Gwaing River Pass (N2)

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Mouth of the Gwaing River Mouth of the Gwaing River - Photo: Deonvanr

The Gwaing River Pass follows the Maalgate River River pass for east-bound motorists on the N2 bypass south of George. It's a short pass and exhibits a typical river valley vertical profile, dropping 108m in altitude and rising back up to the coastal plateau to virtually the same altitude as the western start. It lies is close proximity to George airport.

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Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored. 

Digging into the details:

Getting there: Head east on the N2 between Mossel Bay and Knysna on the N2. The pass starts just after the off-ramp to the George airport.

The Gwaing River, similar to the Maalgate River just to the west, sources high in the Outeniqua mountains between the Outeniqua and Montagu Passes. It's a short, powerful river fed by the high rainfall and run off from the towering Outeniqua mountain range and skirts the western side of the town of George, before reaching the Indian Ocean adjacent to the fabulously sited Oubaai Golf Course in a deep cleft with a sandy estuary. The pass is obviously named after the river.

Looking over the pass from west to eastA good view of the pass virtually from end to end / Photo: WendayysUnlike the westerly preceeding Maalgate Pass, the bridge over the Gwaing River is considerably narrower and the N2 narrows appreciably as the bridge is approached. The sides and centre deviding concrete crash barrier have been painted in red and white chequered patterns to draw motorist's attention to the this dangerous narrowing. The pass has been the scene of several serious accidents since this section of the N2 was opened.

The pass starts due south of the eatern end of the airport runway at an altitude of 186m ASL and descends steadily towards the bridge at a gradient of 1:22. The bridge is reached after about 1 minute at the 1,1 km mark. Stay sharp here as the road narrows at the bridge crossing, which often catches first timers unawares.

There are only two very minor curves on this pass, but the ascent up the eastern side of the valley is much steeper than the western descent. Here the gradient ramps up to 1:10 which is about as steep as engineers allow things to get on national routes. The consequence of this gradient, is that heavy trucks slow down to a crawling pace, which can cause sudden overtaking actions by drivers in the slow lane which don't anticipate this happening.

Another serious accident at the Gwaing River bridgeSeveral serious accidents have taken place at the bridge / Photo: Ilse SchoonraadThe pass ends at 2,3 km mark at 186m ASL. If you need to visit the town of George (where you can find almost every amenity) there are at least five different off-ramps to choose from. Be aware of the permanent camera trap (set for 120 kph) on the crest of the hill at the pedestrian foot-bridge adjacent to the sprawling Thembalethu township on the right hand side of the road approximately 6 km after the end of the Gwaing River Pass.

Once you have passed the final offramp to George, the N2 underpasses the final on-ramp and swings to the right. Take extra care here as this section of the road carries very heavy traffic and the speed limit reduces rapidly from 120 to 60 kph over a short distance. George traffic department  keep a tight control on traffic here due to the high accident rate. Once you have passed the trafic circle, there is another permanent camera trap on the right hand side of the road which is almost invisible.

Soon after the circle, the speed  limit increases again to 80 kph as you approach the Kaaimans River Pass - statisically one of the most dangerous passes in South Africa. We recommend that you read up and watch our video on this pass before travelling over it for the first time. We offer loads of safety tips as well as explore several of the tourism options available.

There are a range of amazing passes in the immediate area that can be driven - amongst those are the Outeniqua Pass and the historical, gravel Montagu Pass - both passes which we highly recommend. Use the master map on this site to explore all the wonderful options available to visitors which include 4x4 routes or just lovely, scenic drives. This is the heart of the Garden route - explore it!

Fact File:


S34.010201 E22.386371


S34.008726 E22.398456


S34.009443 E22.410724














2,3 km




2 minutes


100 - 120 kph


Tar (N2)






George (5 km)

Route Map:

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From Address:

Route files:

||Click to download: Gwaing River Pass   (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software systems)

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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

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