Bethulie was founded by the London Missionary Society in 1829. After numerous name changes, namely Caledon, Verhuellpolis and Heidelberg, the town was finally named Bethulie, which is derived from the name Bethulia, meaning "Chosen by God", in April 1872.
Bethulie was originally established as a service and trading centre for the large scale commercial sheep and cattle ranches that were the predominant industry at the time. With the development of the Bethulie and Gariep Dams the region has opened up into other commercial farming ventures, including prominent South African Horse Stud Farms.
North of the town is the Bethulie Dam boasting Holiday Resorts on its shores and a nature reserve which is home to indigenous antelope and both Spotted and American Mountain Deer. Enjoy the sun sets on the shores of the dam or, for the more adventurous, take a game drive yourself or use a tour operator in the area.
South of Bethulie is the Gariep Dam and Nature Reserve which, at over 11000 hectares is the largest in the Free State.