Port Dickson began history as a small Malay village inhabited by fishermen and traders. It used to be first known as 'Arang', which means coal, a reference to a carbon mine in the area. Around the 1820s, tin ore was discovered in Lukut town about 7km north, leading to an influx of Chinese migrants into the area. In the 1880s during the colonial era, a British official named Sir Frederic Dickson turned Arang into a port for transporting the rich tin ore deposits from Sungai Ujong to Klang. The town was renamed Port Dickson (after the official) and became a busy, railway-linked harbour. After the tin ore trade faded, the town grew into a beach resort destination, its popularity reaching a climax in the nineties as large numbers of visitors streamed from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Beachfront property developent escalated at an alarming rate, buoyed by investor speculation and tourist crowds.
In addition, hotels and condominiums displaced much of the natural surroundings with stunning alacrity, far more than what the landscape could afford. At the height of her popularity, the sparkling beaches were stained with pollution while the clear seas became a turbid mess of brown water. Appalled by the poor holiday environment, visitor numbers dwindled steadily, culminating with the Asian economic crisis that brought development to a crashing halt. With the sudden realisation of their cracked honeypot, hotel companies quickly worked with civil authourities to clean up Port Dickson, but it took a good number of years to rehabilitate the beach and sea waters. Today, PD has recovered and on the rise again, with visitors and resort development rising steadily.