Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

These 18 photos capture life at the beach in Vancouver over 100 years ago

Vancouver and beaches go together like the sunshine and ocean waves

One thing that sets Vancouver apart from many other world-class cities is its beaches.

Some cities have a few, like Toronto or Montreal. Some build them, like Paris. Many go without any real beach culture, like London or Beijing. Therefore, it's no surprise that as leisure activities grew, trips to the beach were a popular option.

These photos capture a period of about 25 years, from 1896 into the 1920s, and while there are a lot of differences in what trips to the beach looked like over a century ago, there are lots of similarities, too.

While the fashion is quite different, a lot of the activities are pretty much what people do at the beach nowadays. The first photo, from 1896 show's a group that travelled from Mount Pleasant to what was then Greer's Beach (now it's Kitsilano Beach). The most surprising thing in that photo (other than the fairly stoic expressions on everyone's faces) is the cow wearing a hat.

Yeah, if you missed that go take another look.

And to be fair, if a large group of people from Mount Pleasant could get their hands on a cow in 2022, they might just take it to the beach. It's both ridiculous and plausible in either era.

Even in the 25 years captured in the photos, the change in beach fashion is very visible, as early trips saw people dressed in what appears to be everyday clothes from the time. This isn't uncommon even now, but then there are the photos of the kids playing in the ocean in clothing that looks like their Sunday best.

It also seems to hamper how many men get in the water, as few photos show adult men playing in the waves. Maybe it was because they couldn't pull their pants up high enough?

Later on that changes some what with plenty of people in swim suits by the 1920s, though until then, few men are spotted in the water.

The other thing people might notice is how many buildings used to be along the shore, and aren't now. In the early photos, it's just tents, but at the turn of the century more structures pop up along the shore (and they stand out as many trees were chopped down), providing services and a place to change. A lot of that is gone now as parks tend to have fewer structures.

Particular highlights (aside from the cow) include the 'bathing beauties' in 1898, the view from above of English Bay Beach in 1909, the barge in English Bay in 1911, the stylish guy looking forward to a picnic at Crescent Beach in 1917, and the man in a full suit stretched out on the sand in the 1920s.