Taylor’s Mistake has a rich and interesting history and today remains one of the most spectacular and rewarding beaches on the east coast of the South Island.
Taylors Mistake beach
The following is a Google map image of Taylors Mistake. The image extends from Giants eye on the left to Harris Bay on the right. The permanent residences can be seen on the road leading into the bay on the left. The baches which are colloquially known as “Rotten Row” can be seen at the bottom of the image near the carpark.
Google map of Taylors Mistake beach and surrounding area. For an interactive Google Map please go here.
Taylor’s Mistake is one of the most beautiful and dramatic beaches in the Canterbury area. The beach is surrounded on either side by hills and craggy outcrops which are the result of volcanic activity in nearby Lyttelton Harbour.
Taylor’s Mistake viewed from Scarborough Hill
In summer the hills dry off and create a brilliant harsh dry backdrop to the blue sea.
Images of the hills near Taylor’s Mistake
The beach itself is compact and the water is clear and cool. Taylor’s is renowned for some of the best and biggest surf in the Christchurch area making it challenging for even the most experienced swimmers and board riders.
Historic baches add a real kiwi charm to the area. They cling to the rocks like the mussels at the waters edge hanging on against the ever encroaching sea.
As the summer hits its peak and the hot nor-west drives the temperatures up the beach is a welcome place for many Christchurch people to escape the heat and wind of the city.
(Te Onepoto meaning short beach)
The exact timing and reason for the adoption of the name, Taylors Mistake, has been open to some debate and has become somewhat of a legend. There are varying accounts of ships that have mistaken the Bay for Lyttelton and/or Sumner. These vessels, which include the Volga (1858), Chrysolite (1861) and the Gwalior (1853), all had a Mr Taylor on board in some capacity. The Volga and Chrysolite, as well as a smaller vessel captained by John Vincent (1857) all seem to have lost their way near the Bay. The Gwalior at least, seemed to know where it was going although it had other issues. The first Captain, a Mr Davidson (“at the time in a state of delirium tremens”), threw himself overboard en route from New South Wales and the mate, a Mr Taylor took over to bring the vessel into Lyttelton in April 1853. However it is unlikely that the Volga, Chrysolite or the vessel captained by Vincent led to the naming of the Bay as some excellent detective work (refer “Guardians of the Mistake”) has revealed that it was known as Taylors Mistake as early as 1853 (prior to the arrival of the vessels mentioned above). It was named that way in the Southern Provinces Almanac as “Taylors Mistake sometimes mistaken for Sumner Bay”. The Gwalior however, having arrived in 1853, can not yet be fully eliminated!
The Chrysolite anchored in Sydney harbour 1869
The first Europeans are reported to have camped there in the early 1890’s. Dwellings were commenced in the late 1890’s, a dozen baches were reported to have been set up in 1910 alone, there commenced a long running battle with the Sumner Borough Council, and from 1945 with the Christchurch City Council for the right to remain there. In recent years a compromise appears to have been reached with some batches to go, and land being allocated to those occupiers.
The bay has supported a community of holiday homes for many years. During the war most of the homes were requisitioned for Army accommodation. Though, people for whom the bay was their primary accommodation were allowed to live there and were even given a special pass to access the area.
Military passes used at Taylor’s Mistake Beach during the war
A memorial at club house remembers those members who made the ultimate sacrifice during the world wars.
The Maori name is Te One Poto (Little Beach).
During the thousand years of history preceding the arrival of European settlers, the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island was populated from the North by Polynesian colonists who are known today as the Maori.
The first wave of this colonisation was the Waitaha peoples who were engulfed in the late fifteenth century by the Ngati Mamoe. They in turn were progressively conquered from the late eighteenth century by the Ngati Tahu.
Godley Head was known to the Maori as Awaroa, a name which refers to the length and height of the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour. The land behind the headland was known as Mahoenui, referring to the large Mahoe (a large shrub) which grew there. The French vessel Le Rhin mapped the Head as Kotoki-toki in 1844, also it has also been called Otokitoki, however this second name was used to refer to the general area of Gollans Bay.
While the area of Lyttelton Harbour has maintained a reasonably small but stable Maori population, Godley Head itself has had no recognised settlement. This is probably accounted for by its exposed position, lack of fresh water and no easy access to the seashore.
- Mountain biking
- Penguin watching
- Gun emplacement at Godley Head