Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Shaping a Seaside Resort: the Development of Caroline Bay 1890 - 1939

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posted on 2024-04-21, 21:41 authored by Jane Donald

This thesis explores the development of Caroline Bay from its unassuming beginning – a stretch of sand with a few bathing machines immediately adjacent to the South Island town of Timaru – into what was essentially a replica of an English seaside resort. Underlying this, however, is an examination of the multi-faceted historical process of shaping a large-scale amenity, highlighting the roles played by various stakeholders from individuals and voluntary organisations to local authorities.

Caroline Bay is unique in New Zealand. Harbour works in the late nineteenth century transformed what had been a treacherous roadstead into a safe harbour, and as a fortuitous by-product created a wide beach. From this inauspicious beginning, Caroline Bay developed as an extraordinarily popular holiday destination. The scale and rapidity of this transformation was astonishing, yet it has never been comprehensively studied.

This thesis employs a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis to investigate how a provincial town successfully established an attractive amenity which not only enhanced the lives of its own residents but also drew in thousands of visitors. By examining such issues as the social dynamics that drove Caroline Bay’s growth, the conflicts that occurred between local authorities, and the networks established and reinforced through associational and community life, this study addresses gaps in our urban historiography and in histories of New Zealand tourism.

Historical studies of tourism in New Zealand are predominantly confined to ‘the scenic and the sublime’. Caroline Bay was marketed very early on as a distinctive seaside resort: an analysis of the extraordinary number of holidaymakers and excursionists that followed offers new insights into the economic benefits that domestic tourism brought. In particular, it contributes to a broader discourse on the gendered nature of enterprise by detailed case studies of women who developed specialised guest houses to cater for visitors.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY-ND 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


McAloon, Jim; Hunter, Kate