Bethelsdorp, Port Elizabeth

Just outside Port Elizabeth lies the little historical village of Bethelsdorp. Bethelsdorp is one of the first mission stations in the Eastern Cape and founded by the London missionaries Van der Kemp and Read in 1802. They built the original almshouses that still stand today, behind the Van Der Kemp Memorial Church, after convincing the the colonial government to establish a setllement for indigenous people here to educate and provide religious and social instruction.

There are quite a few buildings in the village that are protected by the National Monuments Act, including the Van Der Kemp memorial church, thought to be the first congregational church in southern Africa. Infront of the church is the market square, where the original mission bell still rests. Whilst just behind the church is Livingstone Cottage - legend has it that David Livingstone (of 'Dr Livingstone, I presume' fame) stayed here himself.

Despite this part of Port Elizabeth being regarded as a high crime area, there are reasons to visit the village, not least of which are the photo moments the almshouses provide. Bethelsdorp Common lies between the town and the suburb of Bridgemeade, a grassy area of fynbos and steep rocky gorges that provide a wealth of bird life, and where those interested in birding come to walk along a trail from the town through the common.

There is also the Van der Kemp's Kloof hiking trail that starts at the village, a circular trail that follows the Little Zwartkops River. Van der Kemp's Kloof has a picnic site and the walk is well worth doing.

Travellers' Reviews

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Bethelsdorp was quite historical, with cute houses. There wasn't much to do there, but we enjoyed taking a slow drive through the neighbourhood.

April 2011

Simone (Indiana)

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