Opening of the Drake Passage gateway between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans has been linked in various ways to Cenozoic climate changes. From the oceanic floor of Drake Passage, the largest of the remaining uncertainties in understanding this opening is in the timing and process of the opening of the central Scotia Sea. All but one of the available constraints on the age of the central Scotia Sea is diagnostic of, or consistent with, a Mesozoic age. Comparison of tectonic and magnetic features on the seafloor with plate kinematic models shows that it is likely to have accreted to a mid-ocean ridge between the South American and Antarctic plates following their separation in Jurassic times. Subsequent regional shallowing may be related to subduction-related processes that preceded backarc extension in the East Scotia Sea. The presence of a fragment of Jurassic–Cretaceous ocean floor in the gateway implies that deep water connections through the Scotia Sea basin complex may have been possible since Eocene times when the continental tips of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula first passed each other.