Rhododendron Island

Situated in the Ōtākaro Avon River, the island marks the location of Christchurch's first public swimming baths, which opened in 1877.

Avon River and Rhododendron Island
Avon River and Rhododendron Island. Photographer (pht): Cafe Cecil, Contributor (ctb): Cafe Cecil. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The island, which has been known as Rhododendron Island since 1908, is situated in the Ōtākaro Avon River, between the Durham Street South Bridge and Montreal Street Bridge.

When the need for public swimming baths was raised, it was eventually decided in 1876 to construct a swimming bath in the Avon River downstream of the island. Tenders to construct the baths were first advertised in October.

The construction of the baths may have reduced the size of the island as seen when comparing a map from 1862 and T.S. Lambert’s 1877 map of Christchurch. The swimming baths opened in January 1877.

By 1885, the baths were in a state of disrepair and they closed in March 1886. Following the establishment of the Christchurch Beautifying Association in 1897, the organisation became responsible for the appearance and upkeep of the island.

By 1909, the upper end of the island was suffering from erosion. In 1914, the base of the island was threatening to give way. To mitigate this, a concrete rubble foundation was built.