One of the most spectacular drives in the world, Chapman’s Peak Drive should be on every local (and visitor’s) must-do list.
Who remembers the iconic Mercedes-Benz and BMW ads in the 1990s filmed on Chapman’s Peak Drive? They were epic! In a nutshell, Mercedes shot a commercial (based on a true story) of a driver plunging 100 metres over the cliff and surviving, which was followed a week later by a BMW ad showing their driver negotiating the same stretch of road – safely – with the tagline: “BMW beats the bends” (the Benz, get it?). The latter was removed immediately due to legalities of competitive advertising, but it created such a national talking point and is still remembered to this day.
Big-budget advertisements aside, Chapman’s Peak Drive has always grabbed headlines and drawn crowds for its utterly breathtaking and unique topography. Stretching from Hout Bay to Noordhoek, the road is flanked by an impenetrable wall of rock on one side and a near-vertical cliff on the other that plunges 100 metres into the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite its beauty, the road is a precarious one, with over 100 sharp bends. Legend has it that several years ago a helicopter pulled 22 car wrecks out of the water beneath the road. Viewpoints along the way offer spellbinding views of The Sentinel Peak, the vibrant fishing village of Hout Bay, its white-sand beaches and endless seascapes.
Important note Although the Cape is rich in natural beauty, tourists and locals are urged to take the necessary precautions when exploring secluded areas, as crimes and accidents do occur.
Those venturing into the Table Mountain National Park should have the following emergency numbers on hand: 086 110 6417/ 107 or 021 480 7700. Criminal incidents should be reported to the nearest police station as soon as able.
We also recommend @safetymountain as a useful resource for hikers. This free safety tracking service allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via WhatsApp. You are then able to provide hourly updates on your progress, and to notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.
Chapman’s Peak is named after John Chapman (the captain’s mate of an English ship that sailed into what is now Hout Bay in 1607), who was sent ashore to find provisions, and recorded the bay as Chapman’s Chaunce, little knowing it would one day be the location of one of the world’s most famous roads!
It truly is a marvel of engineering, having been carved out of the mountain face over the course of its seven-year construction, which was ordered by Sir Nicolas Frederick de Waal (the Cape’s first administrator) in 1922.
Since its opening, it has undergone several phases of redevelopment in order to improve efficiency and safety (rock falls and landslides have caused several incidents in the past), and in 2004 it received a civil-engineering excellence award for rock-fall protection.
It also forms part of two of the country’s biggest mass-participation events: The Cape Town Cycle Tour and The Two Oceans Marathon.
There are numerous viewpoints along the pass, including three main picnic areas, all of which make perfect pitstops for scenic selfies or a chilled snack. Each of the picnic areas is equipped with tables and seating, and offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean stretching out below.
Those looking to stretch their legs might enjoy a hike or cycle along the edge. The (relatively) short distance and effortless terrain make this a popular trail, starting at the toll booths and offering great vantages of the Fish Hoek and Hout Bay valleys, as well as Cape Point, Karbonkelberg and Klein Leeukoppie beyond.
And, if you’re looking for a refuel after your excursion, Chapman’s Peak Hotel is an established landmark at the start of the pass, open daily for laidback lunches with sweeping views of the bay, harbour and the Hout Bay Sentinel. The fried calamari is a favourite among locals and visitors, but there are loads of other fish and seafood dishes to choose from.
No matter the occasion, Chappies is one of those gifts that keep on giving.
Covid precautions Drivers and passengers should be masked when stopping at the toll gate and lookout points.
Important note Chapman’s Peak Drive may be closed during severe weather, or as a result of road maintenance. Contact the customer service line (021 791 8220) to check the current status.
Cost R47 (toll-road tariff for light motor vehicles)
Address Chapmans Peak Drive, between Noordhoek and Hout Bay, Cape Town.
Contact 021 712 0527, firstname.lastname@example.org (Table Mountain National Park)
021 791 8220, email@example.com (Chapman’s Peak Drive)
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417/ 107 or 021 480 7700
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