Discover Canterbury: Motukauatiiti / Corsair Bay

As residents of Christchurch (Ōtautahi), we are spoilt by choice with fantastic swimming locations from the numerous bays of Banks Peninsula to the Waimakariri River. Motukauatiiti/Corsair Bay is no doubt one of them but it is perhaps surprising to learn that it was one of the most popular swimming destinations in Christchurch/Banks Peninsula more than 100 years ago and even had a swimming enclosure, which is depicted in the photograph below.

Corsair Bay swimming. No known copyright. CCL-Arch789-Box13-03

Motukauatiiti/Corsair Bay has been a popular swimming beach from at least the 1880s with Christ's College and Christchurch Boys' High Schools having their swimming sports held there from 1886. It became a pleasure resort between 1906-07 when the prisoners from the Lyttelton Goal were put to work clearing rocks, building a sea wall and forging the promenade walk around the Lyttelton Domain. Over the years, additions were added including bathing enclosures. By 1921, the crowds were becoming excessive with reportedly up to 2500 people being on the beach at one time. It continued to be popular throughout the 1960s until the rise of automobiles, which made it easier for people to explore other nearby locations.

Nowadays, only the seawall, a raft and one jetty remain, alongside the remains of the old diving jetty and men's huts. Even though it is not as popular as it used to be, Corsair Bay is still a great swimming beach.

If you want to see more photographs from this collection, you can in the Christchurch and Banks Peninsula glass plate collection on Canterbury Stories.

Do you have any images of Corsair Bay or the other bays in Lyttelton Harbour/Whakaraupō? You can contribute to our collection via Discovery Wall.


The Corsair Bay Baths. Te Ūaka: The Lyttelton Museum. 15 May 2022. [online].

Discover Canterbury

Discover Canterbury is a fortnightly blog post promoting beautiful, interesting, weird, and wonderful digital content from our Canterbury Stories and Discovery Wall collections.
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