In 2001, it had a population of 38,917.
In 1846, the Morecambe Harbour and Railway Company was formed to build a harbour on Morecambe Bay, close to the fishing village of Poulton-le-Sands, and a connecting railway. By 1850, the railway linked to Skipton, Keighley and Bradford in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and a settlement began to grow around the harbour and railway, to service the port and as a seaside resort. The settlement expanded to absorb Poulton, and the villages of Bare and Torrisholme. The settlement started to be referred to as "Morecambe", possibly after the harbour and railway. In 1889 the new name was officially adopted.
Morecambe was a thriving seaside resort in the mid-20th century. While the resort of Blackpool attracted holiday-makers predominantly from the Lancashire mill towns, Morecambe had more visitors from Yorkshire (due to its railway connection) and Scotland. Between 1956 and 1989 it was the home of the Miss Great Britain beauty contest.
Morecambe suffered from decline for a number of years after a series of incidents that affected its tourism and local economy. Two piers were lost: West End Pier was partly washed away in a storm in November 1977 and the remnants demolished 1978 while Central Pier, though struck by fire in 1933, survived until 1992. In 1994, The World of Crinkley Bottom attraction in Happy Mount Park closed only 13 weeks after opening and the ensuing 'Blobbygate' scandal led to a legal battle between Lancaster City Council and TV star Noel Edmonds. The closures of Bubbles, Morecambe's swimming pool, and Frontierland, a fairground, soon followed.
Concern over the decline of Morecambe's West End led to regeneration and investment in the area. The Times and the Daily Telegraph ran features on Morecambe's revival around Easter 2006. After falling into abeyance in the mid-1980s, the Miss Morecambe beauty contest was revived in 2006 by Margee Ltd, a local fashion store, founded in 1933 – the same year that the second Midland Hotel opened.
Morecambe was selected by the RNLI as the location for its first operational life-saving hovercraft, (Griffon 470SAR) H-002 "The Hurley Flyer", which was made operational on 23 December 2002. Housed in a temporary garage next to the Yacht Club until a permanent building could be designed and built. Building work started in 2008 and officially opened on 12 June 2010.
On 5 February 2004, there was a major loss of life in Morecambe Bay when Chinese immigrant shellfish harvesters were drowned.
The "Morecambe Budget"
Enoch Powell made a speech in Morecambe on 11 October 1968 on the economy, setting out alternative, radical free-market policies which would later be called the 'Morecambe Budget'. Powell used the financial year of 1968-9 to show how income tax could be halved from 8s 3d to 4s 3d in the pound (basic rate cut from 41% to 21%) and how capital gains tax and Selective Employment Tax could be abolished without reducing expenditure on defence or the social services. These tax cuts required a saving of £2,855 million, and this would be funded by eradicating losses in the nationalised industries and denationalising the profit-making state concerns; ending all housing subsidies except for those who could not afford their own housing; ending all foreign aid; ending all grants and subsidies in agriculture; ending all assistance to development areas; ending all investment grants; abolishing the National Economic Development Council and abolishing the Prices and Incomes Board The cuts in taxation would also allow the state to borrow from the public to spend on capital projects such as hospitals and roads and on the firm and humane treatment of criminals.