Cape Town’s most rewarding Toll Road, for a life-is-good-feeling
‘You gotta do Chappies’ is a common thing people will tell you when you’re here to discover the Cape. ‘Chappies’ is local speak for Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of Cape Town‘s most famous landmarks. Nine kilometres and 114 curves of breathtaking scenery brings you from Noordhoek to Hout Bay, or the other way around. Some say it is one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world.
Welcome to paradise. Here you‘ve got it all. The Atlantic Ocean on the one side, mountains on the other side – to be exact, it’s the southerly extension of the Constantia Berg (593m high). When you’re in paradise, you surely have to take a look around. Stop your car and get your camera ready for a sweeping 180° view. Burn this postcard picture in your mind. No matter how many times you’ve seen Chapman’s Peak Drive in movies and adverts, it’s something that you simply have to experience first hand. It’s one of those moments in life where you just feel that ‘life is good’?
It’s worth setting aside at least half a day or even make a full day trip of Chapman’s Peak Drive. About 25km south of the Cape Town CBD, this scenic drive is a relaxing getaway from the Cape Town buzz. It’s ‘one of the most worth it tourist attractions’ and ‘definitely a must-do’ on any Cape Town itinerary, people say. Take a picnic basket and stop at one of the picnic spots or view points to enjoy nature at its best. During late winter and early spring, you even have the chance to spot Southern Right Whales.
South Africa’s most innovative road engineering project
The Chapman’s Peak Drive has an interesting history. It was the brainchild of Sir Frederic de Waal, the first administrator of the Cape Province (De Waal Drive in Cape Town was named after him). Work on the route began in 1915 and the formal opening took place in 1922. Unfortunately, rock falls caused the closure of this splendid national treasure in January 2000. Public pressure requested the reopening, with this came a feat of astounding engineering vision. A consortium of companies were awarded a concession to restore this mountain pass to its former glory and to put in place several safety measures that would limit further fatalities from occuring. The reopening of Chapman’s Peak Drive is the culmination of one of the most innovative road engineering projects (upgrading and reconstruction) ever to be undertaken in South Africa. Chapman’s Peak Drive was re-opened as a Toll Road in December 2003.
Today there’s still a slight confusion about who owns Chappies. While some seem to believe that it is in private hands, the provincial government is still the true owner of the road – it is part of the Table Mountain National Park. Entilini, a private company, has an agreement with the government in order to manage Chapman’s Peak Drive for operation and maintenance purposes. Entilini has a complete integrated traffic management system, including weather monitoring , CCTV cameras, variable message signs and a traffic management unit. Any adverse or high risk weather situations calls for immediate road closure. Rock fall mitigating measures involve catch fences and a canopy structure while a natural cut half tunnel keeps visitors safe from potential rock falls.
What to do? It’s all about the view…
Next to the drive and being astounded at the natural beauty and spectacular vistas, there are also a few fun things to do along the way. There are three major picnic areas and 45 picnic areas with small tables situated on the Hout Bay side. From the main and highest view point you can see Hout Bay harbour. There are also several hiking trails through the Silvermine Nature Reserve and the Cape Peninsula National park where you can discover the area by foot. This is also a cool base jumping spot (call Abseil Africa) and photography heaven, whether you’re into macro shots of the fynbos or landscape shots. Chappies was and is a popular photography and film location, with the winding roads making it an especially popular setting for top brand car commercials.
Hout Bay and Noordhoek are sweet little country villages on either side of Chappies. These make for artistically interesting meanderings where you can visit many local shops and restaurants. The Hout Bay harbour is one of South Africa’s most active fishing harbours and offers many fish n chips shops and places to have a quick beer. Or have a look at the yachts from the pier, go sailing; water sports are also offered.
Whatever you end up doing along the route, Chapman’s Peak Drive is all about the view… enjoy.
by Antonia Heil
Good to know…
Please stick to the rules, they are there for good reason: the maximum speed limit is 40km/h and don’t stop on the yellow lines as the narrow roads can be dangerous otherwise. Busses are only allowed to go through Chapman’s Peak Drive from Hout Bay to Noordhoek.
Every year, two major events take place: the Pick’n’Pay Cycle Tour in March and the Two Oceans Marathon in April.
To use Chappies without paying the toll fee, enter from Hout Bay, obtain a Day Pass Voucher and have a picnic within the first 3km, but you have to come back via the same route.