Vintage photos show how much 10 famous beaches have changed

Ben Davies/LightRocket via Getty Images and LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty ImagesMaya Bay in Thailand is permanently closed.
  • Beaches are an ideal destination for spring break, summer days, or any vacation, really.
  • Some of the most iconic beaches in the world have been tourist destinations for 100 years or more, while others are a little newer on the scene.
  • Venice Beach used to be a thriving oil field, preventing people from visiting.

With spring break and summer quickly approaching, you might have beaches on the brain.

We’ve found vintage photos of 10 of the most iconic beaches that show what they used to look like before the hordes of people took over.

Keep scrolling to see how Coney Island to Maya Bay, Thailand, have changed over the past few decades.


Walking down the Coney Island Boardwalk used to be a fancy occasion.

Byron Collection/Museum of the City of New York/Getty ImagesHoliday-makers stroll along the boardwalk and window shop at Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, in 1897.

Coney Island first became a beach spot in 1829 when the Coney Island Hotel opened.


People are a little more comfortable with their bodies in the 21st century.

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesPeople enjoy an afternoon at Coney Island on a hot day on June 14, 2018, in New York City.

It’s still a summer hot spot – over 400,000 people visited the Coney Island amusement park in 2010.


Kuta Beach in Bali used to be a pristine surfer’s paradise.

Patrick Durand/Sygma via Getty ImagesViews of Kuta Beach, Bali, 1993.

Kuta is one of the most popular cities in Bali, thanks to its “countless restaurants, bars, a big mall, the largest waterpark in Southeast Asia, and a wide variety of hotels” – and its beautiful beach.


But that popularity came with a cost.

SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty ImagesTourists walk with their surfboards along Kuta Beach past debris and rubbish washed up by the tide on December 9, 2018.

Kuta Beach has been polluted by the thousands of tourists who roll through on vacation. Tons of plastic debris washes up on the shore, discouraging visitors from surfing, snorkelling, and swimming.


Some New Jersey beachgoers used to wear full suits in order to stroll along the coast.

Bettmann/Getty ImagesPeople are shown promenading on the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The Jersey Shore’s never looked so demure.


Jersey’s not so formal anymore.

The Jersey Shore” might have had something to do with this.


The beach at Maya Bay, Thailand, was made famous by the movie “The Beach,” in which it doubled as a paradise largely untouched by humans.

Ben Davies/LightRocket via Getty ImagesFishing boats drawn up on the white sparkling beaches of Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi, in southern Thailand.

This photo, taken before 2000’s “The Beach” was released, shows how beautiful the island paradise was before millions of tourists overtook it.


The beach is now closed indefinitely to help the ecosystem recover from the immense damage caused by tourists.

LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty ImagesA crowd of tourists on Maya Bay beach on the southern Thai island of Koh Phi Phi in April 2018.

The secret beach became a tourist hotspot overnight. CNN reported that, according to Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the park saw 2.5 million visitors in 2018, an increase of half a million people from 2017.

In order to help rejuvenate the beach and its waters, Maya Bay was closed to visitors indefinitely.


Venice Beach, California, used to be right next to an oil field.

ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty ImagesOil derricks at Venice Beach in 1931.

Venice Beach suffered during the Great Depression, since the city mainly relied on tourism for its economy. The discovery of oil along the coast saved the city, but at a high cost. Oil began polluting the ocean, canals, and air.


By the ’90s, the oil field was dry and the beach was Venice’s main priority.

Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty ImagesA surfer enjoys riding waves off Venice Beach in Los Angeles in January 2019.

According to Atlas Obscura, the oil wells were capped in the ’70s, and the field was dry by the ’90s, after mounting pressure from residents who “yearned to get [their] beach back.”

All the derricks were taken down, except for one, which was re-designed to resemble a lighthouse.


Boracay Island in the Philippines has been filled with garbage for years.

JOEL NITO/AFP/Getty ImagesScavengers sift through the piles of garbage that have been dumped on a hillside in the central Philippine resort island of Boracay, in June 2005.

You can’t even see the beach underneath all the trash and debris that’s washed up on the shore. The president of the Philippines even called the island a “cesspool.”


But after a six-month closure, the beach looks better than ever.

Dmitry Pichugin/ ShutterstockBoracay island in December 2018.

During the six months, “authorities remove[d] illegal sewage pipes, close[d] or demolish[ed] unregistered hotels and widen[ed] roads.”

Now, the island has a cap of 19,000 tourists, having banned beach parties, smoking, and drinking, and no longer allows vendors on the beach. While this might seem strict, that might be what a few of these other beaches need to rehabilitate.


Horse and buggies used to roll directly onto the sand in Atlantic City.

Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesCrowds on the beach at Atlantic City.

Back in the 19th century, Atlantic City was one of the biggest beach destinations on the East Coast.


The beach has fallen on rough times in the past few years.

John Moore/Getty ImagesA lifeguard rescue boat sits on the beach in front of the closed Trump Plaza hotel on August 28, 2015, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

By 2016, Atlantic City had racked up $US500 million in debt and is more known for its casinos and crime than the beach.


Miami Beach, Florida, was crowded, but there were few skyscrapers to be seen.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesAuto traffic along Collins Ave., the main street of the city, where six out of every 10 cars has a non-Florida licence plate, amongst a residential population of 20,000.

Miami Beach celebrated its 100th birthday in 2015.


Almost 16 million tourists visited Miami in 2017 — no wonder it seems a bit overcrowded.

Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty ImagesMiami Beach’s skyline is filled with high-rise condos and hotels.

To be exact, 15.8 million tourists passed through Miami in 2017, and spent $US25.9 billion.


North Carolina’s most iconic beaches are the Outer Banks. Many people built houses on the beach, but that might not have been the best idea.

Hy Peskin/Getty ImagesPeople sun tanning on the beach along the Outer Banks circa July 1953.

While living on the beach might sound like it would be blissful, it’s not the most environmentally friendly decision.


The beaches of the Outer Banks are eroding and sea levels are rising, causing houses to literally fall into the ocean.

John Greim/LightRocket via Getty ImagesA Nags Head beach house on stilts surrounded by high tide surf in 2016.

In the past 150 years, the beaches have receded 2,500 feet, and are at just 25% of their original size.


Cozumel, an island off the coast of Mexico, was a relatively unknown tourist spot for decades.

Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty ImagesPrime minister Trudeau’s 1969 vacation in Cozumel.

Cozumel is relatively small for the amount of people that visit today – almost 4 million people flocked to the 187-square-mile island in 2015.


But all that cruise traffic isn’t great for the surrounding waters.

MyLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesCruises constantly exit and enter Cozumel Harbour.

According to the BBC, Cozumel is the second-most popular cruise stop in the world. But all those ships are causing the ocean water to warm, in turn damaging the coral reefs. Plus, the cruise passengers create almost five times the amount of trash that a resident does.

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