Caroline Bay Tea Rooms:
This Historic Building could be your next event venue

SophezeOnTheBay TeaRooms 2022

 The 1905 Caroline Bay Tea Rooms in 2022



Originally constructed in 1905 as part of the Timaru Borough Council's plan to transform the area into a seaside resort, the tea rooms have witnessed numerous additions and modifications over the years, making them an integral part of Caroline Bay's rich history.

The team rooms story started when the council leased the new sandy foreshore from the Timaru Harbour Board in 1902. The plan was to create a European-style beach resort and historically was promoted as ‘'the Riviera of the South’. 

Today, the tea room is still there, nestled below the Bay Hill, at the western end of Caroline Bay. The structure is a single-story Arts and Crafts style, with tiled hipped roof. The building's north, east, and west elevations include Timaru bluestone piers and multi-pane windows. The south elevation is clad in weatherboard. The venue is surrounded by gardens and lawns ideal for a wedding ceremony or event. A cottage used to be where the lawn is today and was the home of the caretaker for the bay and his family. The cottage and tearooms were some of the first buildings at Caroline Bay. A hot-water swimming pool and a band rotunda were built around the same time. 

Over the decades, the Caroline Bay Tea Rooms have undergone several renovations, demonstrating the ever-evolving nature of both the bay and its visitors. In 1907, two rooms were added to the rear of the building, providing additional space for tenants. Subsequent modifications included the replacement of the roof and the addition of another room in 1913-14, the construction of two bedrooms, a bathroom, store, and hot water room in 1920, and the establishment of a large new tea room at the front of the building in 1931. However, during the 1970s, a significant portion of the 1920 addition was demolished.


SophezeOnTheBay Exterior FromTheCorner  Above: Tea rooms ([1905/1907/1913/1920] 1931; FW Marchant (1905), Walter Panton & Son (1913 & 1931), Harold Broadhead (1920), and Turnbull and Rule (1931), architects; Messrs Stoddart & Mitchell, builders (1931).  2022 by Roselyn Fauth.


Sopheze's decision to operate an event venue in this historically significant tearoom highlights its commitment to preserving and celebrating local heritage. The Caroline Bay Tea Rooms hold great aesthetic, architectural, historical, and social value, providing a captivating glimpse into the past. The building's clean lines, local bluestone piers, and vibrant color combination create a visually stunning ambiance that blends Arts and Crafts and bungalow influences, epitomizing the era in which the final addition was made.


In the early 20th century, tea rooms like these were among the few socially acceptable places for respectable women to gather in public. Often managed by women themselves, these establishments reflected the changing landscape of New Zealand society, which was gradually moving away from religious dominance.


1935 Caroline Bay tearooms 1ao1h2n 1oos l CN 0277

Patrons having high tea in the Caroline Bay Tearooms, circa 1935, posed at tables bearing tiered plate stands, looking towards the camera. The tearooms interior featuring ornate cornices and wood panelled interior. - South Canterbury Museum CN 0277


The tearooms offer a unique venue for a variety of events, including weddings, corporate functions, and cultural celebrations. The picturesque surroundings, with gardens and lawns embracing the venue, add to its allure, providing a charming backdrop for memorable occasions. Sopheze's vision to repurpose the historic tea rooms aligns perfectly with the company's mission to create unforgettable experiences in distinctive setting.


With their deep-rooted historical significance and architectural beauty, the Caroline Bay Tea Rooms aim to be a premier destination for those seeking a blend of nostalgia and modern elegance. Sopheze's endeavor to transform this treasured location into a vibrant event venue ensures that its rich heritage will be cherished and appreciated for generations to come.


Sopheze On The Bay Floor Plan 230517 Garden

The layout of Sopheze on the bay in 2023



This is what the local news paper had to report from the opening of the tearooms in 1905:

The Caroline Bay tea rooms which have just been completed, were opened with ceremony yesterday afternoon. ...  several hundred people gathered. to witness the ceremony that made the building fit for public use. ... Mr Cragie said he believed they were first municipal tea rooms in the colony. A large mirror was gifted to hand in the tea rooms. £3200 had been spent on improvements at the bay. Including £l6O spent by the Beautifying Society.  ... Mr Craigie dropped a. hint that Mr Hall-Jones, might use Ms influence to have a railway excursion from Chxistchurch to Timaru. He also took the opportunity to thank those who had subscribed generously to the improvements, and shrubs and trees. Some of the 1000 shrubs had been sent from as far away as Wellington. Cr Hawkey asked Mrs Craigie to accept a small present as a memento of the occasion - a gold key set with diamonds, and Mr Craigie thanked them on behalf of his wife. Mrs Cragie then opened the door of the tea room for a photograph by Mr Ferrier. A number of ladies, councillors and members of the Beautifying Association, were guests of Mrs Craigie at the first tea party in the rooms.




 "Reflects the changing history of Caroline Bay and social attitudes of the time."




"Aesthetic and architectural qualities are also noteworthy"

The Caroline Bay Tea Rooms are a striking building with strong clean lines and a combination of colors that set them off. The bluestone piers are a nod to the use of local materials and contrast strongly with the green and orange of the rest of the building. The setting of the tea rooms, surrounded by gardens and lawns, adds to their appeal.


Details of the plaster work at Caroline Bay Tearooms

 The plaster details inside the Caroline Bay Tearooms in Timaru.


GibsonStone Timaru Tearooms Caretaker - By Roselyn Fauth

2020 Supplied by Roselyn Fauth



Historic Place Category: 2 List Number: 9077

Construction of the original tea rooms1905.The first of a number of additionsstarted in 1907, when two rooms for the use of the tenants were added to the rear of the building.

Constrution materials: Local Bluestone (basalt), Timber and terracotta Marseille tiles.

View heritage information here: 


  • The Bay formed between 2.5 million year old lava flows. The reefs provided shelter and marine habitiat. 
  • The coastline was abundant in marine life and was an important source of kai moana for Māori. Kai such as tuna (eel) and inaka (whitebait) patete (fish), and kōareare (the edible rhizome of raupō) were abundant in the area.
  • 1839-1841 The Weller Brothers had their whaling station near what is now the Tearooms. A whale pot stands at Pohatukoko Whale’s Creek. 
  • The name Caroline may derive from an early whaling ship used to drop off supplies and pick up whale oil. Most likely the Barque Caroline that was recorded at Lyttelton Harbour in September 1836. Uunder Samuel Cherry master; or a ship owned by Robert Campbell of R. Cambell and Company, Sydney. NZ History  Mayor Craigie stated in January 1907 that he was firmly of the view that the bay was named after Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821), the wife of George IV. Craigie based his views on a survey plan drawn up in the late 1840s by the party aboard the Acheron; it may be that the ship was also named for Queen Caroline.
  • The natural harbour was notorious for shipwrecks. Over 28 ships had wrecked here, so work began on a breakwater to provide safe mooring.
  • The local people established the Timaru Harbour Board and funded their own port. Timaru Port was to be only one of two independent ports in the country. This hugely impacted the growth of the region.
  • 1878 the Timaru population was 3389 and the construction of the harbour began. Currents created a sandy beach under the cliffs forming the beach at Caroline Bay.
  • 1891 wheeled bathing sheds appeared. They were organised by James Strachan. The caravans on wheels were drawn into the sea by horses 
  •  Many hours of voluntary labour went into creating a promenade and pleasing recreational facilities. . First improvements made to the bay included the planting of pine trees at the top of the cliff to camoflague the rubbish and sewage that was being dumped near the site of the present day tearooms.
  • 1890s  Work to ‘improve’ Caroline Bay began. A tree-planting picnic was organised by the mayor of Timaru, J. Grandi, after a public meeting had been held to discuss how the town should mark Queen Victoria’s ‘record reign’. In the same year sections of the cliff behind the bay were lowered and cut back.
  • 1897 Top soil taken from railway cutting to be spread for grassed area on bay. A beautifying society was formed a few years later.
  • 1902 The council leased the new foreshore from the harbour board in 1902 for a European-style beach resort. The mayor offered a prize for a shceme for development and the winning entry was submitted by A J Morris.. A loan of 2500 from including 1000 publish subscriptions was raised.The willows by the Soundshell were one of the first projects for the Timaru Beautification Society.
  • Mr Silas Williams’ had the first shop on Caroline Bay and sold fruit and confectionery. The shop was situated near where the tea-rooms now stand.
  • 1903 The first buildings at Caroline Bay were erected by  the caretakers’ cottage and shelters followed by the tearooms in 1903 and band rotunda in 1904. Alexander Gibson was the first caretaker and steps that lead down behind the tea rooms were named after him. At the back of the Caroline Bay Tearooms Garden is a large rock with "A F Gibson Timaru 1904-1939" scratched into the blue stone. It marks his 35 year contribution.
  • 1905: Construction of the original tea rooms. Bluestone, timber, Marseille tiles. Mr Marchant Architect 1905 (see List No. 9077). Miller Brothers Builders 1905 (see List No. 9077)
    See Paperspast article about the opening of the tea rooms.
  • 1905 Mrs Cowan was the first lessee.
  • 1905 1000 shrubs planted on bay. 
  • 1906 The Timaru Borough invited tenders for the leas of the Caroline Bay Tearooms.
  • 1907 Addition of two private rooms for the tenants. Lean-to addition on the southwest corner of the building.
  • 1907 Willow trees are planted by the local group, the Timaru Beautification Society. One of the first was to plant the Willows near the soundshell. 
  • 1910 Ladies facilities north of the tearooms and caretakers cottage and west of where the pavillion is to be built.
  • 1911 Caroline Bay Association was established. Timaru’s population was 11280. Christmas carnivals began, attracting thousands. Over the next century it featured beauty pageants, baby shows, concerts, rides and side shows.
  • 1912 The first "Grand Carnival" held at Caroline Bay in conjunction with opening of Marine Parade.
  • 1913-14 lean-to replaced. Addition of two bedrooms, bathroom, store and hot water room.
  • 1915 The first children’s playground on the bay was built and heated saltwater baths, which remained until 1968, were opened.  RH Rhodes of ‘Bluecliffs’ left a bequest of £2000 to the Timaru Borough Council to fund improvements to Caroline Bay; a sundial in his memory was erected 
  • 1917 Addition of a store. Mr Hall Architect 1917 (see List No.9077) Harold Broadhead Architect 1920 (see List No. 9077)
  • 1918 Caretaker instructed to plant Willow trees along main promenade.
  • 1923 The pavilion on Caroline Bay burned down. The Bay Hall opened on the same site on 8 December 1923; it was presented by the Caroline Bay Association 
  • 1929 Roads and paths on the Bay were sealed, a memorial seawall was built, lawn was laid. The memorial wall, which commemorated all the major battles of World War I, originally divided the sandy beach from the land on which there were lawns, gardens and paths; it is now many metres back from where the beach begins. 
  • 1931 The tearooms, having been extended several times by 1920, were largely rebuilt. designed by Victor Panton and Messrs Turnbull and Rule working as ‘associated architects’, were in the same Arts and Crafts style as the Bay Hall.  Addition of new entrance and tea room. Part of the verandah enclosed. Demolition of the two bedrooms, bathroom, two stores and hot water room. W H Panton architect 1931 (see List No. 9077). Stoddart and Mitchell Builder 1931 (see List No 9077)
  • 1937 A ‘sound shell’ (for concerts) replaced the rotunda.
  • 1939 During World War II barbed wire was strung across the beach at Caroline Bay and concrete pillboxes were installed in the central business district to block the passage of any Japanese troops who managed to land; these were later dumped on Caroline Bay 
  • 1939 The first of the Phoenix Palm (Canary Island Date Palm) were planted along on the north side of the pavilion, and on the bank above.
  • 1941 UK Parliament Buildings are bombed in WW2. Bluestone "moon" seat built. A brick was brought to Timaru, and placed as a tribute in a round stone shelter beside the teamrooms.
  • 1948 A commemorative totara tree planted near the band rotunda 


SophezeOnTheBay Exterior

Caroline Bay Tea Rooms 2022. To the right are tall Phoenix Canariensis tree  often referred to as Pineapple palms or Phoenix palms.

Further along on the north side of the pavilion there are other recessed seats, and hardy palms have been planted on the bank above’. - 30/9/1939 and titled ‘Work At Bay.’




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The Tennis Courts Caroline Bay. Timaru. FW Hutton and Co. Timaru . Looking across the tennis courts at Caroline Bay, Timaru showing men playing doubles, houses (left and rear); woman seated (right foreground).  Auckland Libraries Heritage Images Collection 


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1910-1919 the Caroline Bay Tea Rooms are to the left. Looking north along Caroline Bay, Timaru. Showing The Pavilion (centre). Over the roof of the Pavilion is the Midland Dairy Company's Palm Butter factory and to its left is Evans Street, with tennis courts beside. A train stretches across the picture from the left.  Auckland Libraries Heritage Images Collection 



The rustic bridge Caroline Bay Timaru 2015150

The rustic bridge Caroline Bay Timaru circa 1915.  Pictures several children on and around the bridge, part of the walkway leading to the Caretaker's Cottage and Tea Rooms on the Bay (in the background). - South Canterbury Museum  2015/150.02 



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Entertainment Hall. Caroline Bay. Timaru. P.W.Hutton and Co. Timaru.  Looking along Caroline Bay, Timaru. Showing the Pavilion (centre), on the hill, at left, is the Midland Dairy Company's Palm Butter factory. Below this is Evans Street, and the edge of the tennis courts.   Auckland Libraries Heritage Images Collection



MA I677862 TePapa Caroline Bay Timaru New Web

Caroline Bay, Timaru, New Zealand. circa 1900, Melbourne, by George Rose. Taken from the railway embankment, the band routunda, tea rooms and caretakers house and showing a portion of the harbour. Melbourne, by George Rose. Purchased 1991. Te Papa (O.004821)



MA I556506 TePapa Caroline Bay Timaru cropped

Caroline Bay, Timaru, 1920s, Timaru, by Havelock Williams. Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (O.020793)



MA I677862 TePapa Caroline Bay Timaru New Section

Caroline Bay, looking North, Timaru, circa 1905, Timaru, by Muir & Moodie. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (PS.001045)


MA I027554 TePapa Caroline Beach Timaru crop

Caroline Beach, Timaru, circa 1904, Dunedin, by Muir & Moodie. Te Papa (C.014384)


MA I306366 TePapa Timaru Ben Venue stranded cropped

One of Timaru's famous shipwrecks, The "Ben Venue" stranded at Caroline Bay. Here you can see the stern looking back to the cliffs where the Caroline Bay Tearooms are today. Circa 1882, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers. Te Papa (C.025205)


 Timaru from the air 52483 extralarge Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections FDM 0690 G

Timaru from the Air when Waimataitai Creek still ran through what is today Ashbury Park. You can see how close the Caroline Bay Tea Rooms used to be to the sand. For many of the aerial photographs, while Doug Mill was piloting the plane his wife Audrey was leaning out of the open cockpit with a camera. Between 1927-1937. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections FDM-0690-G -  Creative Commons Licence: Attribution CC BY 



Miscellaneous Plans Borough of Timaru South Canterbury 1911 TNBrodrick Chief Surveyor Canterbury R25538727 CarolineBaySection TeaRooms

In this map you can see the Waimataitai Lagoon before it was drained and turned into a park. The stream was piped underground and can be seen at the golf course. Miscellaneous Plans - Borough of Timaru, South Canterbury, 1911 - T.N. Brodrick, Chief Surveyor Canterbury