Zandvoort is known to exist in 1100, called Sandevoerde (a combination of "sand" and "voorde", meaning ford). Until 1722 the area was under the control of the Lords of Brederode.
The village was dependent on fishing for many centuries until the 19th century when it started to transform itself into a seaside resort, following the pattern set by similar towns in the United Kingdom. In 1828 the first resort was inaugurated. Thereafter many notable persons would visit Zandvoort, including Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1884 and 1885. In the middle of the same century, potato cultivation started in the dunes.
In 1881 the railway station near the coast opened, followed by tram connection to Haarlem in 1899, which greatly increased the beach tourism. In 1905 one of the earliest Dutch fictional films was shot in the town, De mésaventure van een Fransch heertje zonder pantalon aan het strand te Zandvoort.
During World War II, Zandvoort was heavily damaged. On May 23, 1942, beach access was no longer permitted and several months later the town was almost completely vacated. Resorts and avenues were demolished to make way for the coastal fortifications of the Atlantic Wall.
After the war, the town's growth accelerated, matching the growth in tourism. In 1948, Circuit Park Zandvoort was built, hosting the Dutch Grand Prix for several decades. Zandvoort continues to be a major Dutch resort location, where nearly half of all employment is related to tourism.
The Dutch singer Willem Duyn's De Eerste Trein Naar Zandvoort ("First train to Zandvoort") - modeled on the American song Chattanooga Choo Choo and chronicling chaos and mayhem on the first seaside train - was a hit in the summer of 1983