Arkles Bay on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, now less than an hour's drive north of central Auckland on a good day, was an outlying resort for a summer holiday a century ago.

It featured as "one of Auckland's popular seaside resorts" in the Auckland Weekly News in February 1918.

"One of the features of Auckland," the paper noted under a full-page photo-spread on Arkles Bay, "is its many seaside resorts, such as Great Barrier Island, Kawau Island, and other places, views of which have been reproduced on these pages at various times.

"Another Auckland seaside resort is that of Arkle's Bay, which is rapidly growing in popularity. This bay is easily accessible to visitors from Auckland."

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Crowds of visitors would arrive on a coastal steamer, to stay at the large Kia Ora House, one of few buildings at what is now a densely built residential area.

Kia Ora House with dance pavilion at back, Arkles Bay, 1918. Photo / Auckland Weekly News
Kia Ora House with dance pavilion at back, Arkles Bay, 1918. Photo / Auckland Weekly News

There were tennis, a dance pavilion, swimming, car rides on the beach and other activities.

For many Auckland seaside vacationers, coastal steamers and harbour ferries were the regional transport of choice in the 1910s. They reached many more coastal spots than railways, and roads were rudimentary and few.

In the summer of 1912/13, the Herald noted the record number of people who travelled by boat on the harbour on Boxing Day.

Heavy clouds that ushered in the public holiday in Auckland soon cleared to reveal "a splendid day" and fine weather was reported from Wellington, Christchurch and Timaru too - but there was no mention of the kind of heatwave melting many parts of New Zealand this week with temperatures in the 30s and high 20s.

The average national temperature was 11.38C in 1912, and 11.81C in 1918, according to data held by, Niwa, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. In 2018, the average annual land surface temperature was 13.5C, making it our hottest year since records began in 1867, according to climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger.

Writing of the 1912 Boxing Day hordes, the Herald said: "Thirty thousand went forth upon the waterways, and an even large number attended the Auckland Racing Club's cup meeting.

"The beaches on both sides of the harbour were crowded … A large portion of the holiday-seeking crowd spent [the day] on the Takapuna and Milford beaches. From an early hour in the morning the holiday-makers, carrying huge hampers, went across by ferry and on by tram, while others having chosen the Takapuna beach went around by water."

Many promenaded up and down the beaches, meeting and greeting friends. Many preferred a dip and "indulged their fancy", while others engaged in "the pleasures of rowing".

Arkles Bay visitors having a morning swim in 1918. Photo / Auckland Weekly News
Arkles Bay visitors having a morning swim in 1918. Photo / Auckland Weekly News
Overlooking the Weiti River, called the Wade at the time, at Arkles Bay, 1918. Photo / Auckland Weekly News
Overlooking the Weiti River, called the Wade at the time, at Arkles Bay, 1918. Photo / Auckland Weekly News

Various religious groups held their annual outings at Motutapu, attendees being delivered by the ferry Kestrel.

"A continuous [ferry] service was run to Ōrākei, St Heliers Bay, and Kohimarama, and these favourite watering places were also well patronised.

"Five trips were run to Rangitoto, which is becoming more popular every year, and each trip was well patronised.

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"A heavy day was experienced by the Takapuna Tramways and Ferry Co, some 6000 people journeying across the harbour to Bayswater, and thence by steam tram to Lake Takapuna.

"The excursion run to the Great Barrier by the Northern Steamship Company's steamer Manaia was very successful.

"The Wakatere left for Cowes Bay (Waiheke), with 1200 on board, and the Waiotahi, which was standing by to cope with the overflow, also left with almost a full complement. The Ngapuhi carried about 500 to Kawau Island; the Clansman about the same number to Waiwera Hot Springs, and the Ngatiawa about 500 to Awaroa Bay (Waiheke)."

Arkles Bay, marked by the red pin, is on the south side of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Map / Google
Arkles Bay, marked by the red pin, is on the south side of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Map / Google
Arkles Bay on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in the 21st century is a residential suburb. Photo / File
Arkles Bay on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in the 21st century is a residential suburb. Photo / File

Four other Northern Steamship steamers took about 1000 people to Kawau and Algies, Waiwera, Arkles Bay and other ports.

Special trains to the races at Ellerslie carried 7000 passengers.