A seaside resort is a resort town or resort village, 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.
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.
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. 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. The first rolling bathing machines were introduced by 1735.
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 people
The extension of this form of leisure to the middle and working classes began with the development of the railways in the 1840s; they offered cheap travel to fast-growing resort towns. In particular, the branch line to the small seaside town of Blackpool from Poulton-le-Fylde led to a sustained economic and demographic boom. A sudden influx of visitors arriving by rail motivated entrepreneurs to build accommodation and create new attractions, leading to more visitors and rapid growth throughout the 1850s and 1860s.
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.
Expansion around the world
The development of the seaside resort abroad was stimulated by the well-developed English love of the beach. The French Riviera on 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, foreign residents in Nice, mostly British, numbered 25,000. The coastline became renowned for attracting the royalty of Europe, including Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.
In the United States, early seaside resorts in the late 1800s catered to the wealthy, including city businessmen. Cape May, New Jersey became one of the first coastal resorts in the United States, when regular steamboat traffic on the Delaware River began after the War of 1812. Early visitors to Cape May included Henry Clay in 1847, and Abraham Lincoln in 1849. By 1880, Henry Flagler had extended several rail lines southward down the US Atlantic coastline, enticing northern upper-class families south to subtropical Florida. The Florida East Coast Railway brought northern tourists to St. Augustine in greater numbers, and by 1887 Flagler began to build two large ornate hotels in St. Augustine, the 540-room Ponce de Leon Hotel and the Hotel Alcazar, and bought the Casa Monica Hotel the next year.
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 other areas of 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.
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. 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.
Seasideness is the distinct sense of place, or genius loci, associated with seaside resorts and as experienced by visitors to these coastal destinations. It is made up of a combination of factors including the open vistas of the coastal environment and distinctive leisure activities such as beach play, consuming seaside food and promenading – these will reflect regional preferences. Seasideness is also reflected in the distinct built heritage and architecture of coastal resorts such as 19th century piers and early 20th century seaside modern buildings. The seaside experience, associated with seasideness, has also been associated with an emotional nostalgic reaction and feelings of wellbeing, which have in turn been connected to visitor appeal.
Seasideness can be traced back to research by a British academic, David Jarratt, and is summarised in Jarratt's (2015) peer-reviewed journal article entitled 'Sense of place at a British coastal resort: Exploring seasideness in Morecambe'. Jarratt links seasideness with feelings of wellness and especially nostalgia, which is explored in more detail in a joint-authored 2016 journal article. The research is case-study based and so there is a good deal of scope for further research in this area from human geographers, environmental / social psychologists, tourism scholars and other academics. Nevertheless, a connection with the sea lies at this heart of seasideness, and anecdotally it appears to be something shared by modern societies; it is a common theme in literature and the arts. The case-study centred on Morecambe, a once popular Lancastrian resort on the North-West coast of England, which saw a dramatic decline in visitor numbers in the late 20th century and regeneration at the start of the 21st century. One could argue that such resorts, like any destination, need to understand the motivation and experiences of visitors and this is one way in which an understanding of seasideness may be useful.
Seaside resorts around the world
- Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise)
- Sunshine Coast
- Jervis Bay (Hyams Beach)
- Queenscliff, Victoria
- Agnes Water
- St Kilda Beach
- Byron Bay
- Central Coast (The Entrance, Newcastle and Ettalong Beach)
- Batemans Bay
- Port Douglas
- Port Macquarie
- Ballina, New South Wales
- Fitzroy Island
- Sydney (Bondi Beach, Manly Beach, Brighton-Le-Sands, Palm Beach)
- Noosa Heads
- Coffs Harbour
- Margaret River
- Palm Cove
- Nelson Bay
- South West Rocks
- Lizard Island National Park
- Airlie Beach
- Culburra Beach
- Tweed Heads
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.
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:
With three long coastlines, France has many seaside resorts on its various coasts; for specific towns in each region, see the following articles:
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 and is nicknamed German Riviera. Heiligendamm in Mecklenburg, established in 1793, is the oldest seaside resort in Germany and continental Europe.
Most important coastal areas with seaside resorts in Germany:
- Baltic Sea: islands of Fehmarn, Hiddensee, Rügen, Usedom; Mecklenburg coast, Rostock, peninsula of Fischland, Darss and Zingst
- North Sea: East Frisian Islands and North Frisian Islands
Selection of German seaside resorts along the Baltic Sea coastline:
- Rugia Island:
- Timmendorfer Strand
- Usedom Island:
At the North Sea coastline:
Greece, renowned as a summer destination, features a large amount of seaside resorts. Some of them are listed below:
- Agia Pelagia
- Agia Triada
- Agioi Theodoroi
- Chalkidiki, a peninsula with a variety of coastal villages that are considered resorts such as: Afytos, Chaniotis, Nea Poteidaia, Neos Marmaras, Nikiti, Sarti and others.
- Glyfada, Phocis
- Kamena Vourla
- Kyllini, Elis
- Naousa (Paros)
- Neoi Poroi
- Olympiaki Akti
- Porto Cheli
- Porto Rafti
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. 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.
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:
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.
Resorts include (among many others):
The following are the main resort towns in Malta:
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:
A selection includes:
Poland's coast on the Baltic Sea includes many traditional seaside resorts, some of which former German Kurorts, established throughout the 18th century. In the past the resorts have received mostly domestic tourism, however, since the 1990s, following the opening of Polish borders, the international tourism has grown considerably. Notable resorts include:
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 border in the south, along 275 kilometers of coastline.
Notable seaside resorts in South America include Buzios, Camboriú, Florianópolis, Fortaleza, 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.
Spanish resorts are popular with many European and world residents. Notable resorts on the mainland and islands include:
- Algeciras area
- Barcelona area, with the best urban beaches in the world and Costa Brava on north of the city
- Benidorm and other towns on the Costa Blanca
- Costa de la Luz
- Costa Tropical
- Las Palmas area and other towns in the Canary Islands
- Málaga area and other suburbs on the Costa del Sol
- Palma, Majorca area and Ibiza and other towns in the Balearic Islands
- Salou area and other towns on the Costa Dorada
- San Sebastián
Some examples of Ukrainian seaside resort towns are:
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 seaside 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. As the 19th century progressed, British working class day-trippers travelled on organised 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 Firth's islands and peninsulas and beyond, 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 many resorts, some on the Firth of Clyde have continued to prosper as middle-class commuter towns.
Some resorts, especially those more southerly such as Hastings, Worthing, Eastbourne, 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 London. The sunshine and sea air were seen by Victorians as beneficial for health, and resorts such as Ventnor owed their growth to a visit being considered as treatment for chest complaints. Owing to its generally better climate, the south coast has many seaside towns, the most being in Sussex.
In the later 20th century, the popularity of the British seaside resort declined for the same reason that it first flourished: advances in transport. The greater accessibility of foreign holiday destinations, through package holidays and, more recently, European low-cost airlines, makes it easier to holiday abroad. Despite the loyalty of returning holidaymakers, resorts such as Blackpool have struggled to compete against the hotter weather of Southern Europe and the sunbelt in the United States. 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 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. Brighton has also seen a fall in visitor numbers over the past couple of years. The city has also experienced a rise in homelessness, especially noticeable on the city streets and in green spaces where tents have been erected. Brighton now has the second highest homeless population in England, which has resulted to the City Council applying to become the first UK city to pass a ‘Homeless Bill of Rights.’
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 are still popular in summer. Although international tourism turned people away from British seaside towns, it also brought in inward foreign travel; many seaside towns offer foreign language schools, the students of which often return to vacation and sometimes to settle. Many people can now afford more time off, and 'second holidays' and short breaks, resulting in increased tourism in British seaside towns. Many young people and students can take short holidays and discover the town's nightlife. Many seaside towns have 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 reside permanently or take short breaks in the autumn months. 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 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, it 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. 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.
With 3,800 miles (6100 km) of coastline, the USA mainland has hundreds of seaside resorts on three coasts, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific ocean. Unlike in many smaller countries, the seaside resorts in the USA are located in various climate zones, with great differences in topography and environment. Many American seaside resorts are popular destination across the world, known for their climates, culture, and entertainment opportunities.
American seaside resorts first developed near the big industrial cities on the upper East Coast like New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston. Cape May, New Jersey, and Provincetown, MA, were two of the first seaside resorts in the 1800s that catered to city workers in Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Cape May is often called Americas "first seaside resort". The early emergence of Cape May as a summer resort was due to easy transport by water from Philadelphia to the Atlantic Ocean. Early Cape May vacationers were carried to the town on sloops from Philadelphia, and water transport was also easy from New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and points south. The resort business in Cape May began to thrive when regular steamboat traffic on the Delaware River began after the War of 1812. Early visitors to Cape May included Henry Clay in 1847, and Abraham Lincoln in 1849. Today, the Cape May Historic District is one of the largest and well preserved examples of Victorian architecture in the United States.
On the southern Atlantic coast, Henry Flagler had the idea to make St. Augustine, Florida a winter resort. He built several rail lines south, and combined them with existing lines to create the Florida East Coast Railway in 1885. He built a railroad bridge over the St. Johns River in 1888, opening up the Atlantic coast of Florida to development. In 1887 Flagler began construction of two large ornate hotels in St. Augustine, the 540-room Ponce de Leon Hotel and the Hotel Alcazar, and bought the Casa Monica Hotel the next year.
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. In 1894, the lavish Royal Poinciana Hotel opened in Palm Beach, Florida, with rave reviews from wealthy New York tourists who picked oranges in January to their delight. On the Gulf of Mexico, the City of Galveston was emerging as a booming city, and in 1882, architect Nicholas J. Clayton designed the Beach Hotel. By 1888, Galveston, TX was a wealthy city and booming seaside playground for wealthy New Orleans businessmen.
On the Pacific coast in California, in April 1886, Babcock and Story created the Coronado Beach Company, which sought to develop Coronado as a seaside resort. In the mid-1880s, the San Diego region was in the midst of one of its first real estate booms. The Hotel del Coronado was built in March 1887, with Babcock's visions for the hotel built around a courtyard of tropical trees, shrubs and flowers, with a dining wing to give full value to the view of the ocean, bay and city. By 1915, more hotels were built along the Los Angeles coastline to serve the wealthy tourists and Hollywood film makers. In May 1926, brothers E.A. "Jack" Harter and T.D. "Til" Harter built the Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica, at a cost of $2 million, creating one of the most successful beach clubs in Southern California, popular with socialites and Hollywood celebrities.
In the 1920s, Carl Fisher was the main promoter of Miami Beach, and helped to develop the city as a seaside resort. To accommodate the wealthy tourists, several grand hotels were built, among them the Flamingo Hotel. In 1926, the massive The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach had been rebuilt, and there was a large northern tourist industry in coastal southern Florida. By the 1950s with increasing auto travel, more seaside resorts grew along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, while small, declining industrial ports were being rebuilt. In 1954, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, and was considered, (at that time) the most lavish seaside hotel in the world.
In the modern era, hundreds of seaside resorts now string the Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts of the United States. Many Americans move with the seasons when they visit seaside resorts, vacationing in northern seaside areas in the warm season (April through October), and then moving to southern areas in the cold season (November through March). Many seaside resorts in Florida and California however, see travelers all year.
Some examples of well-known and sought-after American coastal resort towns are:
- Gulf Shores, Alabama
- Orange Beach, Alabama
- Dauphin Island, Alabama
- Carlsbad, California
- Corona Del Mar, California
- Coronado, California
- Dana Point, California
- Laguna Beach, California
- Los Angeles, California (Venice district)
- Malibu, California
- Montecito, California
- Newport Beach, California
- Pebble Beach, California
- San Diego, California (La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach neighborhoods)
- Santa Monica, California
- Mystic, Connecticut
- Bethany Beach, Delaware
- Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
- Clearwater, Florida
- Daytona Beach, Florida
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Key West, Florida
- Marco Island, Florida
- Miami Beach, Florida
- Palm Beach, Florida
- Panama City, Florida
- Panama City Beach, Florida
- Pensacola Beach, Florida
- St. Augustine, Florida
- Saint Petersburg, Florida
- Siesta Key, Florida
- Tampa, Florida
- Palm Beach, Florida
- Sea Island, Georgia
- Tybee Island, Georgia
- Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
- Kennebunkport, Maine
- Ocean City, Maryland
- Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
- Nantucket, Massachusetts
- Provincetown, Massachusetts
- Allenhurst, New Jersey
- Asbury Park, New Jersey
- Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Cape May, New Jersey
- Deal, New Jersey
- Elberon, New Jersey
- Loch Arbour, New Jersey
- Long Beach Island, New Jersey
- Long Branch, New Jersey
- Point Pleasent, New Jersey
- Sea Isle City, New Jersey
- Seaside Heights, New Jersey
- Wildwood, New Jersey
- Fire Island, New York
- The Hamptons, New York
- Bald Head Island, North Carolina
- Figure Eight Island, North Carolina
- Nags Head, North Carolina
- Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
- Seaside, Oregon
- Newport, Rhode Island
- Folly Beach, South Carolina
- Hilton Head, South Carolina
- Isle of Palms, South Carolina
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Galveston, Texas
- South Padre Island, Texas
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
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