Nieu-Bethesda is only a short and scenic 30km 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.
-Complied by Idil Sheard
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.
Inquire here to climb Compassberg.
Inquire here to walk the Compassberg Camino.
DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH
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 073 028 2445.
IMPORTANT VISITOR INFORMATION
Come prepared! Please note that the village does not have banks or ATMs and that some establishments and vendors only accept cash. It is best to fill up at the nearest gas station (Graaff-Reinet, Middelburg, Cradock) because there is no garage. There are no doctors, dentists or pharmacies in Nieu-Bethesda. Medical assistance is available at Midland Hospital in Graaff-Reinet, situated 54km from the village. All restaurants don’t function at full capacity during off-peak season and it is recommended that you book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Nieu Bethesda is accessed by two roads from the N9.
The recommended road is a partially tarred road 27km north of Graaff-Reinet on the N9. This has 25km of tar and 5kms of dirt.
The other is a good gravel road 60km south of Middelburg. This is 37km of dirt road.
No Distance Is too Far
All roads lead to Nieu-Bethesda.
GPS – 31°52′01″S24°33′17″E
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ALWAYS DREAMED OF A KAROO WEDDING?