Separated from Cariló by a strictly off-limits nature reserve, VILLA GESELL is reached by taking the RP-11 a further 10km or so south. The town is named after its founder, Carlos Gesell, a mildly eccentric outsider of German descent. In 1931, Gesell bought a stretch of coastal land, largely dominated by still-moving sand dunes. After some experimentation, Gesell managed to stabilize the dunes by planting a mixture of vegetation including tamarisks, acacias and esparto grass. He sold lots, many of which were bought by Germans and Central Europeans escaping World War II. Gesell has a more laidback feel than some of its smarter neighbours, and it teeters on the edge of being run-down. The resort remains popular with the middle and working classes, plus teenage groups enjoying holidays away from their parents. Now largely developed, something of the bohemian feel that once distinguished it can be discerned in the small but fast-growing double resort of Mar de las Pampas and Mar Azul, 14km down the coast.
Villa Gesell is an amiable resort whose winding streets – many of them unsealed – do their best to defeat the order imposed by a complex system of numbered avenidas (which run parallel to the sea), paseos, calles and alamedas, designed by Gesell to follow the natural course of the land. The town’s main street is Avenida 3, the centre of its lively nightlife. At the northern end of town, and entered from Alameda 202, lies the Reserva Parque Cultural. Also designed by Gesell, the park’s wooded walkways offer welcome shade on hot days, and the dunes that separate it from the beach to the east are particularly good for sunbathing or picnicking. The house used by Gesell has been turned into a small Museo Municipal (summer daily 10am–8pm; winter Wed–Sat 10am–4pm; $1) dedicated to this pioneering family, who also own a famous Argentine chain of baby equipment.