History of Chapman's Peak Drive

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 12:19
History of Chapman's Peak Drive
16.13 km
Wind Direction
3.06 km/h
Updated 4/18/2021 04:57:50
Maintenance in Progress, information may not be accurate!

With Heritage Day approaching in South Africa, it is worth revisiting the interesting history of 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.

Magnificent Chappies – Chapman's Peak and it's wonderful history

Chapman’s Peak, fondly also known as Chappies, is without a doubt one of the most popular attractions in Cape Town. Chapman’s Peak, situated between Noordhoek and Hout Bay, is a 9 km route which has 114 splendid curves. Chapman’s Peak wasn’t named after a queen or a brave world-known explorer, but after John Chapman, a Captain’s mate of an English ship named the Consent. To put it bluntly, John Chapman was nothing more than a lowly ship’s pilot. What happened was in 1907 the Consent found itself deserted in the waters surrounding Hout Bay and its Captain sent John Chapman to row to shore in hope of finding supplies. Later the pilot recorded the bay as Chapman’s Chaunce (chance) and the name stuck.

After Sir Nicolas Frederick de Waal, who was first administrator of the Cape Province, ordered the construction of De Waal Drive (the high-level road linking the Southern Suburbs with Cape Town) he wanted a road linking Hout Bay and Noordhoek.  Surveys on the road started in 1914 and was, to say the least, a scary expedition. The cliffs and ravines were unstable and extremely steep, leaving the surveyors uncomfortable and somewhat scared. The Nek of the route proved to be equally daunting and it became clear that the project would be expensive, but De Waal refused to let the plans for the route be dismissed and eventually plans for the road to be built along the cliffs continued.
All in all, Chapman’s Peak took seven years to complete at a cost of ₤20 000. On 6 May 1922 the road connecting Hout Bay and Noordhoek was opened by the Governor of the Union of South Africa, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught.

Problems however, started in 1977 when a portion of the road washed away and the road had to be closed for maintenance. After maintenance was completed and the road opened again difficulties continued in the 1990’s and in 2000 the road was closed indefinitely.
Chapman’s Peak stayed closed for three years, during which time many changes were made to the road. 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. The new Chapman’s Peak opened with a toll gate on the Hout Bay side and became an official tourist attraction for international and national visitors to Cape Town. 

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 & Incident management system, including weather monitoring , CCTV cameras and variable message signs. 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.

Chappies will always amaze and enthrall us, leaving us staring in absolute awe at the wonder which is this magnificent piece of nature – today, the road closes at the first sign of being unsafe; a necessary precaution. Driving through Chapman’s Peak is not the only way of enjoying this wonderful road however; you can experience it by bicycle, motorbike or on foot. If you are really lucky you could travel on Harley, a Vintage WWII sidecar or a classic cobra.

Find out about our frequent user rewards programme, with a monthly lucky draw for any registered frequent users - awesome prizes up for grabs.

Registration as a frequent user is free and is active immediately to start the progressive monthly discount.

Chapman’s Peak Drive Toll Plaza Office Hours:

The Toll Plaza is open Monday - Friday from 08h00 - 17h00 for registration as a Frequent User.
Address: Toll Plaza, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Hout Bay, Cape Town
Plaza Tel: 021 791 8220

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About Chapman's Peak Drive

  • Chapman’s Peak Drive toll road winds its way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Atlantic Coast on the south-western tip of South Africa. Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world.

    Chapman’s Peak Drive is affectionately known as #Chappies.