In his painstaking manner of cutting, planning and dry-walling, and with his ubiquitous gang of Cape convicts, Thomas Bain spent four years of his life building the Prince Alfred Pass. As with most of his mountain work, Thomas Bain built a mountain road that stood the test of time.

Did you know?

With minor exceptions, Prince Alfred Pass has maintained its original form and structure

Back in the mid-1800s, the main Garden Route settlements were Knysna and Plettenberg Bay – and they needed to be connected by a good mountain road to the Langkloof and the interior towns of Uniondale and Graaff-Reinet. There was a jerry-built wagon route over the Paardekop Mountains, but it was treacherous in the extreme.

So in 1857 Andrew Geddes Bain and his son Thomas went to have a look. They mapped out a whole new route that would go through dense forests and cost more than 15 000 pounds – a fortune at that time. The authorities accepted their proposal and young Thomas took up the project.

In his painstaking manner of cutting, planning and dry-walling, and with his ubiquitous gang of Cape convicts, Thomas Bain spent four years of his life building the Prince Alfred Pass. As with most of his mountain pass work, Thomas Bain surpassed himself and built a mountain road that is safe and scenic.

While building this mountain pass, Thomas Bain and his large family lived on the farm De Vlugt, which has become a tiny village. It was named Prince Alfred Pass in honour of Queen Victoria's favourite son, who came elephant hunting in these parts in 1867.

Hikers in the area can do the 18km Elephant Walk, taking them past some of the oldest yellowwood trees in the country and others go on the classic Outeniqua Trail, which covers more than 150km of nature reserves, forests and coastal plains.

Today, up-country visitors to Plettenberg and Knysna who want the scenic route, drive the Prince Alfred Pass to get there.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Western Cape Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)21 487 8600
Email: info@wesgro.co.za

How to get here

To drive the Prince Alfred Pass, start either from Uniondale or Plettenberg Bay. The closest airport is in George.

Get around

Hire your own car or, if feeling fit, you could opt for a mountain bike.

Length of stay

Traversing the pass itself takes an hour or two. But there are other scenic options, like following the old ox wagon trails left by botanist-explorer William Burchell so you may want to make a day of it.