Camping at the Seaside: The “fashionable” thing to do in summer

From about 1894 to 1908, summer camping on the beach was considered a fashionable holiday tradition, enjoyed by many of Vancouver’s early well-to-do families.

The most popular spot was Greer’s (now Kits) Beach, where “tent town” comprised two long rows of tents on either side of an irregular “street” of beach sand. Greer’s Beach was reached by boat down False Creek from Carrall Street; on foot across the CPR trestle bridge or via a sinuous trail through the cleared area; or by buggy over a former wagon track used by loggers with their oxen.

English Bay Beach was another popular camping site, where, in 1898, “about two score tents extended to the West” and “many were commodious and richly furnished.”

These are the camping beaches shown in the images below.

Beach camping was discontinued after 1908, due to improper sanitation conditions and increased development.

Picnickers and campers – complete with cow! – at Greer’s (now Kits) Beach, 1896. Reference code AM54-S4-: Be P98

Children enjoying the sand and surf, Greer’s Beach camp, 1902. Reference code AM54-S4-: Be P143

Two ladies, likely “the McIntosh girls” looking very comfortable in their well-appointed camp quarters at Greer’s Beach, 1894. Charles S. Bailey photo. Reference code AM54-S4-: SGN 167

Greer’s (Kits) Beach, ca. 1900. Reference code AM54-S4-: Be P99

The Crickmay family, William and Frances and their nine children and assorted relatives, arrived in Vancouver in August 1888 from England. William built the Imperial Opera House at Pender and Beatty, his daughter Elizabeth was the second matron of the City Hospital on Beatty Street, and his son Alfred founded Crickmay and Bermingham, one of Vancouver ‘s earliest customs brokerages.

Crickmay’s camp at the foot of Bayswater Street, at the time referred to as “over at Jericho,” before Kitsilano was named, 1896. Reference code AM54-S4-: Be P35

Greer’s Beach, September 1908. This is very likely one of the very last days that Greer’s Beach would host Vancouver’s resort camping families; the tradition was halted after 1908. Reference code AM54-S4-: Be P24

Summer camp of Mrs. Sam Scott. This tent was between Beach Avenue and the sandy beach, at about the foot of Burnaby Street. Just one of several similar camps, this one was nicknamed “Hogan’s Alley.” English Bay, 1897. Reference code AM54-S4-: Be P70.2

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