Seaside resort

A seaside resort is a resort town or resort hotel, located on the coast. Sometimes it is also an officially accredited title, that is only awarded to a town when the requirements are met (like the title Seebad in Germany).

Where a beach is the primary focus for tourists, it may be called a beach resort.


The coast has always been a recreational environment, although until the mid-nineteenth century, such recreation was a luxury only for the wealthy. Even in Roman times, the town of Baiae, by the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy, was a resort for those who were sufficiently prosperous. Mersea Island, in Essex, England was a seaside holiday destination for wealthy Romans living in Colchester.[1]

Heiligendamm in Mecklenburg (Germany), established in 1793, is the oldest seaside resort in continental Europe.

The development of the beach as a popular leisure resort from the mid-19th century was the first manifestation of what is now the global tourist industry. The first seaside resorts were opened in the 18th century for the aristocracy, who began to frequent the seaside as well as the then fashionable spa towns, for recreation and health.[2] One of the earliest such seaside resorts was Scarborough in Yorkshire during the 1720s; it had been a popular spa town since a stream of acidic water was discovered running from one of the cliffs to the south of the town in the 17th century.[2] The first rolling bathing machines were introduced by 1735.

In 1793, Heiligendamm in Mecklenburg, Germany was founded as the first seaside resort of the European continent, which successfully attracted Europe's aristocracy to the Baltic Sea.[3]

Brighton, The Front and the Chain Pier Seen in the Distance, early 19th century

The opening of the resort in Brighton and its reception of royal patronage from King George IV extended the seaside as a resort for health and pleasure to the much larger London market, and the beach became a centre for upper-class pleasure and frivolity. This trend was praised and artistically elevated by the new romantic ideal of the picturesque landscape; Jane Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon is an example of that. Later, Queen Victoria's long-standing patronage of the Isle of Wight and Ramsgate in Kent ensured that a seaside residence was considered as a highly fashionable possession for those wealthy enough to afford more than one home.

Seaside resorts for the working class

The Blackpool Promenade c. 1898

The extension of this form of leisure to the middle and working class began with the development of the railways in the 1840s, which offered cheap and affordable fares to fast growing resort towns. In particular, the completion of a branch line to the small seaside town Blackpool from Poulton led to a sustained economic and demographic boom. A sudden influx of visitors arriving by rail provided the motivation for entrepreneurs to build accommodation and create new attractions, leading to more visitors and a rapid cycle of growth throughout the 1850s and 1860s.[4]

The growth was intensified by the practice among the Lancashire cotton mill owners of closing the factories for a week every year to service and repair machinery. These became known as wakes weeks. Each town's mills would close for a different week, allowing Blackpool to manage a steady and reliable stream of visitors over a prolonged period in the summer. A prominent feature of the resort was the promenade and the pleasure piers, where an eclectic variety of performances vied for the people's attention. In 1863, the North Pier in Blackpool was completed, rapidly becoming a centre of attraction for elite visitors. Central Pier was completed in 1868, with a theatre and a large open-air dance floor.[5]

Many popular beach resorts were equipped with bathing machines because even the all-covering beachwear of the period was considered immodest.

By the end of the century the English coastline had over 100 large resort towns, some with populations exceeding 50,000.[6]

Expansion around the world

Seaside facade at Monte Carlo, 1870s

The development of the seaside resort abroad was stimulated by the well developed English love of the beach. The French Riviera alongside the Mediterranean had already become a popular destination for the British upper class by the end of the 18th century. In 1864, the first railway to Nice was completed, making the Riviera accessible to visitors from all over Europe. By 1874, residents of foreign enclaves in Nice, most of whom were British, numbered 25,000. The coastline became renowned for attracting the royalty of Europe, including Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.[7]

The strandkorb became a symbol of seaside tourism by the end of the 19th century, especially at the southern Baltic Sea coast.

Continental European attitudes towards gambling and nudity tended to be more lax than in Britain, and British and French entrepreneurs were quick to exploit the possibilities. In 1863, the Prince of Monaco, Charles III and François Blanc, a French businessman, arranged for steamships and carriages to take visitors from Nice to Monaco, where large luxury hotels, gardens and casinos were built. The place was renamed Monte Carlo.

Commercial seabathing also spread to the United States and parts of the British Empire such as Australia, where surfing became popular in the early 20th century. By the 1970s cheap and affordable air travel was the catalyst for the growth of a truly global tourism market which benefited areas with a sunny climate, such as the mediterranean coasts of Spain, Italy and southern France.

Recreational fishing and leisure boat pursuits have recently become very lucrative, and traditional fishing villages are often well positioned to take advantage of this. For example, Destin, on the coast of Florida, has evolved from an artisanal fishing village into a seaside resort dedicated to tourism with a large fishing fleet of recreational charter boats.[8] The tourist appeal of fishing villages has become so big that the Korean government is purpose-building 48 fishing villages for their tourist drawing power.[9]

Seaside resorts around the world


Popular seaside resorts on the Flemish coast of West-Vlaanderen exist at the famous Knokke, Ostend and also De Panne and coastal towns along the North Sea served by the coastal tramway Kustram run by De Lijn.

Ostend beach and the promenade pier, panoramic view


There are many seaside resorts on the jagged coastline of Croatia, including several on its islands, which have been popular for many years. Examples include:






Map of the French coastline showing various resort areas

With three long coastlines, France has many seaside resorts on its various coasts; for specific towns in each region, see the following articles:


A beach in Batumi


Steep coast at Darss West Beach, near Ahrenshoop
Kurhaus of Binz on Rugia island, one of the most famous German seaside spas, which showcases the typical resort architecture of the Pomeranian coast
Aerial view of the Sassnitz seaside resort and the nearby Jasmund National Park chalk cliffs, Rugia island
Seals sunbathing at a beach of the German North Sea island Norderney

Germany is famous for its traditional seaside resorts on the Baltic Sea and the North Sea coasts, mainly established in the 19th century. In German they are called Seebad ("Sea Spa") or Seeheilbad, sometimes with Ostsee- or Nordsee- as prefixes for the respective coastline.

The most prestigious resorts can be found along the Baltic coastline, including the islands of Rugia and Usedom. They often feature a unique architectural style called resort architecture. The coast of Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania alone has an overall length of 2000 km[10] and is nicknamed German Riviera.[11] Heiligendamm in Mecklenburg, established in 1793, is the oldest seaside resort in Germany and continental Europe.[12]

Most important coastal areas with seaside resorts in Germany:

Selection of German seaside resorts along the Baltic Sea coastline:

At the North Sea coastline:


The seafront in Bray, County Wicklow
Kilkee Strand on the west coast of Ireland

The 'Irish Riviera' on the South Coast of Ireland features the seaside resorts of Youghal, Ardmore, Dungarvan, Cóbh and Ballycotton, all set close to the south coast of Ireland. Youghal has been a favoured holiday destination for over 100 years, situated on the banks of the River Blackwater as it reaches the sea. Youghal is well known for its beaches, having been, until 2008, the only town in the Republic of Ireland with two beaches awarded E.U. Blue Flag status. Dungarvan is a seaside market town beneath the mountains in the centre of the Irish south coast. Kinsale is often described as a food lover's and yachting town, with a diverse range of restaurants, as well as a large and active creative community with numerous art galleries and record and book shops.

Seaside resorts in the East of Ireland developed after the introduction of rail travel. The Dublin and Kingstown Railway introduced day-trippers from Dublin to Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) in South Dublin, and the coastal town became Ireland's first seaside resort. Other South Dublin towns and villages such as Sandycove, Dalkey and Killiney grew as seaside resorts when the rail network was expanded. Since the opening of Bray Daly Station in 1852, the County Wicklow coastal town of Bray has become the largest seaside resort on the East Coast of Ireland. The town of Greystones, five miles south of Bray, also grew as a seaside resort when the railway line was extended in 1855. Other seaside resorts include Courtown and Rosslare Strand in County Wexford.

Ulster has a number of seaside resorts, such as Portrush, situated on the north coast, with its two beaches and a world-famous golf course, Royal Portrush Golf Club.[13] Other Ulster seaside resorts are Newcastle, located on the east coast at the foot of the Mourne Mountains; Ballycastle; Portstewart; Rathmullan; Bundoran and Bangor. Bangor Marina is one of the largest in Ireland and the marina has on occasion been awarded the Blue Flag for attention to environmental issues.

The main seaside towns in the west of Ireland are in Clare; the largest are Lahinch and Kilkee. Lahinch is a popular surfing location.

Like British resorts, many seaside towns in Ireland have turned to other entertainment industries. Larger resorts such as Bray or Portrush host air shows, while most resorts host summer festivals.


Israel is a major tourist area. Tourism in Israel is one of the major sources of income, with beautiful beaches, such as those found on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Most tourists come from the United States and European countries. Other resorts include:


Positano and its sea
A beach in Taormina

Italy is known for its seaside resorts, visited both by Italian and North European tourists. Many of these resorts have a history of tourism which dates back to the 19th century.

A selection of Italian seaside resorts includes:


Many seaside resorts are located in Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu.


Many seaside resorts are located in Gyeongsang, Jeolla, Chungcheong, Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Incheon, Ulsan and Busan.

Map of Lithuanian and Russian resorts on the Curonian Spit




The following are the main resort towns in Malta:[14]


Mexican resorts are popular with many North American residents, with Mexico being the second most visited country in the Americas. Notable resorts on the mainland and Baja Gold Coast and Peninsula include:


There are many seaside resorts on the Dutch coast, chiefly in the provinces of North Holland, South Holland and Zeeland, as well as on the West Frisian Islands.

A selection includes:

New Zealand


Poland's coast on the Baltic Sea includes many traditional seaside resorts, most of which were German until 1945, including Sopot, Łeba, Świnoujście, Władysławowo, Mielno, Ustka and Kołobrzeg. The resorts have become more popular since the 1990s, following the return of democracy to Poland.[15]


Many European and world tourists visit Portuguese resorts, particularly those on the Algarve. Notable resorts include:


The Romanian Black Sea resorts stretch from the Danube Delta in the north down to the Romanian-Bulgarian boarder in the south, along 275 kilometers of coastline.

"Mangalia Port", Mangalia


A panoramic view of Yalta
The "Caucasian Riviera", Sochi, ca. 1909

South America

Notable seaside resorts in South America include Buzios, Camboriú, Florianópolis, Recife and Salvador de Bahia in Brazil; Mar del Plata in Argentina; Punta del Este and Piriapolis in Uruguay; Viña del Mar in Chile; Cartagena in Colombia; and Salinas in Ecuador.


A panoramic view of San Sebastián
Barcelona - Barceloneta beach

Spanish resorts are popular with many European and world residents. Notable resorts on the mainland and islands include:


Some examples of Ukrainian seaside resort towns are:

United Kingdom

Margate (Kent), the first seaside resort of England, established in the 1750s
Scarborough's South Bay
Long walkway supported by metal legs arising from the sand, leading to a white painted building. In the foreground are donkeys on sand.
The Grand Pier and donkey rides at Weston-super-Mare
Llandudno Pier

The United Kingdom saw the popularisation of seaside resorts, and nowhere was this more seen than in Blackpool. Blackpool catered for workers from across industrial Northern England, who packed its beaches and promenade. Other northern towns (for example Bridlington, Cleethorpes, Morecambe, Scarborough, Skegness, and Southport) shared in the success of this new concept, especially from trade during wakes weeks. The concept spread rapidly to other British coastal towns including several on the coast of North Wales, notably Rhyl, and Llandudno, the largest resort in Wales and known as "The Queen of the Welsh Resorts", from as early as 1864.[18] As the nineteenth century progressed, British working class day-trippers travelled on organized trips such as railway excursions, or by steamer, for which long piers were erected so that the ships bringing the trade could berth.

Another area notable for its seaside resorts was (and is) the Firth of Clyde, outside Glasgow. Glaswegians would take a ferry "doon the watter" from the city, down the River Clyde to the islands and peninsulas of the Firth of Clyde, such as Cowal, Bute, Arran, and Kintyre. Resorts include Rothesay, Lamlash, Whiting Bay, Dunoon, Tighnabruaich, Carrick Castle, Helensburgh, Largs, Millport and Campbeltown. In contrast to the fates of many resorts,many from the Firth of Clyde have continued to enjoy prosperity thanks to their becoming middle-class commuter towns.

Some resorts, especially those more southerly such as Bournemouth and Brighton, were built as new towns or extended by local landowners to appeal to wealthier holidaymakers. Others came about due to their proximity to large urban areas of population such as Southend-on-sea which became increasingly popular with residents of London once rail links were established to it allowing day trips from the City. The south coast has many seaside towns, the most being in Sussex.

From the last quarter of the twentieth century, the popularity of the British seaside resort has declined for the same reason that it first flourished: advancements in transport. The greater accessibility of foreign holiday destinations, through package holidays and, more recently, European low-cost airlines, affords people the freedom to holiday abroad. Despite the loyalty of returning holidaymakers, resorts such as Blackpool have struggled to compete against the favorable weather of Southern European alternatives. Now, many symbols of the traditional British resort (holiday camps, end-of-the-pier shows and saucy postcards) are regarded by some as drab and outdated; the skies are imagined to be overcast (although British summers from the late 1980s onwards have often been warmer and sunnier than at any other time in living memory) and the beach windswept. This is not always true; for example Broadstairs in Kent has retained much of its old world charm with Punch and Judy and donkey rides and still remains popular being only one hour from the M25.

Many seaside towns have turned to other entertainment industries, and some of them have a good deal of nightlife. The cinemas and theatres often remain to become host to a number of pubs, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Most of their entertainment facilities cater to local people and the beaches still remain popular during the summer months. Although international tourism turned people away from British seaside towns, it also brought in foreign travel and as a result, many seaside towns offer foreign language schools, the students of which often return to vacation and sometimes to settle.

A lot of people can also afford more time off and 'second holidays' and short breaks, resulting in increased tourism in British seaside towns. Many young people and students are able to take short holidays and discover the town's nightlife. Many seaside towns boast large shopping centres which also attract people from a wide area. Day trippers still come to the coastal towns but on a more local scale than during the 19th century.

Many coastal towns are also popular retirement hotspots where older people take short breaks in the autumn months.

In contrast, the fortunes of Brighton, which has neither holiday camps nor (now) end-of-the-pier shows, have grown considerably and, because of this, the resort is repeatedly held up as the model of a modern resort. However, unlike the Golden Miles of other British resorts, the sea is not Brighton's primary attraction; rather it is an attractive backdrop to an attitude of broad-minded cosmopolitan hedonism. The resulting sense of uniqueness, coupled with the city's proximity to London, has led to Brighton's restoration as a fashionable resort and the dwelling-place of the affluent.

Other English coastal towns have successfully sought to project a sense of their unique character. In particular, Southwold on the Suffolk coast is an active yet peaceful retirement haven with an emphasis on calmness, quiet countryside and jazz. Weymouth, Dorset offers itself as 'the gateway to the Jurassic Coast', Britain's only natural World Heritage Site. Newquay in Cornwall offers itself as the 'surfing capital of Britain', hosting international surfing events on its shores.

Torbay in South Devon is known is also known as the English Riviera. Consisting of the towns of Torquay, Paignton with its pier and Brixham, the bay has 20 beaches and coves along its 22-mile (35 km) coastline, ranging from small secluded coves to the larger promenade style seafronts of Torquay's Torre Abbey Sands and Paignton Sands.

However, British seaside resorts have faced increasingly stiff competition from traditionally sunnier resorts overseas since the 1970s. In 1975, some 9,000 British families holidayed abroad, but by the mid-1980s that figure had risen to some 20,000. A decade later, the figure was around 30,000. This was largely due to the falling price of air travel which the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher (elected in 1979) had allowed.[19] This decline is discussed in the Morrissey song 'Everyday Is Like Sunday' where daily life in the resort is likened to the emptiness of streets once associated with the shop closures on Sunday.

United States

American seaside resorts developed along the New England coast in the late 19th century, with the Mid-Atlantic region developing slightly later. Southern seaside resorts did not develop until the 1890s. In Miami, Florida, the community of Cocoanut (now Coconut) Grove began development as a resort town in the 1880s with the building of the Bayview House (aka Peacock Inn) which closed in 1902. Visitors to the greater Miami area then flocked to Camp Biscayne (in Coconut Grove), the Royal Palm Hotel in Downtown Miami, and other resort hotels in Miami, as well as in smaller numbers to the Florida Keys, particularly to Long Key where the Long Key Fishing Camp was especially active in the 1910s.

Some examples of well-known and sought-after American coastal resort towns are:

See also


  1. Tyler, Sue (September 2009). West Mersea: Seaside Heritage Project (Report). Essex County Council. p. 5. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  2. 1 2 J. Christopher Holloway; Neil Taylor (2006). The business of tourism. Pearson Education. p. 29. ISBN 0-273-70161-4.
  3. Bradley, Kimberly. "A Spa Town Reclaims Its Glory," New York Times. 3 June 2007.
  4. "Blackpool History" (PDF). Blackpool Tourist Office. Retrieved 18 March 2007.
  5. Andrews et al. 2002, p. 597.
  6. John K. Walton. "The seaside resort: a British cultural export". Department of Humanities, University of Central Lancashire.
  7. Michael Nelson, Queen Victoria and the Discovery of the Riviera, Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2007.
  8. History of the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
  9. Henderson J C (2002) "Tourism and Politics in the Korean Peninsula" The Journal of Tourism Studies, 13 (2).
  10. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: Land of Lakes and Leisure
  11. German Riviera
  12. Seaside resorts in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
  13. Ranked as the third best course outside the United States by Golf Digest in 2007
  14. Resorts & Regions -
  15. "Seaside Resorts, Regions in Poland". Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  16. "Top 10 Beach Cities". Retrieved 30 July 2010.
  17. Movie "Worlds Best Beaches", Discovery Channel 2005
  18. Ivor Wynne Jones. Llandudno Queen of Welsh Resorts (chapter 3 page 19) referring to the Liverpool Mercury
  19. "Thatcher years in graphics". BBC News. 18 November 2005.

Further reading

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