Travellers Rest


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Located on a picturesque headland overlooking Halfmoon Bay on remote Stewart Island, Travellers Rest was built as a boarding house for tourists in the 1870s, and is an example of an early tourist operation providing a base for exploring the wonders of the Island. Prominent settlers James and Agnes Harrold ran the boarding house for thirty years, and in addition provided accommodation for state wards in this idyllic location. Orkney-Islander James Harrold and his American born wife Agnes Harrold had moved to Stewart Island in 1861, and were prominent citizens on the Island. Harrold was involved in the fishing industry, setting up a smoke house and jetty at what was known as Harrolds Bay. He broadened his business interests, buying a schooner and becoming involved in the coastal trade. He also ran a store, one of the first on the Island, and when visitors began to come to Stewart Island, employed shipwright Robert Harvey to build Travellers Rest. The construction of Travellers Rest tapped into the nascent tourism industry which was developing in the South Island in the 1870s. Stewart Islanders made money from the scenic beauty of the place 'inviting tourists and holiday-makers from far and wide to spend their leisure in its sylvan glades and bush-girt bays.' State wards were also accommodated at Travellers Rest, an early example of the informal welfare provisions operating in the nineteenth century. The Travellers Rest was a busy and interesting place: the Harrolds kept cows, pigs, horses, pheasants, turkeys, peacocks, a hundred hens, geese, parrots and parakeets, a number of dogs, and the pet monkey which James Harrold brought back from his travels for Agnes. James Harrold died at the end of May 1898. Travellers Rest ceased to operate as a guest house shortly afterwards, around 1900. From this date the house was a private residence for prominent islanders including Louise Charlton, and historian and botanist Olga Sansom. Sansom wrote an affectionate portrait of the Island and its residents. The Travellers Rest has since that time remained a private residence, but has been unoccupied for many years. Travellers Rest is located on a promontory overlooking Half Moon Bay on Leask Bay Road on Stewart Island. The house is surrounded by mature trees and garden. This private setting in a landmark position gives it special aesthetic significance. It has an historic charm in its peaceful setting overlooking the Bay. Its strong historical connection makes it a vital element in this heritage landscape. The house is built in nearly a square plan, and is 18 metres long by 15.5 metres wide. The roof is gabled, with the primary ridge running the length of the building. Single gables project at either end of the ridge, forming a U shape in plan. The house is a storey and a half high, with attic windows on the gable ends. The layout is complex with a large number of small rooms. At the back of the house are the kitchen and bathroom, and two further bedrooms housed in a lean-to addition. A small stair leads to the upper floor, which housed further bedrooms. Architect Peter Baxter considered the house 'perhaps the only genuine unadulterated example of colonial architecture left in Southland', and that the house was technologically significant for the techniques used to build the timber framing, linings and joinery. The Travellers Rest has a special association with the story of tourism in New Zealand. Travellers Rest, like Paradise in the only slightly less isolated Head of the Lake District, was part of southern tourism of the South Island and attracted visitors from the 1870s. The story of Traveller's Rest is remarkable given the isolation of the area, and the significant effort required getting there. As an early boarding house, little altered it also has special technological significance.

Travellers Rest, Stewart Island / Rakiura view of north elevation | Owen Graham | 01/05/2009 | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

8th August 2009

Date of Effect

8th August 2009

City/District Council

Southland District


Southland Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as part of Sec 36 Blk I Paterson Survey District (part of RT SL12A/21), Southland Land District, and the building known as with Travellers Rest thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. The registration boundary follows the plantings on the east side of Travellers Rest, and the cadastral boundaries on the north and west.

Legal description

Sec 36 Blk I Paterson SD (RT SL12A/21), Southland Land District

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