Nieu-Bethesda is only a short and scenic 23km drive from the N9! Take that turn-off and discover the Karoo’s hidden gem!

Unique Travel Experiences

Nieu-Bethesda welcomes the adventurer, the explorer, the creative, the spiritualist, the foodie, the lone-wolf, the family with pets, holidaymakers, tourists and all nature lovers to discover what she has on offer.

Hiking trails, mountain climbing, mountain biking, birding, fossils, psychic readings, medicinal plant tours, art, galleries, museums, 4 x 4 trails, working farm experiences, karoo food and a range of professional wedding suppliers are but a few things on offer in the village.


Nieu-Bethesda was established in 1878

Nieu-Bethesda was founded in 1878 when the farmers of the area negotiated with the Church in Graaff-Reinet to have a Dutch Reformed Church of their own since the nearest church in Graaff-Reinet was eight hours away. The building was completed in 1905. The village came into being on the farm Uitkyk, which was originally the farm of B.J. Pienaar. Uitkyk (or Look Out) was the name since in the early years the owners had to be on the look-out for hostile bushmen and predators. The restored Uitkyk farmhouse can still be seen on the ‘West Bank’.

In the first thirty years, Nieu-Bethesda grew and flourished. The school in Martins Street, where the sports complex is today, had over 200 children, among them James Kitching and Helen Martins. The Nieu-Bethesda Trading Company could provide the local people with nearly everything: fresh dates, cheese, even suit from London. There were a blacksmith, a garage, a leather shop and of course a resident minister for the N.G. Kerk.

In the thirties Nieu-Bethesda started to decline: the depression had an effect, travelling had become easier and children were sent to boarding schools – Volkskool and Union High or the convent in Graaff-Reinet or further away.  The decline continued while Helen Martins started creating her ‘Mecca’ in 1945 and carrying on for about 20 years.

Athol Fugard had bought property in the village in 1970. He was famous as a playwright already and when he wrote The Road to Mecca (a play based on Helen Martins) in 1985, visitors from everywhere started looking for the Owl House.  Visitors kept coming and Neil Sheard saw a need and bought the house where The Village Inn is today to start the first eating place in Nieu-Bethesda. The Village Inn opened in November 1991 and was the first and only coffee shop and restaurant to cater to the needs of tourists for about ten years. Neil’s brother in law, Egbert Gerryts, was the first host and manager and became well known as the friend of many patrons.

In 2005 another attraction, the James Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre (JKFEC) opened its doors.  James Kitching grew up in Nieu-Bethesda and having completed grade 10 in the local school, he became a world-renowned palaeontologist. The Centre provides well-trained guides to give visitors a glimpse of what this part of the Karoo was like 250 million years ago.

The Owl House and JKFEC form the nucleus of the Heritage Centre of Nieu-Bethesda.

-Complied by Idil Sheard

Compassberg Nieu-Bethesda


Compassberg, previously known as “Spitskop“, is the highest peak of the Sneeuberg Mountain range, standing at a majestic 2504m.  It is one of the highest peaks in the Eastern Cape second to Ben MacDhui on the border of Lesotho and the highest outside the  Drakensberg-massif. Compassberg’s shape seems to change from different angles and the most spectacular views are pointed.

The summit offers a 360 view of an endless Karoo landscape.

Farm permission is needed to access the mountain and guided walks are recommended for safety. Contact Brenda James on 082 596 6475.


With seats for up to 700 souls, this church still hopes to be completely full again one day. Still lit by gas chandeliers that pre-date the arrival of electricity in the village, the imposing white church asserts its presence over the entire valley.

The building was inaugurated in 1905, after many services being held in BJ Pienaar’s wagon house. The Wagon House (now known as the Old Church Hall) was then used as a church hall and a venue for English church services.

With a tall and elegant steeple and a clock that chimes accurately on the hour, this historic church is still open every Sunday for its congregation.

Summer Service: 09h00 am, Winter Service: 09h30 am.

*Open to the public on weekdays on request. Contact Nelda Pienaar on 072 400 3195.

Read more in Afrikaans.


We would like you to fully enjoy our local hospitality and have a memorable experience in the village of Nieu-Bethesda.

Please read our Visitor Guide to make sure you have all the necessary information.

No Distance Is too Far

All roads lead to Nieu-Bethesda.

GPS – 31°52′01″S24°33′17″E







Download the Nieu-Bethesda Village Map for quick reference.

Things to Do

Discover what activities Nieu-Bethesda has on offer.


Book accommodation in Nieu-Bethesda and surrounding farms.

Events Calendar

Plan your visit according to Nieu-Bethesda’s events.


Plan your Karoo food experience in Nieu-Bethesda.


Explore Nieu-Bethesda’s wide range of professional wedding suppliers.


Get married in Nieu-Bethesda!

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