Without a doubt one of the most beautiful stretches of road in South Africa is Clarence Drive (also known as the R44), a 22 km long scenic coastal drive between the windswept hamlet of Rooi Els and the naval town of Gordons Bay, which nestles in the north-eastern crook of False Bay in the shadow of the Hottentots Hollands mountains.
Clarence Drive was named after Jack Clarence who was responsible for replacing the footpath between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els with a proper road in order to service the radar stations at Stony Point (Betty’s Bay) and at Hangklip. It was built with the help of Italian POWs during WW2 and stretches all the way from Gordons’s Bay into Kleinmond and the heart of the Kogelberg Biosphere.
(From Cape Town’s side, the route takes you through Gordon’s Bay, Rooi Els, Pringle Bay, Hangklip, Betty’s Bay and finally Kleinmond)
There are 2 stone cairns erected on the side of the road at different points. One is in honour of Jack Clarence and the other is to commemorate the modernisation and upgrading of the road in 1998. The 1998 upgrade has created a well finished, safe road dotted with loads of viewpoints to stop to enjoy the marvelous views over the dramatic scenery of towering mountains meeting the rugged coastline.
The whole coast belongs to the Kogelberg Biosphere reserve, a part of the Cape Floral Kingdom which is the most species dense of all the world’s Plant Kingdoms. With about one thousand six hundred plant species found in barely ten square miles, the area that Clarence Drive passes through contains a floral diversity per unit area that is one of the highest on the planet.
The area is also home to a vast array of wildlife including Cape Leopards, African Weasels, African Wild Cats, Caracals (African Lynxes), Small and Large-Spotted Genets, Cape Foxes, Aardwolfs, Baboons, Cape Clawless Otters, Water Mongooses, Small and Large Grey Mongooses, Striped Polecats, Honey Badgers, Porcupines, Rock Hyraxes, Red Rock Rabbits, Cape and Scrub Hares, Klipspringers, Cape Grysboks, Common Duikers, Grey Rhebucks, and even Bushbucks.
The drive is also the beginning of ‘The Whale Coast’, which is generally regarded as one of the best places in the world to view whales from shore.
Of course, Clarence Drive does hold a particularly special place in my heart as well.
After all, this is the exact spot where I stopped, got down on one knee and asked Chantelle to marry me – in the process making the 6th of December 2008 one of the best days of my life! :)