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Passes & Poorts: Gateway to the Garden Route

Drive George’s famous four Passes – Outeniqua, Montagu, Cradock and Railway.
What makes this route special

This is one of the few places in the country where you can see very old and new passes side by side in a nature reserve.

Cradock Pass is the oldest and is now a one-day hike marked with white-painted beacons visible from the modern Outeniqua Pass on the opposite mountainside.

Scenes from the George Passes

From left: Keur River Bridge on Montagu Pass is a national monument, as is the pass itself. Photo by David Bristow: North Station was where honeymooners from George stayed on their first night after crossing the mountains. This is all that’s left of it. Photographer: Marion Whitehead: Proteas such as this Nearifolia grow in abundance along the passes. Photographer: David Bristow.

Montagu Pass is the oldest unaltered pass still in use in South Africa and is a scenic trip back in time – you can almost hear the oxwagon drivers cracking their whips to warn oncoming traffic of their position on the winding pass. Near the top, the road runs parallel to the Railway Pass for a short while and it’s always a thrill if you’re lucky enough to encounter a train on the route.

Hops growing around George

Hops are a major crop in Waboomskraal Valley on the northern end of Outeniqua Pass. Photographer: Marion Whitehead

Driving down the curves of the Outeniqua Pass, you have vistas right across the coastal plateau as far as Mossel Bay. These views are equalled only by those seen while hiking in the mountains or by sightseers on the Outeniqua Power Van, which travels up the Railway Pass through the Outeniqua Nature Reserve.

The passes form the northernmost section of the Outeniqua Country Hop, a tourist route that stretches from the sea at Herold’s Bay and over the mountains to the village of Herold at the top of Montagu Pass. It combines arts, crafts and farm produce with whale watching and golf galore.

Recommended route

 

George Passes

As you leave George, drive up the historic Montagu Pass to the village of Herold and turn left onto the N9/R62. This road joins the N12 from Oudtshoorn to George over the modern Outeniqua Pass. Driving in this direction, the best picnic spots and view sites will be on the left-hand side of the road.

Highlights
Montagu Pass

Montagu Pass winds up the slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains, steadily gaining height. Photographer: Marion Whitehead

Best picnic spot: The third view point from the top of Outeniqua Pass is the smallest but offers the best views of all the old passes and the coastal plateau.

Best hike & views: Cradock Pass

Best 4×4 route: Duiwelskop Pass from Louvain Guest Farm

Best ride: Outeniqua Power Van, from the Outeniqua Railway Museum in George up the Railway Pass to Herold. Tel 044-801-8239 cell 082-490-5627 email opv@mweb.co.za web

Best farm stalls: In Waboomskraal, you can choose between pizza and artisan breads on the eastern side of the road, or roosterkoek on the western. Both stock local wines, fresh fruit in season and home-made jams and chutneys. In Blanco, you can pick your own strawberries in season at Red Berry Farm, or just load up from the fridge at the farm stall and tea garden. Tel 044-870-7123.

Best country kitchen: Leila’s Arms outside Blanco has a small menu using fresh, mostly home-grown or local produce. Tel 044-870-0292.

Best wine tasting: Herold Wines in the valley of Herold. Tel 072-833-8223.

Best factory shop: Der Leder-händler in George offers hand-made leather shoes, boots, bags, belts and more. Tel 044-878-1860.

Best cycle race: Rock Pedal Classic over two days, up Montagu Pass into the Little Karoo and back down again. Tel 082-774-3474.

Extract from Passes & Poorts: Getaway’s top 30 scenic mountain routes in the Western Cape by Marion Whitehead.

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More info on the town of George More info on the Garden Route area



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