Nieu Bethesda
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 31 52.015 E 024 33.196 | pop. 1,000 | elevation 1,324 m/4,344 ft

Nieu Bethesda was established as an isolated mission station in 1875. Today the small town remains peacefully quiet and in the middle of nowhere. The first paved road into town was constructed in 2010, but the town itself still holds proud to its lack of development - dirt roads with no streetlights, no filling station and no ATMs (so make sure to fill up your car and pocket before heading into town.) Many visitors pop into town to check out the eclectic Owl House - the former home of eccentric outsider and artist Helen Martins, which is filled with cement and glass sculptures, but the town is growing in popularity as a tranquil place to escape the rush of life.

Owl House

Owl House is the former home of eccentric outsider and artist Helen Martins, who dedicated her life to transforming the space around her into a whimsical, colorful array of sculpture and stained glass. Her inspiration bordered on obsession, and what started as a quest to bring color to her surroundings soon poured beyond the confines of her home. The eerie garden is filled with hundreds of cement molded human figures, owls and camels, all embellished with glass bottles that were commissioned by Miss Helen and largely created by local sculptor Koos Malgas. Though Helen was considered an outcast in her own community, her home has been transformed into one of Nieu Bethesda's most popular attractions.


Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre

Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre is a small educational display about the prehistoric animals that inhabited the Karoo basin some 250 million years ago during the Permian period, over 50 million years before the first dinosaurs roamed the earth. Life-sized models of these mammal ancestors, therapsids, give you an idea of what these creatures looked like, and placards explain world evolution, mass extinctions and the fossil heritage of the Eastern Cape. After you peruse the museum you will be treated to a fossil drilling demonstration, where presenters use dental drills to slowly chip away at the soft sedimentary rock that encases the fossils found in the surrounding Nieu Bethesda area.


Ganora Fossils

Ganora Fossils is home to the second largest private fossil collection in South Africa. The fossils are primarily of mammal-like reptiles that roamed the area between 180-230 million years ago. All of the fossils were found by the family on the surface of the farm property. In addition to the fossil collection, the family also cares for a gang of meerkats that are no longer wanted as pets.


There are many small art galleries in town and most caf├ęs and restaurants sell crafts and locally made goods. Keep an eye out for the many products that go towards community development projects.


Bethesda Arts Centre

Bethesda Arts Centre is a registered nonprofit community project that sells wall hangings, cloth bags and prints - all made onsite by local and resident artists. Visitors can tour the gallery and meet or watch the artists at work. The center has a number of talented artists who have works displayed in the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. Funds from the tapestry sales go toward poverty relief within the Nieu Bethesda community.


Bethesda Tower

Bethesda Tower is a small castle with four rooms. The focal point of the building is the dreamy castle tower. Snag the top room, which has a round bed to fit inside the cozy space and skylights to avoid any medieval gloom. All rooms are outfitted with quilts made by locals working in the Bethesda Arts Centre next door. Guests have access to a kitchen and a shaded dining table as well as a meditation room with stained glass windows.


Nieu Zebra

Nieu Zebra is where the cast of Moulin Rouge might stay if they came to Nieu Bethesda. Funky antiques and furniture with heart-shaped cutouts fill spacious, pink and red accented rooms. Eight people can fit into this self-catering funhouse, but there are only two bedrooms.


Owl House Backpackers

Owl House Backpackers is located just down the street from the pub and has a couple of four-bed dorms as well as a few private rooms. Behind the main backpackers in the backyard there is a private room located on the second level of a converted water tower. There is plenty of space in the backyard to kick back and relax as well as a braai area.


Albergo Alfresco

Albergo Alfresco is Nieu Bethesda's best and most eco-friendly accommodation in a grand old Karoo homestead. Its proprietor, Bruno, has renovated the house to be nearly self-sufficient, with a rooftop solar heating system, solar hot water and a rainwater collection system. The four lovely rooms are outfitted with handcrafted wrought iron and wood furniture with spacious bathrooms. The residence also has an organic garden, an intimate restaurant, and an impressive underground vaulted brick wine cellar.


Two Goats Brewery & Cheese

Two Goats Brewery & Cheese sells an excellent selection of local cheeses, sausage and homemade breads as well as three different tasty homebrews - the bitter Karoo Ale, the sweet Honey Ale and the smoky dark Roasted Ale.


The Barn

The Barn is a fascinating restaurant run by a retired Swiss chef who grows fresh ingredients in the organic garden surrounding the restaurant. The incredibly hospitable and entertaining Bruno has been in Nieu Bethesda for about 20 years. He designed his house and restaurant to be eco-friendly with a solar heating system, solar hot water and a rain water collection system. Bruno opens his doors on an ad-hoc basis so call ahead to see if he's cooking.


Karoo Lamb Restaurant

Karoo Lamb Restaurant recently moved into its current building on New Street. The restaurant is a gathering place for locals and visitors where a delicious Karoo meal is prepared every evening by owners Ian and Katrin. Quite often dinner is a tender slow-Karoo lamb, but it is always sure to please.


Nina's

Nina's is a quaint, light-filled little eatery located in the old post office that serves tasty light lunches, snacks and a hearty Karoo lamb platter. The restaurant also doubles as a small craft and specialty food shop where you can pick up freshly baked bread and homemade jams and chutneys.


The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot is run on the front porch of a local family who serve delicious pancakes and homemade quiche. Their drinks selection includes fresh pressed grape juice, ginger beer, iced tea and rainwater.


Tower Restaurant

Tower Restaurant is located inside of the community run Bethesda Arts Center and serves up breakfast, light meals and some tasty curries as well as a few vegetarian options. If you still have room after your meal, try the delectable "death by chocolate."


Two Goats Brewery & Cheese

Two Goats Brewery & Cheese sells an excellent selection of local cheeses, sausage and homemade breads as well as three different tasty homebrews - the bitter Karoo Ale, the sweet Honey Ale and the smoky dark Roasted Ale.


Die Waenhuis Pub & Grub

Die Waenhuis Pub & Grub is the only pub in town and has the full lineup of the tasty Two Goats Brewery pints.