It’s a spine-tingling thing to see things that were once coveted fall into decay. That sentiment guided my interest in researching the glamorous beach resorts of times past, places that were once in history the apex of life for those fortunate enough to visit them, but ended up abandoned, seaside ghost towns left to crumble, left unloved. I expected their abandonment to be related to passing fashions, with people inevitably moving on to the next hot thing. Most often, though, these areas fell victim to war or extreme weather.
Here are five of the world’s most intriguing abandoned beach resorts, from antiquity to today…
Baiae, Ancient Rome
Julius Caesar, Nero, Caligula and Hadrian all had villas in this upper-crust resort in the Bay of Naples, which boasted hot springs, a raging casino, and by all accounts endless opportunities for debauchery. The town had already been largely abandoned when it became submerged in the 16th century due to nearby volcanic activity. Today divers and snorkelers can still visit and capture eerily gorgeous images like the one above.
The Salton Sea, California
The Salton Sea emerged in a two-year flurry around the turn of the 20th century when the Colorado River filled what was formerly a desert basin after an irrigation project gone awry. With a location just 150 or so miles from San Diego and 50 miles from Palm Springs, the new “sea” soon developed several popular waterfront resorts. The heyday didn’t last long, though, as the salinity and pollution of the lake rose to levels that made its enjoyment impossible.
In the early 1970’s, this quarter of the city of Famagusta was one of the most popular and glamorous seaside destination in the world, with a population of 39,000. But in 1974, Turkey invaded the island in an attempt to claim it from the Greeks. The army got as far as Varosha, establishing a region that Turkey still claims as its own today (a claim that is not recognized internationally). The civilian population fled, the Turks put fences up around the quarter and its resorts, and it’s been empty ever since.
Hog Island, New York
In the mid-nineteenth century, a mile-long barrier island (actually a peninsula, just barely) emerged just off the coast of present day Far Rockaway, in Queens. A couple of enterprising locals quickly capitalized on the new land, building bathhouses and restaurants, and the new Hog Island became a popular escape from the stifling city summers. In 1893, a hurricane severely damaged Hog Island, and by some point in the early 20th century, it disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean completely.
Along the road into Dubrovnik from the airport, there’s a turnoff to Kupari, with its flawless beaches and crumbling hotels. In the 1960s, when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, the military and other elite built themselves a resort with several hotels and other amenities here. In 1980s, Kupari opened to foreign tourists and remained a popular destination until 1991, the year that war broke out and Croatia earned its independence. The resort at Kupari has been abandoned ever since–however, a plan is now in the works to raze most of the existing buildings and replace them with at least one new hotel, a Marriott.