This small town used to produce charcoal, but it was later developed as a small port by the British during the Strait Settlement period. Port Dickson was also known as Tanjung. In Malay language that means "cape". The oldest shophouses were the four situated presently at Jalan Lama. There was also a carbon mine at the first mile of the coast road (Jalan Pantai), and therefore Port Dickson was also called "Arang" (charcoal) in the Malay language.
Tin ore was plentiful in Lukut, an area within the Port Dickson district, during the 1820's, and it attracted Chinese immigrant miners. The British considered the area to have great potential as a harbour. It was intended to supersede the port in Pengkalan Kempas. The in-charge officer's name was Dickson, and thereafter the town was named Port Dickson. Others claim that Sir John Frederick Dickson founded Port Dickson and Pulau Arang in 1889.
Port Dickson evolved into a busy trading centre. Railways were constructed to facilitate the growth and development of Port Dickson. Although Port Dickson experienced rapid development, the beautiful beaches are fairly well preserved. Now, Port Dickson has become not only a beautiful tourist destination, but a large municipality with about 89,000 residents.