Located at the north-facing edge of our neighbourhood, Kitsilano Beach, or simply, Kits Beach, is one of Vancouver’s favourite sandy spots, especially during the summer months.

It’s even been ranked one of the top 10 sexiest beaches by Forbes Traveler.  While you may be familiar with this beach and its magnetism for yoga-pant-wearing youths, strolling-wielding yuppies, and muscle-men with tiny dogs, you may not be aware of its rather interesting history.

1. It used to be known as Greer’s Beach

Reached only by boat via False Creek, across a trestle bridge, and through a meandering forest trail, Kits Beach was originally known as Greer’s Beach. It was named after Irish-born pioneer and American Civil War veteran Sam Greer, one of the first non-native settlers in the area. In 1882 he built his home on the site where The Boathouse Restaurant now sits, on land which at that time belonged to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Greer challenged for rights to the land but lost the battle after a gunfight between him and the sheriff. Greer was eventually evicted by the CPR, and the beach was renamed Kitsilano Beach.

Greer's Beach, 1896

Tent Town residents at Greer’s Beach, 1896. Photo Credit: City of Vancouver Archives.

2. It was home to Engine #374

Kits Beach was where, for many decades, CPR’s famous Engine #374 resided on display on an old piece of track. Engine #374 pulled the first passenger train into Vancouver on May 23, 1887, and continued in service until 1945. It was restored several times, including for Expo 86. Its new home is now in the glass pavilion attached to the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre in Yaletown, where it is a designated heritage monument.

3. Camping was allowed

During the late 19th century, Kits Beach was nicknamed “tent town”  as it was used as a resort for summer camps. Those wanting to get away from the “city” would spend weekends at the beach glamping in style, cows and all. Camping was banned in 1908 due to improper sanitation at the crowded beach, and in 1909 the area was mostly cleared to make room for a housing development.

4. It has the longest swimming pool in Canada

Kits Beach is home to the longest swimming pool in Canada. At 137m, the ocean-side heated salt-water pool is almost three times the size of an Olympic pool. And with panoramic views of downtown Vancouver and the Coast Mountains the pool has been hugely popular ever since it’s opening day in 1931. When the pool was first built (for $50,000), plugs were simply opened and it was filled by tidal flow from English Bay. After the facility was refurbished (in 1978 for $2.2-million), a pump system was installed. But the pool still draws its water from the bay, all one million litres of it.

5. It has the largest accessible playground

The 0.2 hectare playground, built for $540K as part of the legacy of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, is Kits Beach’s newest feature and it is the city’s largest fully accessible playground. It offers kiddos a rotating climber, regular and saucer swings, slides, and a sand play table. A wheelchair accessible surface allows parents and caregivers with physical disabilities access to the playground. It also has a recycled rubber matting floor for softer landings.

Last modified: July 2, 2019

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