The shining white building perched over Shoal Bay

For many years, as I’ve traversed the Harbour Bridge, I have looked across the water toward Bayswater Marina and pondered to myself ‘What on earth is that big white building over there?’. Perched on the waters edge is a large, three storey building with wide veranda’s and a red roof. It is in a rather sad state- the top and bottom veranda’s have lost their railings and the general demeanour has an air of being tired and windswept. I’d tried a simple Google search to no avail, and I’d always intended on going for a drive one day to have a look. 

This mystery remained until I briefly joined the Heritage Policy team within the Auckland Council Plans and Places team in November 2020. I was tasked with conducting research and reviewing scheduled buildings, one of which was the Takapuna Boating Club; my shining, white, windswept building teetering on the banks of Shoal Bay.

Henry Winkelmann. "Showing the Takapuna Boating Club", 16 February 1924, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W364.

Lets go back to the beginning. In 1914 a group of local boating enthusiasts formed the Bayswater Boating Club. They were a popular club, with their picnics and regattas reportedly attracting many attendees. Sadly, due to the First World War, their membership numbers waned, and the club closed.  

In February 1920 some of the original club members, reviving their passion for sailing, founded a new Club at Bayswater, the Takapuna Boating Club. The first general meeting took place on October 14th 1920 , and the season opened with a picnic on 18 December .  After two years of successful sailing and social events, the committee members discussed the idea of building a clubhouse to keep up with the growing club and to further solidify its place in the community. In October 1922 the sale of some large tannery buildings in the Panmure lagoon had caught the attention of the Commodore, and an investigation party was formed to go to evaluate them.

 New Zealand Herald, Volume LIX, Issue 18215, 7 October 1922, Page 4. Accessed through Papers Past.  

This is where the story takes an interesting turn. On April 8th, 1881, a large fire at the Ireland Brother’s Tannery in Panmure destroyed the buildings on site. After lengthy fire investigations which determined the blaze to be caused by arsonists, the company received an insurance pay out to reconstruct the buildings. A tender was put out by popular architects Richard Keals and Son for builders to construct three buildings for the new tannery.  It has not been confirmed whether this went ahead but evidence would suggest this was the only tender advertisement made. The business was then sold in 1902 and again in 1922. On October 7th, 1922, the first advertisement was placed for the sale of the tannery buildings, including building “No. 3- Wood and iron building. 3 storeys, containing approx. 29,788ft. heart of kauri, ?? tons iron, 240ft. spouting, 120ft. ridging, and 26 windows.”  Based on this description, it is believed that this may be the building purchased by the club at auction in October 1922. It is not clear exactly how similar the current building is to the original construction, but photographic evidence would suggest the variation isn’t too great.

Matt Elliott. "Bayswater Boating Club building, Sir Peter Blake Parade, Bayswater", 16 May 2018, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1385-0639. 

As new owners of a rather large building very far away, the club set to task. The Club formed a demolition party who ventured to the site in Panmure for four weekends, ready to work during the day and camp at night. By the end of the fourth weekend, the building had been precisely taken apart and was stacked onto a pontoon ready to be transported to Bayswater. Of course, the trip from Panmure to Bayswater these days is around 26km and half an hour by car, but in 1922 it took two trips and around three days for the Auckland Launch and Towboat Company to tow the pontoon the distance. 

Image showing Shoal Bay (mid-ground) with the Takapuna Boating Club visible (centre, circled).
Henry Winkelmann.  "Looking east from Birkenhead across to Devonport, Ngataringa Bay (centre) Bayswater and Bayswater Wharf, Shoal Bay, Northcote with Queen Street (left to right) and Little Shoal Bay (foreground)", 30 April 1925, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W711.

Over the next several months, teams of volunteers worked hard to reconstruct the building to suit their needs. Additional materials and services were donated by local businesses and the building was ready for occupation at the beginning of the season in 1923, although there was much finishing work left to do.  The rectangular building sits three storeys high, two above road level and one below. To maximise views of the harbour there are extensive verandas on all floors. The lower floor opens onto a deck on the northern side. The middle floor, originally the 'supper room' has a small auditorium, a kitchen, offices, and ablution blocks. The upper floor - slightly above road level- has a large auditorium with a stage and was once used as a dance hall and picture theatre. The Club building was beneficial to its not only its members, but it also became a gathering site for the wider community to socialise and connect. 

Unknown. "Bayswater Boating Club, Bayswater, North Shore." 1930-1939, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0739. 

Since the 1960s, the clubhouse has been leased to a range of tenants, some of whom have made their own alterations to the building. In the 1970s, the Takapuna Boating Club relocated to Takapuna beach due to changes in the ways in which Bayswater marina was being used. Since then, it has been partially occupied by various businesses and clubs, but sadly the building has begun to fall into disrepair. 

Unknown. "Takapuna Boating Club, 1976", 1976, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T1475.

The tale of the club and the building stretches back in time, and further afield, than I would ever have guessed. It is a story of a dedicated community of locals, a love of water sports and also of ingenuity and a ‘can-do’ attitude. The club and club house have had a long association with, and influence on, the local sailing and water sports community. The site was a hub for the progression of sailing in New Zealand and has provided a venue for many social events over the years. The uniqueness of the construction of this building is also notable. Given that it was dismantled, relocated and rebuilt, it demonstrates technological accomplishments and dedication form the local community. With such a prominent position on the landscape, the Takapuna Boating Club is a true icon of the Hauraki Gulf. We can hope that this beautiful building with a long and varied history may continue to be the shining white building perched over Shoal Bay. 

Matt Eliott. "Bayswater Boating Club, Bayswater, 2018", Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1385-0643. 

Author: Samantha Waru

Authors note: 

I would like to say a big thank you to the Auckland Council Heritage Policy team for welcoming me into their team and for involving me on such an interesting project. The support and encouragement I received allowed me to conduct my research easily and enabled me to learn more about his fantastic building. 

Further reading: 

Takapuna Boating Club 1920 - 1970 : golden jubilee regatta : held off Takapuna Beach - Auckland, January 7-17, 1970 

Takapuna Boating Club history / notes from Jack Peters

Like what you've read here? You might enjoy Islands of the Hauraki Gulf, the latest exhibition on display at Auckland Libraries. Click here for more information. 


  1. Great article and pictures. Any idea when the adjoining swimming pool was built?

    1. Kia ora, thank you for your comments! I have reason to believe that the swimming pool was constructed by the Takapuna Borough Council shortly after clubhouse was built, around 1923/1924. -Samantha

  2. Thanks for the article. My mother talked about going to dances in this building, which must have been in the early 1950's.

  3. Great read thank you. Let’s hope it can be repaired to its old glory🙏🏻


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