10 South African Towns With Surprising Overseas Namesakes

European powers had a long tradition of naming colonial towns and cities after places in their home countries. There’s little surprise that there’s an original York which makes America’s one New or that there’s an older London further to the west which makes ours East. But what you may well find surprising is that many SA towns and cities have namesakes overseas and they look very different to our well-known local spots. Let’s take a little streetview tour of some of the more unusual examples:

Port Elizabeth

One of SA’s favourite seaside towns, famous for its warm water, lovely beaches and historic buildings. It’s also home to over 1 million people. Here’s a downtown shot of our Port Elizabeth:

Port Elizabeth City Centre

The USA’s little namesake is rather different, with only 455 people calling this megalopolis home, here’s “downtown” Port Elizabeth, New Jersey:

Port Elizabeth New Jersey USA


All the “Vaalies” (as KwaZulu-Natalians call them) will know this spot well, it’s long attracted throngs of matric ragers and Christmas holidaymakers from the other side of the ‘Berg.

Margate KwaZulu Natal

And then there’s its original namesake, the gorgeous, sunworshippers’ Mecca, Margate in Kent, UK:

Margate Kent United Kingdom


Our nation’s capital has a rather underwhelming namesake in deepest darkest hillbilly USA, here’s the Jacaranda City, home to just shy of 3 million people:


And here in the Deep South in America’s state of Georgia you’ll find… well, this Pretoria, home to, I’m guessing here, a few cows:

Pretoria Georgia USA


Largest city in SA’s Northwest Province, Rustenburg is home to over 100,000 people is over 150 years old. It’s in close proximity to popular weekender spots like Sun City and Hartbeespoortdam.

Rustenburg North West

Its namesake in the Netherlands is a village of 220 people, and is in close proximity to some fields and a canal.

Rustenburg Netherlands

Cape Town

Cape Town is world famous for her jaw-dropping cityscape:

Cape Town view of table mountain

Perhaps this little spot in California had some delusions of grandeur, or perhaps the owners of the original farm had visited SA and fell in love with its beauty, who knows!

Cape Town California USA


Famous for a big hole, for being the biggest town in the Northern Cape and for some serious hot and sunny weather, here’s our very own Kimberley:

Kimberley Northern Cape

Kimberley’s namesake is a small town in alpine British Columbia, famous for its many ski slopes and beautiful mountain views:

Kimberley in Canada


Okay, we really struggled to find a Streetview of our own Middelburg – the one in Mpumalanga – so we decided to go with the NG Gemeente Kerk there:

Middelburg in Mpumalanga

Middelburg’s namesake in the Netherlands is, sadly for us, a fair bit more impressive, it’s the capital of Zeeland and dates back to around the 8th century. Pictured here is 17th century Oostkerk.

Middelburg in the Netherlands


Our Worcester, named after the city in the UK which today is roughly the same size (albeit much older. But we’re not the only country with a city by this name.

Worcester Western Cape

Another famous Worcester you may have heard about on TV. It’s Worcester, Massachusetts in the USA. Just less than 1 million people live in the historical building and skyscraper endowed town city.

Worcester Massechusetts


Now this is one we thought there’d be only one of, everyone knows Durban’s surfing, sunbathing, curry brewing metropolis’ epic skyline:

Durban skyline

Interestingly a small farming district in south-central French region of Gers bares the same name, and as you’d expect, looks rather different:

Durban France


And finally… World’s largest man made forest – Johannesburg. Africa’s economic power house. Largest city not on a major body of water. Joburg, Jozi, Egoli or whatever you’d like to call it is a total icon of African bling, success and Urbanisation.

Johannesburg skyline from Nelson Mandela Bridge

And then there’s California’s version, one pony short of a one horse town, this Johannesburg looks more like something out of a wild west movie than something where 172 people actually live. Interestingly, it’s the only city in our list which definitely was named after a South African town! It’s actually a mining town in a chain of mountains known as the “Rand”, it’s nearest other town is Randsburg and the locals refer to it as “Jo-Burg.” How funny is that?

Johannesburg California

Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi there
    Quite interesting to browse thru about the town from SA and to overseas.
    What’s about EAST LONDON? I know somewhere in UK also have East London as I remembered we sent out the wedding invitations cards out by post around in SA. One post went to East London in overseas by mistake that I presumed and they sent the post back to East London in SA about in 1975.

    • They mentioned London in the intro – it’s the very obvious one so didn’t need to elaborate – and of course London being so big, like Jo’burg the areas are often referred to as South London, North London, West London and of course East London.

  2. Wow, interesting, and thank you for this important piece of our history.

  3. This was so awesome to read and see,loved it and sent to all my friends,Thanks!

  4. And Newcastle! and Nottingham Road! (all in kwazulu natal)

  5. Brilliant research Nick,just proves for the most part we sure do it bigger and better! albeit a few exceptions!thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Merle! Glad it was interesting to you. I really enjoyed writing the article 🙂

  6. Durban in France should not be a surprise as the Durban in KZN is named after Sir Benjamin D’Urban, (French) who was governor of the Cape in 1834. A small group of men landed there 10 years earlier but only proclaimed it a township in 1834 and named it after D’Urban.

  7. off the top of my head, there’s also
    Ladysmith, vancouver island, british columbia, canada.(a certain baywatch star was born there

  8. How dare you insult the Southern Region of the USA. Cows in the streets! Did you do your homework? If you want cows in the streets, you should go to the Mid-West. Maybe, Kansas or Iowa.

Have something to say...