- CLARENCE DRIVE to KLEINMOND Clarence
Coastal Scenic Route
Distance - 50 km
Clarence Drive, Kogel Bay surf-spot, Baboons, Rooi Els, Pringle Bay, Hangklip sandboarding, Betty's Bay, Stony Point penguins, Harold Porter Gardens, Kogelberg Biosphere, Palmiet River, Kleinmond.
The R44 route begins at Gordon's Bay, the NE corner of False Bay with the high Hottentots Holland mountains towering above and winds for 50 km along a fantastic road at the edge of the sea all the way to Kleinmond. Soon after leaving Gordon's Bay harbour, you will notice a steep service road descending from the top of the mountain where the Steenbras Dam lies. This is not a public road, but merely interesting in that as you round the corner, you will cross a bridge over the Steenbras River. The water comes from the dam above.
About 13 km from Gordon's Bay you will reach Kogel Bay. The name is thought to have originated from the shape of the large round stones on the beach, reminiscent of the shape of cannonballs (kogels). The bay opens up into a lovely beach, protected from the prevailing South Easter wind and very popular with surfers. During the Christmas holidays, the camping site and tidal pool are most popular with fishermen and their families. Fishermen can be seen casting into the sea straight off the rocks all along this coast. Beware of freak waves though, this coast is notoriously dangerous, so never fish on your own! The highest peak in the mountain range above, is the Kogelberg at 1269 m and this area is the natural home to the rare Marsh Rose protea.
The road continues south along the edge of False Bay, slowly gaining some height above sea level. Sometimes you can notice cloud pouring down from the top of the mountain range indicating that a strong South Easterly wind is blowing in the summer months. In the winter time, the wind blows predominantly from the North West and often the sea is whipped up with 'white horses' and spin drift. The views across False Bay to Cape Point and the Cape Peninsula, all the way to Table Mountain are breathtaking. All along the road there are a number of lay-byes and viewpoints where you can stretch your legs, take photographs, watch seals, dolphins and whales (June – Nov), or picnic, but remember no fires are allowed and please don't feed the baboons. They are wild animals.
about 23 km, you round the corner to approach the sea-side village of
The road crosses over the Rooi Els river, which snakes its way across a wide beach to the sea. Sometimes very early in the morning, you can see otters frolicking in the waves! For more information about the natural environment, stop at the small visitors’ centre next to the central shop in Rooi Els. This area is rich in Khoi history and there is still evidence of their existence. Runaway slaves are reported to taking refuge in the mountain caves. Rock anglers crowd the famous ledges in the summer months when 'geelbek' fish (Cape Salmon) are running.
Leaving Rooi Els, the R44 rises steeply away from the sea and turns inland for 5km before reaching the turnoff to Pringle Bay, which nestles under Hangklip on the most South Easterly point of False Bay. Pringle Bay was named after Rear Admiral Thomas Pringle, Commander-in-Chief of Simons town naval base during 1796-1798. The village, at the mouth of the Buffels River, was originally meant to be developed as a port so that farm produce could be transported across False Bay to Simons town. This never actually materialised, so it is now a very tranquil holiday spot with one of the best sunsets in False Bay.
To reach Betty's Bay, you are faced with a choice to take the 10 km gravel road around Hangklip or stay on the main R44 for 3 km on the inland route. Note: the 10 km gravel coastal road is often closed due to sand dune movement making it impassable. The gravel road around the coast takes you past the Hangklip Hotel, once used in the Second World War by women of the armed services as their quarters while they manned a radar station to keep a constant lookout for enemy craft.) and the Hangklip lighthouse, built in 1960 to aid sailors round the Cape. They often mistook Hangklip for Cape Point and therefore it was frequently referred to as 'Carbo False'. If you feel adventurous, you can walk along the beach at Mast Bay and observe the old Khoi fish traps just visible at low tide as man-made low-boulder walls.
As you near the outskirts of Betty's Bay, you can take one more break to watch the intrepid sand-boarders launch off the very high white sand dunes on the eastern side of Hangklip above Silversands Bay.
Bay and Stony Point
the old road through the Betty's Bay holiday houses in order to visit Stony Point
to see the penguin colony before leaving Betty's Bay. A broad board
walk suitable for push chairs and wheel chairs, leads you over the
rocks to the nesting site at the point. Penguins usually make their
nests under rocks and occasionally you might even be lucky enough to
see a mongoose stealing an egg! The African jackass penguin only
nests at two mainland sites, Stony Point in Betty's Bay and Boulders
Beach in Simon’s Town. They are very amusing and photogenic, so
don't forget your camera. The little harbour and slipway is popular
with small fishing boats especially during the crayfishing season in
the summer months. It was first built for the small Whaling Station,
in use from 1912 to 1930. The main Betty's Bay beach is very
beautiful and only accessible by walking over a sand dune from the
car park. There are dangerous currents, but surfers and body
boarders just love these waves. Swimming is safest on the western
end of the beach. It is also the end that the Black Oystercatchers
prefer to nest, so put your towels down carefully and dogs must be
kept on a lead!
Harold Porter Gardens
A visit to Betty's Bay is not complete without stopping at the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. There is a curio kiosk and restaurant as well as a small nursery with indigenous plants and a myriad of paths for push-chairs, wheel-chairs, children and hikers. The gardens are perfectly laid out to illustrate the diversity and natural settings of the different types of fynbos from wetland to strandveld (beach bush). In winter the waterfalls splash down into dark pools, in mid-summer you can see the spectacular red disa orchid clinging to the edges of the steep rock at the side of the waterfall.
Betty's Bay, the R44 reaches the Palmiet Bridge after 7 km. Just
before you reach it you will notice two enormous rock structures
forming silhouettes on the skyline of the mountain to your left,
called the Elephant and Rhino rocks. The entrance to the Kogelberg
Biosphere Reserve is on the left on the Betty's Bay side of the
bridge. It is sign-posted clearly and the Oudebos offices are a
little way inland on a gravel road. You can obtain permits any day
of the week to hike or cycle in this spectacular reserve.
The Palmiet River has been a popular swimming and picnic spot for over a century. The river is dark brown in colour and is home to the indigenous Palmiet reed (Prionium serratum) which in the past prevented the scouring and destabilization of river valleys in times of flood, but now are more frequently seen as individual plants perched high and dry above the water line. There is a campsite is at the mouth of the river, sheltered under an ancient milkwood forest.
5 km on from the bridge, you will arrive in the centre of Kleinmond, named after the 'small mouth' of the Bot River estuary. Watched over by Sandown and Three Sisters peaks, there is a lovely walk along the edge of the sea extending from the harbour (built in 1853), to the Bot River estuary mouth. The views across Walker Bay to Hermanus and Gansbaai are spectacular on a clear day. Sunsets looking west towards Hangklip are breathtaking.