Spotlight on Nieu Bethesda

The small town of Nieu- Bethesda lies at the foot of the Sneeuberge in the Eastern Cape. With a population of just over 1000 residents, the quaint town attracts many curious visitors every year.

Originally established as a congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church on the Uitkyk farm in 1875, the area became a municipality around 1886. It now falls within the Dr Beyers Naudé Local Municipality.

The town’s name has biblical origins and means “place of flowing water” and it is 270km from Port Elizabeth.

It’s not only the great food, the dirt roads or lack of street lights that attract visitors to the area; it’s also The Owl House: a museum dedicated to the eccentric artist, Helen Martins. The Owl House is situated in the heart of Nieu-Bethesda, a mere 50km from Graaff-Reinet, off the N9 in the Eastern Cape.

At first glance, The Owl House looks like any other Karoo house. When you look deeper, though, you see that the stoep of the house contains many cement owls.
The beautiful house entices visitors with the words “This is my world” written on the high fence.

Visitors get to step into the world of the artist and get glimpses of her creativity. For close to 40 years, the former teacher worked to bring light and life into her home and garden.

She created cement statues of owls, camels, churches, sphinxes, people and a wide range of religious artefacts.

It was only after her death that Helen received worldwide recognition for her art which can be found inside the house as well as in the garden, known as the Camel Yard, with almost 500 statues.

Nieu-Bethesda is also known for the nearby Compassberg, the highest point in the Eastern Cape. The town is also the focal point in the Athol Fugard play, Road to Mecca.

“A sun depicted on the window shimmers in the afternoon sun as another reminder of the secrets that the house holds,” says resident Elbe van Heerden.


The median asking prices for a typical property is R1.3m. There are no complexes or flats in the village, and the average property is a three-bedroomed house.

For a typical property in this area you’ll pay R10,982 per month on a R1,1m property, over a period of 20 years at 10,5% prime.


  • The Karoo Lamb: for delicious home-cooked meals
  • Ibis Lounge: for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • The Brewery and Two Goats Deli: for local beers and farm cheeses


  • The Owl House Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre
  • First People Centre at The Bethesda Art Centre
  • Nieu-Bethesda Water Furrows


  • Explore nature on the Compassberg Hiking trail
  • Take part in Ganora day excursions
  • Visit the Ware on Earth Ceramic Gallery

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