10 Vintage Postcards from America’s Classic Beach Destinations
These vintage postcards from classic beach destinations will make you yearn for vacation.
1. FAR ROCKAWAY, NEW YORK
Until the 1950s, Far Rockaway in Queens, New York, was a getaway destination for New Yorkers. As automobiles became more widely available, and when a fire destroyed an important bridge on the Long Island Railroad line to the beach, the popularity of Far Rockaway dropped off. It became host to public housing in the 1960s, but is now seeing a resurgence for New Yorkers looking for a house with a view of the sea.
2. ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY
Since the first railroad stretched to Atlantic City from Camden in 1854, people have been flocking to its beaches in search of sun and fun. This postcard from around the turn of the 20th century features a lifeguard perched on his lookout. The bathers look quite happy, despite wearing approximately 300 percent more swimsuit than we're used to.
3. VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA
The Cavalier became Virginia Beach's grandest hotel when it opened in 1927. Its unique "Y" shape meant that almost all the rooms faced the ocean, and its Beach Club, which debuted in 1929, was the place to see the hottest big bands of the era. The hotel was a great success until WWII, when it was used by the Navy as a radar training school [PDF]. The owners got use of it back after the war, and it's still in operation today.
4. CAPE HATTERAS, NORTH CAROLINA
Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina offers fun in the sun, plus the legends of Blackbeard the pirate, the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and the Wright Brothers. This historic lighthouse—which replaced an ineffective structure from 1803—dates to 1871; it was moved in the 1990s due to the rising sea level. Tough luck for anyone who wanted to grab a yellow kite and recreate this postcard picture.
5. MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
Gay Dolphin Park at Myrtle Beach was an adjunct business to the Gay Dolphin Gift Cove, a 30,000 square foot store that sells shark teeth, alligator heads, and other gifts. The amusement park has since closed (those still seeking out thrills can stop by the new SkyWheel), but there are plenty of thrill rides and amusements along the Grand Strand next to the beach to keep tourists in town longer.
6. DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
Daytona Beach gives us an example of the “large-letter postcards" that were seen all over between 1930 and 1950. Images of the local attractions were put inside the letters themselves, so you could show off multiple attractions, and the city name could be more prominent than ever before.
7. MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA
Ivanhoe by the Sea was one of the swankiest hotels in Miami Beach in the 1950s. With a lounge where Count Basie liked to hang out, and a large party pool just feet away from the beach, it was a fixture of the American Riviera. Unfortunately, you can't book a room there these days; it was demolished in 1981 to make way for beachfront condos.
8. SANTA CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA
This postcard from Santa Catalina Island was sent in September 1938. The summer scene is more rustic than the concrete pools of Miami Beach, with a gaggle of small boats up front and a thatch-roofed building in the background. The postcard was included in a souvenir folder with 17 other postcards; you can see the rest in this gallery.
9. VENICE BEACH, CALIFORNIA
The beach in Venice, California, today looks very different than when this postcard was printed, soon after the Plunge bathhouse opened in 1908. (No one wears that much clothing anymore, for one thing.) Created by Venice of America founder Abbot Kinney, The Plunge was part of an early 20th century California trend that saw several beach-side pools pop up. It had a heated indoor salt water pool, attendants to bring you fresh towels, and lifeguards to ensure public safety.
10. HONOLULU, HAWAII
Hawaii was still half a century away from becoming a state when this postcard was made circa 1908. C. M. Cooke was a banker and agriculture magnate who advocated for the annexation of Hawaii in 1893, and you could apparently mail your friends a portrait of his house.