Nieu-Bethesda is quite definitely (in my experience) the quirkiest, funky remote little town in the mountains you'll come across in the Eastern Cape! Just 1 hour via gravel roads from Graaff-Reinet you find yourself deep in the mountains upon this little town. Nieu-Bethesda is known for the Owl House which was created by Helen Martins whom transformed her house into a piece of artwork in 1945. She hired a helper, Koos Malgas and together they constructed glass & cement structures along with decorating her entire house with shards of glass including the walls and roof. This is all on display and run by the Owl House foundation so it can be viewed by the public (temporarily closed due to covid-19). However there are so many other exciting things in this town from fossils in the river bed, to yummy pizza, underground cellars and water tank tower houses. This trip we opted for a Barn Experience where we felt like a resident of the town.
You have an entire piece of private land with the Barn, an outdoor fire pit as well as a shelter for your car for those cold nights. The Barn sleeps 2 guests in a loft bedroom as the barn is double-volume which stays nice and cosy due to the warm air rising to the bedroom from the indoor fireplace. There is a fully equipped self-catering kitchen as you enter. With a large lounge area looking onto huge windows, the entire barn is fulled with funky windows allowing so much natural light in. Its also a good spot to watch the mountains turning red at sunset.
This little town has so much to offer. The local Sneeuberg Brewery across the river offers home-made cheese, other deli goods, their unique beer and even home roasted coffee. Taking a walk on the Main Street is entertaining itself, with the old street signs, funky buildings and stream that flows throughout the town providing water. You might find yourself at the Ibis Lounge which you should definitely book a night at for a true Karoo dining experience. The owners locally source all the ingredients and rewrite a menu every week depending on what nature has provided! Truly incredible and tasty food in its healthiest form. Brunos @ the Bethesda is the spot for pizza lovers! With indoor dining where the pizzas are made or out on the patio. Pizzas are thin and crispy topped with fresh garden herbs. They even have an underground cellar that is much bigger than I could have imagined! Be sure to fill up your car with fuel and do grocery shopping in Graaf-Reinet as there is only a small supply shop with the basics in Nieu-Bethesda itself.
This little town is full of character from the arts and crafts, the old buildings and even the people living there, everyone has an interesting story as to how they got there. The Barn experience is a great place to stay and feel like a local resident yourself. Have a look at the tour down below as well as some surrounding local businesses.