Bay of Islands boarding house
By Delwyn Barnett
The old flats at Opua have been there a long time and in fact were moved to the present site by barge by my great-grandparents, Antonio and Jane Morris, in 1885. Antonio was born in Lisbon, Portugal and was a seaman from the age of age 12, coming to New Zealand in 1869.
The cyclopedia of New Zealand (Auckland Provincial District) states: “Morris, Antonio, General Storekeeper and Proprietor of the Accommodation House, Opua. Mr Morris carries on a very comfortable business throughout the district. He has been a settler in the Bay of islands since 1875 and is well and favourably known. His accommodation house is a two-storey building, well-furnished throughout, and contains a number of pleasant bedrooms, and a good table is provided to meet the wants of the general travelling public”.
The flats were known as ‘the Boarding House’ and it was first run by Jane Morris and then by her daughter-in-law, Kathleen Morris (my grandmother). I understand at one time there were up to 40 guests living there. My grandmother used to get up early in the morning, row out and catch fish for the guests for breakfast.
During World War II, the building was taken over to provide accommodation for American soldiers. Those who lived at Opua were told if the Japanese landed, they were to burn the general store and hide in the bush.
After my grandmother died in 1967, the boarding house was divided into five flats and sold, with three being retained by members of the Morris family. From childhood I can remember many wonderful holidays and family times at Opua. My husband and I now own three of the flats in the old building and it is my dream to one day restore them. In the meantime it is a wonderful place to have a holiday.