Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Photos: Picnics in Vancouver over 100 years ago look absolutely charming

If this doesn't inspire a blanket-based meal, nothing will.

Picnics are a classic summertime activity for many.

Taking a meal to a nice place out in nature has likely been done for most of human history, to some extent, though the word picnic originates in 17th century France.

In Vancouver's early history they became popular social events. Often people would gather and take a boat to their favourite picnic spot. Destinations were in the surrounding area and easily accessible by boat, though the earliest photo in this gallery is from the brand new Stanley Park in 1888.

The Vancouver archives are filled with photos of people taking all sorts of ships and dinghies to beaches and islands, ranging from Kitsilano Beach (or Greer's, as it was known) to Sechelt.

Bowen Island in particular was a popular site for properly organized picnics (multiple photos show different party planning committees with membership in the teens) with hundreds showing up for the largest ones, which were often held by big companies (like the Hudson's Bay Company or BC Sugar Refinery Company).

While the main focus on picnics is usually food, the larger, more organized events had lots of activities. Races were a popular choice, given the open fields picnics were held in and the equipment needed (virtually none). Looking at the photos, though, shows how far activewear has come in the last century.

At best the men lost their jackets, it appears, while some women chose to run barefoot. That still meant running it what we would consider, in 2022, formal clothing.

And of course, there's the classic three-legged race. With its coordination between two people, often it's awkward, though in at least one race it appears some couples are quite quick on their feet. At the same time, though, there's at least one duo flat on the ground after crashing and burning.