In 1800, there was no significant coastal settlement. The present town was planned and developed from 1805 by the Rev. Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne. He built a harbour which operated as a port and supported a shipbuilding industry in the 19th century. A group of workmen’s houses and a school were built on the harbour’s north side, but these were reclaimed by the sea. Steam ships continued to visit the harbour until the 1920s but, in later years, it evolved into a small half-tide harbour for recreational craft. The estuary is also crossed by a wooden pedestrian bridge.
Crafts were an important part of village life. Information recorded in trade directories shows that in 1830, although it was not yet fully developed as a port, there were in Aberaeron one woollen manufacturer, one bootmaker, one baker, one corn miller, one blacksmith, one blacksmith and shovel maker, two shipwrights, one carpenter and one hat maker.
In the late 1890s, a hand-powered cable car, the Aeron Express, was built to ferry workers across the harbour when the bridge was demolished by floods. The structure was recreated in 1988 as a tourist attraction that ran until the end of summer 1994, when it was closed under health and safety regulations.
The architecture of Aberaeron is unusual in this part of rural Wales, being constructed around a principal square of elegant Regency style buildings grouped around the harbour. This was the work of Edward Haycock, an architect from Shrewsbury. Some of the architecture was of sufficient interest to feature on British postage stamps.
Aberaeron Golf Club (now defunct) was founded in 1923. It continued until World War II when the course was turned over to agriculture to aid the war effort. Post-war attempts to reinstate the club failed.