Tag Archives: clarence drive

Grille Shack at the Pitstop Lodge in Gordon’s Bay (2019-03-03) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 11 OCT 2019

A super popular new dining spot landed in Gordon’s Bay this year (or more accurately, about 5 km outside of Gordon’s Bay), and of course, given that this is my home stomping ground after all, a plan was made to go and experience it.

Situated along Clarence Drive, one of the finest and most scenic coastal drive roads in all of South Africa, the Grille Shack (at PitStop Lodge) looms large in front of a person, dressed from head to toe in midnight black with splashes of red for accent, anchored by swaying Blue Gums, and nestled in between dramatic cliffs and a sparkling blue sea.

With some owner/chef DNA coming from the equally sublime Hickory Shack on the other side of the mountain, the Grille Shack grabs its setting from 1950’s era pump diner scene, with a twist of “lekker” South African tossed in for good measure. Loads of car and other vintage memorabilia help set the style and tone, the car grilles on the wall enforce the pun of its name, and the seemingly never ending stream of petrol-heads, road-trippers, families, adventurers, hikers, locals, free spirits, cyclists and tourists ensure the vibe.

Pleasingly, the quality and presentation of the food matches the setting and vibe, and Grille Shack puts forward a strong menu that should be more than enough to keep people interested for a long time to come.

Unfortunately for us though, this particular visit of ours didn’t go quite as smoothly as one would have hoped from such a great setting. Kitchen staff trouble and a boom of visitors on the day meant that service broken down more than just a little, so ultimately we walked away a bit disappointed by our overall experience.

Nevertheless, as you might have picked up from the glowing tone of my write-up from the get go, I can’t really fault Grille Shack on this at all. After all, these things occasionally happen to just about everyone, even more so if they are new. Instead, all it means then is that I just need to try again come another day – though maybe once all the initially curious crowds have thinned just a little bit more! ;)

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A Morning Drive through Rooi-Els (2017-05-06) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 14 OCT 2017

Penguins and Kleinmond were on my agenda with the girls one Saturday back in May, but following the always delightful drive along Clarence Drive (with all of its 77 bends), I decided to first hang a right and slowly cruise through Rooi Els, a little seaside holiday escape that I haven’t actually properly visited since my twenties.

Rooi-Els is known for its fishing and diving opportunities, not to mention the fact that it is forever being bashed by the wind and raided by the local baboon troop.

It consists for the most part of holiday homes, meaning this small hamlet is often pretty quiet, has only a few tarred roads, and thus little in the form of commercial ventures.

Rooiels is of course a part of the vaunted Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve,  the 100,000 hectare UNESCO designated area whose landscape is home to perhaps one of the most complex biodiversity regions on our planet – featuring more than 1,880 different plant species,  77 of which occur nowhere else on earth.

This fynbos haven (sometimes referred to locally as the ‘heart of fynbos’) is also home to a wide variety of animal species like leopard, caracal, baboon, antelope and a particularly rich selection of birds.

Biosphere reserves are different from ordinary conservation areas in that these reserves have no fences to keep ‘people’ out and ‘nature’ in – instead it is the commitment of local communities, farmers, conservation agencies and local government to protect and nurture the land and its biodiversity.

(For reference, the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, which interestingly enough was South Africa’s first ever registered biosphere reserve, encompasses the entire area from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River Statuary and inland to Grabouw and the Groenland Mountain.)

Of course, being that close to this particular type of vegetation does comes with a big risk – large mountain/vegetation fires are the norm, and because of this the area (and its towns) often bear the scars associated with these all too frequent blazing infernos.

Anyway, having enjoyed our scenic little jaunt, the girls insisted that I refocus on the mission at hand – visiting the Stony Point penguins of Betty’s Bay!

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(Bonus: the Rooi Els area is super popular with local birders – here are two fantastic blog posts from Bryn De Kocks and Mike Buckham to illustrate just why that is so).

Related Link: Rooi-Els

Things to See in South Africa: Clarence Drive (2015-05-03) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 29 MAY 2015

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! :)

Related Link: Gordon’s Bay | Rooi Els | Pringle Bay | Betty’s Bay