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Taking a Walk Down Ocean City’s Motel Row

Let’s take a trip back to mid-century Ocean City. Because when you take a walk down Ocean City’s Motel Row — from around 15th to 33rd street — you can, to this day, feel like you just stepped out of a time machine. 

Mid-Century Motel Mania 

After World War II, motels took hold in the U.S. and offered travelers inexpensive lodging where they could pull their cars right up to the door and spend a night or two in an air-conditioned room. Sometimes they’d even come equipped with a color TV, or all the class and comfort of the Magic Fingers vibrating bed!

The motel industry peaked in 1964 with 61,000 motels operating throughout the country.  As of 2012, however, there were only 16,000 motel properties still in commission. While motels aren’t nearly as in-demand as they once were, Ocean City, Maryland is a town lucky enough to still have beautifully retro, mid-century modern/Art-Deco style motels open and ready for your reservations. 

>>>More on Ocean City Motels

The first properties to hit Ocean City’s Motel Row — the Sea Scape, the Surf and Sands, the Santa Maria and the Stowaway — were built in the mid-1950s and, unfortunately, have all since been replaced with newer accommodations. However, a number of motels built soon after those original four are still standing in south Ocean City today.

Some of the motels pictured below look like they came right out of a history book, but they’re ready for you to make your reservations now in 2018. Staying in a decades-old Ocean City motel isn’t a bad way to enjoy all the aesthetic draws of a mid-century building with all the conveniences of the 21st century.

A walk down “Motel Row” 

Oceanic Motel
Of course, a look at Ocean City’s most iconic accommodations can’t start without the Oceanic Motel at the Inlet, complete with the Oceanic Fishing Pier and the beach just a stone’s throw away. Now we’ll really head to Motel Row, just some blocks away…
Flamingo Motel
All the way down to 31st street. The famously pink Flamingo Motel marks the north end of Motel Row, where it’s been owned and operated by the same family since 1963. 
Flamingo Motel
The Motel originally consisted of one 23-unit building, but now the second-generation business is made up of three oceanfront buildings which include rooms, efficiencies, kitchenettes and suites. The Flamingo throws it back to the ’60s with its inexpensive accommodations and retro look, while also being updated, clean and, of course, providing WiFi. 
Seabonay Motel
Not too far from the Flamingo is the Seabonay, located at the very end of the Boardwalk (one block away, to be exact). Here, you can relax on a guarded beach, swim in the outdoor pool, or easily take a tram ride down the Boardwalk. 
Empress Motel
Down on 19th street is the Empress, which was built in 1965 and still has its original neon peacock sign. The peacock is a symbol of royalty, which any Empress would appreciate. 
Eden Roc Motel
Behind the Empress is the Eden Roc motel on 20th street, with a sea of rental bikes in front of it. 
Eden Roc Motel
Eden Roc is a relic of the ’60s. 
Ocean Mecca Motel
The Ocean Mecca on 23rd street was built in 1958 by William and Kathleen Harman to provide a sort of oasis to travelers. The Arabian style of the motel’s sign and exterior pay homage to some of Kathleen Harman’s favorite movies, The Sheik and The Voyages of Sinbad
Three Cheers Motel
(Okay, Three Cheers on 30th street is technically a condo building, not a motel, but it still looks cool. It was built in 1972 and, as evidenced by this typeface, keeps an early ’70s aura about it.) 
Thunderbird Motel
Then there’s the Thunderbird Beach Motel on 31st street. 
Sahara Motel
And the Sahara Motel on 19th street. 
And finally, a bonus picture: The Safari gorilla guarding the beach and Boardwalk at 12th street.
Kristin is a writer and photographer in Ocean City, Maryland, and is the content manager for OceanCity.com and other State Ventures, LLC sites. She loves getting reader-submitted stories and photos, so send her an email anytime. She also works part-time at the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Film Festival and lives just off the peninsula with her dog and fiancé. Her photos can be found on Instagram @oc_kristin.

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