north west of Heidelberg in the Western Cape. It provides exceptional views and interesting driving on a gravel road that can get very tricky when wet. In addition frequent flooding of the low level bridge at the Seekoeigat farm can be problematic after rain. The 11,3 km long pass has an altitude variance of 387m with some very stiff gradients of up to 1:5. Most of these occur on the first southern ascent. This pass also has the unusual feature of having a major and minor summit within its length.

The Seweweeks Poort is probably the most beautiful 18 km stretch of gravel road anywhere in South Africa. With easy gradients, multiple river crossings, mind-boggling geology, camping and self catering accommodation all packed into an almost perfect micro-climate, this road is an absolute joy to drive or ride, as it twists and turns through every angle of the compass, as it follows the contorted bends of the river and falls entirely under the control of Cape Nature Conservation and more specifically the Swartberg and Towerkop Nature Reserves. It is also a certified Unesco World Heritage Site.

This poort is one of our Top 20 all time favourite roads. Add it to your bucket list!

Shaw's Mountain Pass is named after Shaw's Mountain over which it traverses on the R320 route between Caledon in the north and Hermanus in the south. The 6 km long pass descends 185m from a maximum altitude of 282m ASL providing sweeping views of the farming valleys to the south. It contains 15 bends, corners and curves of which only one exceeds 90 degrees.

The pass offers attractive scenery over one of the most beautiful valleys of the Overberg, where proteas, fynbos and wildflowers abound. The pass was completely realigned and rebuilt during 2017 and is perfectly safe for all vehicle types. Note that a lower than normal speed limit of 80 kph applies.

 

Signal Hill road is an out and back scenic drive/pass that starts at Kloof Nek and climbs very steeply under the eastern flank of Lions Head, to level off along the spine of the ridge. It runs due north providing superb views of the city bowl and further towards False Bay. As the road curls around Lions Rump (Signal Hill) you will experience rapidly changing views of first, the main harbour, then the V&A Waterfront, Green Point with the Cape Town Stadium as its focal point, then Sea Point. Nelson Mandela's incarceration on Robben Island brings back memories of another era in our history. It lies only 3 nautical miles out into the blue waters of Table Bay.

 

The Silver River Pass, is one of the Garden Route's 'Seven Passes', and covers 2,7 km of narrow, twisting tar-road driving through dense indigenous forests, descending to and from the Silver River starting where the Kaaimansgat Pass ends and finding its end at picturesque Wilderness Heights. The road is a national monument, and was built around 1882 by Adam de Smidt, who was Thomas Bain's Brother in law. The pass is the second of the official passes when travelling from west to east.

Many people consider the Kaaimansgat and Silver River Passes to be one continious pass as they run seamlessly from the one into the other. It has similar vital statistics to the Kaaimansgat Pass in that it is almost the identical length and displays an altitude variance of 86m. The difference comes in the number of bends on the Silver River Pass. It has 30 bends, corners and curves compressed within it's fairly short length, which equates to an average of one corner every 90m!

Sir Lowry's Pass was named after Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, Governor of the Cape in 1828. Today's modern, cantilevered four-lane highway is a far cry from the original pass, which was recklessly dangerous and steep. Prior to the pass being built, all wagon traffic from the Overberg routed through the Franschoek Pass - the preferred route for many years with its kinder gradients for wagons and oxen. 

This scenic tarred pass connects the lovely riverside town of Bonnievale with the R60 a few kilometres to the east of Ashton. Its a fairly short pass at 3 km and gains 94m in altitude, producing an average gradient of 1:32. There are five relatively easy curves and bends along the pass as it meanders up towards the neck and summit called Skilpadshoogte, which translates into Tortoise Heights. The steepest section is the final 600m on the southern side of the summit where the gradient ramps up to a stiff 1:7

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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