When Samuel Holland came to what was then St. John’s Island in 1764 he quartered most of his surveying party at the French fort facing into the harbour. He elected to live a few miles to the south at what was identified on the rudimentary French maps as Ance a sanglier and which he later to called Observation Cove. The cove is not named in the chart of Hillsborough Bay in 1842. However, by the time of Bayfield’s survey in 1846 the name Holland Cove had been applied.
The timber was cut off the land and it was apparently used as farmland but by the late 19th century the area was once again forested. The proximity of the Cove to Charlottetown led to recreational interest and by the mid-1890s it was the site for recreational camping and later the development of a number of cottages on the eastern side of the cove. Activity at that site is well-documented and the Public Archives and Records Office has a number of photos from the period, probably taken by Charlottetown photographer W.A. Mitchell.
The same cottage sites are still occupied by descendants of the family more than a century later and some of the original buildings still survive although at least one year-round residence has been built in the compound. A similar pattern of ownership continues in a dozen or so family cottages which are hidden among the woods rising from the ponds to the rear of the beach. Because the access is limited to private lanes and the cove is still some distance from Charlottetown by car there has been limited development of the area.
In the early 20th century the scenic beauty of the cove was featured in a range of postcards and photographs including at least one taken by the famed Notman Studio in Montreal. These photos showed the rugged cliffs as well as the bathing and boating opportunities of the area. In the 1920s Charlottetown businessman Robert L. Cotton, who operated one of the newspapers in Charlottetown decided to exploit the beauty and relative isolation of the site and developed Charlottetown Summer Resorts to the north and west of the beach. Built on the American plan the resort consisted of a number of cabins with a central lodge with the dining facilities. The resort provided a motor launch service to and from Charlottetown and served meals as well as offering accommodation. By the end of the 1930s the resort had been closed. A number of the buildings were converted to private cottages and others were moved off the site, including all those on the cliffs to the west of the cover although a few of the sites can be located by foundation stones in what are now thick woods. The main building of the resort was acquired by the Y.M.C.A. and became the dining room and headquarters for Holland Cove Camp which operated into the 1960s.
Today the beach continues to be used by descendants of the early cottage-owners and the waters of the cove are visited by boaters but Holland Cove remains very much a seasonal community.
Below is a selection of historical images of the cove. Click on any of them to start a slide show.