Things to do in Cape Town – Chapman’s Peak drive

Chapman's Peak drive as seen from Houtbay Harbour
If you like spectacular views, and who doesn’t, then you absolutely have to drive over Chapman’s Peak. This is one of the most beautiful scenic coastal roads in the world. It starts from Houtbay’s beach almost at sea level and run up along the high cliffs towards Noordhoek beach.

Picnic or all the way?

It is a toll road which you pay if you pass with a vehicle. Creating this road and keeping it safe is quite a feature, and this costs money, so it’s only fair that we pay for its use. It has literally been excavated in the rocks. You have two options: you pay to go all the way through (one way) or you can get a so called Day Pass for free. With the day pass you can go to the picnic areas and return to Houtbay. For the most spectacular views you will need to go all the way, but if you are satisfied with the beautiful view on Houtbay and the Sentinel, or go for a picnic or sundowner the Day Pass is sufficient.

Photographing (on) Chapman’s Peak

There are countless points in which to take photos. There are many parking places along the road, except for the last part that runs from the gallery to Noordhoek. In this part it is impossible to stop your car, but the rest should be sufficient to come back with beautiful photos.
The best time to photograph Chapman’s Peak (or Chappie as the locals call it) is at sunset. The sun goes down over the ocean and lights up the rocks.

East Fort

Let’s go through a few viewing points that I like most. Let’s start with the East Fort. This is one of the first parking spaces you will find after having left Houtbay. This fort was built by the Dutch in the 18th century to complement the West Fort on the other side of the bay. Now merely a ruin, there is still the battery of canons below the road. From here you have a beautiful view on the Sentinel, the mountain peak on the west side of the bay.
purple flowers in the wind at chapman's peak overlooking the Sentinel
Flowers moving in the strong wind at sunset (Canon 6D with EF 16-35 mm f/4 IS USM @ 16 mm ISO 100- f/13 – 1/4 s)
Just above the road I took this photo showing the curves in the road with the light trails of car lights.
Light trails (Canon 6D with EF 24-105 mm f/4 IS USM @ 24 mm – ISO 100 – f/16 – 49 s)

Hiking trails

From the fort you can also take a hiking trail up which gives you an even wider view. The whole area is part of the Table Mountain National Park. The vegetation is the typical fynbos which is unique to the Western Cape. In the photo below you see a view over Chapman’s Peak drive during a cloudy sunset. No warm colours this time, but still beautiful in my honest opinion.
Chapman’s Peak drive on a cloudy evening

The best view points

Driving on through the tollgate and the Day Pass checkpoint, we reach Chapman’s Peak. This is more or less the highest point on this drive and we have an amazing view on Houtbay and the entire bay. You will find that most people stop here and for a good reason of course.
I prefer however to drive on a little bit further still to the next parking spaces, from where you can only see part of the bay, but you can now take photos of the cliffs in the foreground with the Sentinel in the background.
Chapman's Peak watching the Sentinel near Houtbay with a pink sky
Looking north towards Houtbay you can see the Sentinel and the peak in the distance is little Lion’s Head.
The next parking space is on the Noordhoek side of the drive and this means you cannot see the drive itself anymore. You do have a great view on Noordhoek beach though. This enormous and largely empty beach stretches all the way to Kommetjie. I didn’t find a compelling composition from here yet, so you have to go and see it for yourself.
Chapman’s Peak is always beautiful, so this we think this must be on your list of places to visit during your stay in Cape Town. Enjoy the view!
Of course this can be part of your Cape Town photo tour. This tour can be fully customized.

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