The name Te Onepoto / Taylors Mistake is one of New Zealand's dual placenames. The Māori portion, Te Onepoto, means short or little beach. For the English portion, the Lyttelton Times in 1865 said it was "originally called Vincent's Bay, and more recently Taylors Mistake, owing to the master of a vessel running in here during the night-time, thinking he was about to pass over the Sumner Bar."
Taylors Mistake Surf Life Saving Club was established at the beach in 1916. During World War II, hills above the beach were fortified with two machine gun posts, to guard the Godley Head coastal defence battery. Makeshift baches near the beach have been a source of dispute since they were constructed in the 1890s.