35 Vintage Photos That Show What a Beach Day Used to Look Like

Beach days are the best days—no matter what decade you're in.

The beach has always been a popular summer hangout, whether today or a century ago. While the salty breeze and peaceful waves have the same allure, the beach itself looks quite different now than it did then. In past decades, there were no iPhones, wireless bluetooth speakers, and teeny, weeny bikinis. Instead, friends flocked to the sand in more modest bathing suits—and sometimes full outfits with heels!—to laze away the afternoon by sunbathing, bouncing beach balls, or fishing for a fresh catch. So, browse through these vintage beach photos and get a glimpse of simpler times at the seaside. And for more retro flashbacks, check out the 50 Vintage Photos That Show What Traveling Used to Look Like.

Beach ballers

Two 1950s female teens reach for beach ball in male teens hands on beach, cool grandparents
H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock / Alamy Stock Photo

Two pretty girls in matching bikinis and a dreamboat in the middle is a simple equation for fun in the sun in the 1950s.

Happy couple

an african american couple walks hand in hand on the beach in the 1970s

In the 1970s, it was still romantic to take your sweetheart for a long walk on the beach.

Beach bash

a group of friends dance in the sand
ClassicStock / Alamy

These two guitar players had the whole group groovin' at this teen beach party in the 1970s. And for more scenic snapshots, check out the 33 Vintage Photos That Show That Our Parents Were Actually Really Cool.

Splash sisters

Vacation in the 1950s at the Beach

You may not want to get wet when you go to the beach, but even in the 1950s, majority ruled.

Dapper beach crew

a group of beachgoers in the 1930s
Public Domain

Lined robes, panama hats, and full suits! Going to the beach in the 1930s was an opportunity to see and be seen.

Family fun in the sun

a mom, dad, and son play on a raft in the waves
ClassicStock / Alamy

A Sunday funday perhaps? With a sweet raft like that, spending the entire day in the waves is the only acceptable option.

Water-skiing wonder woman

a woman water skis in the 1950s
ClassicStock / Alamy

Thrill seekers in the '50s—like this darling daredevil in Miami—needed only a pair of water skis and a speedboat to make them happy.

Squad goals

a group of women read books on the beach
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

These beach book worms wanted to hear one thing only: the sound of crashing waves.

Ride with a view

two young women sit on swings overlooking coney island
Everett Collection Historical / Alamy

Two women take in the view from the Parachute Jump ride at Coney Island in 1950. At the time, Coney Island was the country's largest amusement park, drawing millions of annual visitors to its boardwalk and beach. And for more images from the golden age of travel, check out the 15 Beautiful Vintage Photos of Famous U.S. Tourist Attractions.

Family fishing excursion

a woman and a young child catch a fish on the beach
ClassicStock / Alamy

A day at the beach in the 1920s meant a fresh catch for dinner—if you're lucky like this duo!

Beach bum

a woman reads a book on the beach
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Magazine? Check! Radio? Check! This seaside sweetheart is ready for a full day of sunbathing.

Teen dance party

Teenage Couples on the Beach, 60s

For teens in the 1960s, some good tunes and space to dance in the sand made the beach a blast.

Beauties in bathing costumes

French women pose in the latest fashionable bathing suits outside their beach cabanas at Dieppe. Ca. 1925.
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

A coterie of French women compare swimsuit styles outside of their cabanas in the coastal town of Dieppe in 1925. And for more gorgeous pictures from around the world, check out the 27 Totally Insane Travel Photos You Won't Believe Are Real.

Beach backgammon

a woman plays backgammon on the beach
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

You know you're a serious sun seeker when you lug a full-size backgammon table all the way down the beach!

Colorful beach bathers

a group of women sit at the beach in the 1930s
National Geographic Image Collection / Alamy

These 1930s fashionistas formed the ultimate girl squad on a beach in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Beach gymnasts

kids do gymnastics at the beach
ClassicStock / Alamy

This group of kids spent an afternoon in the 1960s hanging around Laguna Beach, California… literally!

Tunes on the sand

a woman and her dog listen to a portable gramophone
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Looking for a way to jazz up your day at the beach? Bring a portable gramophone like this woman did in the 1930s.

Beach picnic

a family of four have a picnic on the beach in the 1970s
ClassicStock / Alamy

A towel, sand toys, and a cooler full of snacks make for one groovy '70s family picnic.

Sunny stage show

a group of performers host a stage show at the beach in the 1920s
M&N / Alamy

Sun, sand, and surf weren't the only seaside attractions a century ago. This 1928 stage show is a classic example of beach entertainment in days past.

Surfer stud

a man surfs in the 1920s
Vintage Images / Alamy

Catching waves has always been the number one past time of surfer dudes. Here, one man hangs ten in the 1920s.

Private cabanas

vintage photo of a group of people sitting in beach cabanas
The Protected Art Archive / Alamy

No sandy towels to shake out for these folks! Beach cabanas were the way to go in 1910.

Spectacular sand sculpture

a man and a child build a sand sculpture
Henry Horenstein / Library of Congress

Part whale, part shark, all fun! This little girl watches a sand creation take shape in 1979.

Joyful sun seekers

a crowd of people play in the water at the beach
Glasshouse Images / Alamy

Come on in, the water's fine! This group keeps cool in 1905 by socializing during low tide.

Incredible beach trolley

a sky tram crosses the coast of california in the 1960s
Glasshouse Images / Alamy

How romantic is a sky tram? This one cruises over Ocean Beach in San Francisco as the sun begins its descent, circa 1964. And for more stunning coastal escapes, check out the 17 Best Secret Beach Towns in America.

Ocean water slide

a vintage water slide at a beach
Theodore Horydczak / Library of Congress

You could slide directly into the surf on this impressive water slide, circa 1910.

Brighton beachgoers

a group of sunbathers at brighton beach in 1915
George Grantham Bain Collection / Library of Congress

These formally dressed sunbathers take in the views of New York's Brighton Beach from their awning-covered, wooden chairs in 1915.

Fashionable beach babes

1940s women on beach in bikinis
lisagsf / Flickr

Who wouldn't want to wear one of these incredible 1940s halter-top bikinis? Luckily, the high-waisted look is fashionable again if you want to try it out for yourself.

Game of catch

a group of friends play catch at the beach
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

There was no shortage of silly games to play in the '50s. Case in point: this backwards game of catch.

Beach volleyball

a group of friends play beach volleyball
Ken MacKay / Alamy

Bump, set, spike! A challenging game of beach volleyball in San Juan, Puerto Rico, probably sent this group home sore.

Lather up

a woman puts sunscreen on her female friend at the beach
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Friends don't let friends sunburn! The bottle may be small, but the swimsuits did offer more coverage back then.

Bold beach goers

a man and women walk into the waves in the 1960s
ClassicStock / Alamy

It's impossible not to smile along with this colorful couple in Florida, circa 1960.

Seaside viewing area

people sit in a pavilion watching the beach in the 1920s
Library of Congress

A shady, open-air beach viewing area—like this one in 1923—meant having a place to cool off, even if you weren't a fan of sand in your shoes.

Trio of sand loungers

two women and a man lay in the sand at the beach
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

These sunbathers got cozy in their very own sand pit on the German island of Norderney in the 1930s.

Race to the waves

a group of young boys run into the water
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

There's no question these boys followed their foot race down to the water with tons of splashing and dunking.

Sand castle competition

a man builds a sandcastle by a pier
Patrick Ward / Alamy

There's a formula to creating a sturdy sand castle, and the talent was clearly on display at this competition on Manhattan Beach, California, in 1981. And if you're curious what shopping used to looked like, check out the 15 Vintage Shopping Mall Photos That'll Make You Nostalgic.

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