Day trip to Devonport, things to see & do — travel guide
Devonport is a classic seaside town with a waterfront boardwalk, a beach reserve and is a pleasant place to indulge in shopping therapy. Part of the charm of Devonport is the individuality of the main street and the harking back to the atmosphere of small town communities.
Handcrafted, melt in the mouth chocolates is a great reason to visit Devonport. And you don’t need to drive, battling the frequent traffic holdups on the single road access to Devonport. A Fullers Ferry pass is ideal for a relaxed day trip. The Devonport ferry terminal is a 5 minute walk to the main street. Devonport is a great place to visit year round as there are numerous tempting shops, cafes and museums to pop into if the weather packs up.
Davenport is a classic seaside town with a waterfront boardwalk, a beach reserve and boutique shops filled with goodies, second hand stores, upmarket art galleries and an assortment of deli stores, bookshops and upmarket fashion shops it is a pleasant place to indulge in shopping therapy. Part of the charm of Devonport is the individuality of the main street and the harking back to the atmosphere of small town communities.
- Walking trail to Torpedo Bay Naval Museum ( 3 hours )
- Walking trail to North Head Reserve ( 1 hour)
- Walking trail to Mount Victoria (1 hour)
- Devonport shopping main street amble (1 – 3 hours)
- Indulgence Victoria high tea and weekend option
- Romance NZ style, beach fish n chips / ice creams
ARRIVAL – MORNING
The ferry departs every 30 minutes starting from the early hour of 6.15am (commuter ferry traffic to Auckland CBD) ceasing late in the evening. The ferry ride is a treat with the Hauraki Gulf sweeping into view and the Waitemata Harbour providing glimpses of Auckland’s suburbs. Your ferry ticket includes the bonus of an hour’s guided tour. For repeat visitors perhaps there is something you missed and here is a chance to further explore. For first time visitors you obtain a perspective of the city from the water. A view that early settlers had of their new home. There has been human occupation of the area approximately 900 years.
The main street runs down to the ferry terminal. The first point of interest is the elegant Edwardian hotel, the Esplanade (1901) The hotelis an outstanding landmark of Edwardian elegance where pampering, seaside views, afternoon tea rituals and a day at the beach are part and parcel of the hotel’s charm. The hotel exterior is modelled on the resort hotels of the English seaside towns of Brighton and Blackpool, The Esplanade Hotel is modelled after the United Kingdom, Bristol Esplanade Hotel. Pop into the entrance and check out the rooms with its nooks adroitly fitted into the corner site. During your walks keep an eye out for street art. Davenport is the scene for a growing number of outdoor art displays. Check in travel pack information for the art trail information.
Opposite the Esplanade Hotel is the Windsor Reserve. A park dominated by a majestic Moreton Bay fig tree. The beach is protected by a small breakwater, also accessible from the path. The Windsor Reserve also goes by the name of Flagstaff due to its historical connections with the navy. The British navy landed at this site in 1840 and began the European settlement of Devonport.
Originally, the park was home to a small naval unit with barracks, ship repair workshops and stores for gunpowder and later torpedoes. Today a large commemorative flagstaff and plaque can be seen near the waterfront acknowledging Windsor Reserve’s connections with the New Zealand Navy.
Post Office Building
Turning right back onto Victoria Road you will see Devonport’s old post-office building. The large yellow building was purpose built and used as a post office until the early 1980’s when it was sold and used to house a museum. Today, the art deco styled building houses a number of retail stores and has remained an iconic building of Devonport village.
Patriot – BNZ Bank Vault. Next door to the old post office is The Patriot, Devonport’s only British themed pub. The pub is situated in the historic Bank of New Zealand building, with its original safe vault as a focal point of the main room. The sunny beer garden provides the perfect place to enjoy a cold drink or share some locally famous fat chips in the warm summer months.
VICTORIAN SHOPPING STREET
If you have time, browse Devonport’s wide range of crafts, gifts, fashion and jewellery stores which line the village’s high street. It’s the perfect place to find a unique gift for someone or a treat for yourself. Many of the lower buildings on Devonport’s high street were erected in the late 1880’s after a fire destroyed the original wooden ones. Pop in for a snack in the Stone Oven cafe housed in the original Devonport Automatic Telephone Exchange. The art deco post office is now a cafe. Definitely worth a stop.
Victoria Picture Palace
Continuing up Victoria Road to the right, a large white building stands- the Victoria Picture Palace. Built during the silent movie era, the Picture Palace is the earliest purpose built cinema still in existence in the southern hemisphere. Here walk up Kerr Street and cross the road. On the right you will see the main entrance to Mt Victoria, the highest volcanic cone on Auckland’s North Shore.
The Arcade Building & Museum
The Devonport Museum is located in the pretty Mt Cambria reserve at 33A Vauxhall Road. This is a short 15 minute walk from the village shops, along the Devonport waterfront and then up Church St past the historic Holy Trinity Church and turn right into Vauxhall Road. For Location and hours before planning a visit check out the official website. Admission is free, but a small donation would be appreciated. We welcome group bookings and are able to provide a guide. We have good kitchen and toilet facilities and wheelchair access.
Pop into the arcade to view the historic photographs lining the walls of the arcade as well as the exposed early twentieth century building. The visitor centre is located in the Arcade. The Satellite Exhibition photos and research were largely sourced through the local Museum.
Thank you for welcoming visitors into your private spaces. Stepping in the cultural space of locals is a highlight. Ranana (London) and Koriniti both have Marae’s which welcome visitors. Signboards explain guidelines. If you are lucky a local inhabitant could even explain the significance of places, objects and meaning of the landscape.
Let’s make a weekend of it in Devonport. A very good reason to stay overnight in Devonport is the The Peace and Plenty Inn. The Victorian high tea is an indulgent couples experience. The treat is part of the luxurious villa where your pampering is five star. The Inn is the place to relax after a brisk walk or two exploring the area or to simply chill out in Auckland’s village by the sea.
To book click here The Peace and Plenty Inn – Home
Weekend inspiration – Torpedo bay
TORPEDO BAY AND NORTH HEAD HISTORIC RESERVE WALK
Route map from Devonport’s ferry terminal
You’ve succumbed to Devonport’s temptations are staying overnight. There is plenty to explore the following day. Perhaps pack a picnic lunch to share at North Head or for history buffs the Naval Museum with its narratives of heroism at sea and the role Devonport has played in the history of New Zealand is a must visit destination. Here’s some inspiration to make the most of your Devonport weekend.
North Head Historic Reserve Walk
The walk commences at the ferry terminal. The walk finishes either at the Naval Museum or you continue up to the North Head Reserve. The Devonport Waterfront Walk is the perfect way to admire and explore a number of Devonport’s iconic surroundings. This walk along King Edward Parade towards North Head takes approximately 45 minutes and is a great introduction to the history of Devonport village. A tramway used to run the length of this very trail from Victoria Wharf along what is now King Edward Parade.
Boer war Arch memorial
Following along King Edward Parade you will find the Boer war Arch memorial commemorating the fallen soldiers of the Boer War. The Arch beautifully frames the picturesque views of Auckland city and is a favorite for photographers. Volcanic eruptions, look at the rock walls framing the road and the beach to view the black rock lava flows caused by the eruption of Mount Victoria. These rock formations extend along Devonport’s waterfront creating underwater reefs. The rocks were evacuated from the adjoining fields.
On the left two identical and linked villa style buildings Elizabeth House, built 1911 will come into view. The Navy originally used these as accommodation for the Women’s Royal NZ Naval Service. In 1944, the Ventnor Private Hotel was taken over under wartime legislation by the RNZN and made into the Accommodation for the WRNZNS based in Auckland working at HMNZS Philomel. When compared to the Spartan accommodation at Mount Victoria, the private hotel was an enjoyable luxury. Today the apartments are available for short term accommodation. For history fans check NZPlaces for details.
A public execution site marked with a plaque can be found labeled execution site. It is here in 1848 that Joseph Burns both committed murder and was later hanged. It is here where Lieutenant Robert Snow (the first commander of the early naval depot), his wife and their two daughters were murdered and later Joseph Burns was sentenced to death. Burns, Snow’s former shipmate, was hanged for his capital crime and was the first European to be officially executed in New Zealand.
Devonport Yacht Club
The Devonport Yacht Club can be found on the right near the waterfront. The Club was founded in 1905 and since has been affiliated with a number of famous individuals; the first patron being Viscount Jellicoe, New Zealand’s second Governor General and more recently the well-known Sir Peter Blake a past patron.
The ship builders
From 1859 to the 1890’s King Edward Parade became the busiest shipbuilding area in New Zealand. A plaque can be found which commemorates the shipbuilders of Devonport who worked on this shore.
The Masonic Hotel
On the left one of New Zealand’s oldest Taverns and one of the oldest remaining buildings on the North Shore can be found. The Masonic Hotel opened in 1866 as a planned resort for wealthy travelers. The hotel had eleven bedrooms and two sitting rooms on the second floor. The ground floor was a public area for the workers in the shipyards of Torpedo Bay and meeting place for the community. Today the building has private apartments and a cafe and bars below.
Old Duders wharf
On the right a plaque can be found at the site of the old Devonport Wharf (also known as Duders wharf), which up until 1936 provided the main ferry access to Church Street, Devonport’s original commercial centre. Further along you will also see a large memorial adorned with a clock to commemorate Alexander Watson; a key contributor to the building of the foreshore seawall. Art by the Sea is a well known gallery and is housed in a late Baroque style building originally named Duder Brother General Merchandise Store.
Just before you reach Torpedo Bay on the right you will find the large Tainui Memorial, which commemorates the arrival of the Tainui canoes. Maori visited and settled in the Devonport area in the mid 14th century, approximately three centuries before the Europeans. Devonport was seen as an ideal location for settlement due to the surrounding water of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbour, which was used both for fishing and as an access point for waka (Maori canoe).
Maori chose the volcanic cones of Mount Victoria and North Head for the development of pā (village or defense settlement) due to their height and volcanic soil, which is perfect for growing kumara. There is evidence of Maori settlement in the Mount Victoria area however in the 1790’s intertribal conflict led to the pa settlements being abandoned.
Torpedo Bay Naval Museum
Your destination is Torpedo Bay, home to the Torpedo Bay Naval Museum, whose focus is the Royal New Zealand Navy. This museum is a great spot for those with family members as there is a museum trail for younger visitors, activities for children and the option to jump and play while caregivers are taking a break in the adjoining cafe.
There are sweeping views of the harbour, ferry traffic, boats and Auckland city skyline. Opposite the Naval Museum is Bastion Point and the hills of Auckland. You have the option of continuing the trail to the North Head Historic Reserve.
Admission is free
10AM-5PM, 7 days a week
Closed on Good Friday, Christmas day and Boxing Day.
North Head Historic Reserve walking trail
Take a self-guided walk through tunnels and other features of the area’s military history.
DOC online resource describes the reserve as Description.
A series of loop tracks introduce you to the military history of Maungauika/North Head – the tunnels, guns, searchlights and defences that were placed on the headland to protect Auckland from feared Russian invasions. The map below shows the location of interpretation signs and what you will see on each loop.
Track times and distance
- Coastal Loop – one way, 1 km, 30 min
- Summit Loop – one way, 1 km, 25 min
- Tunnels Loop – one way, 1 km, 20 min
Map notes (numbers below relate to the numbers on the above map):
- Welcome sign with track information – in the lower car park near the North Battery. This sign is also at the Takarunga Road entrance.
- 1 – North Battery – large sign at the entrance near the lower car park and small signs throughout the battery (in the tunnels) tell you about this structure.
- 3 – 6 inch Battery – two identical signs. One on the north-west wall of the eastern-most building and one down the stairs explain the various buildings and structures in this area.
- 4 – Barracks Building/Summit Battery – look for the “North Head in uniform” series of life-size figures with historic information, behind the long barracks building at the entrances to the Summit Battery.
- 6 – South Battery/Disappearing Gun – there is a sign on the approach to the gun from the road and one at each of the two entrances to the tunnels/battery. These show you how the gun works and its history. The western entrance to the tunnels underneath the gun is near number 7 on the map. Take the first left once you enter the tunnel here. The eastern entrance to the tunnels beneath the gun is down by the historic tennis court (flat area) to the left of the gun (when looking out to sea
- Maungauika/North Head Historic Reserve: Places to go in Auckland DOC online resource. Getting there, Maungauika/North Head is located in Devonport at the northern headland of the Waitemata Harbour. Follow King Edward Parade along the waterfront until you reach the end. Straight ahead is the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum (e Turn left onto Cheltenham Road, then take the second road on your right – Takarunga Road. The gated entrance to the reserve is at the end of this road
- NOTE: Fort Takapuna is a historic military site and a 40 minute walk from Devonport.
Pre-European settlement and Maori relationships
Mount Victoria, Takarunga was the site of a significant settlement in the area. Historically, Takarunga was occupied by a number of different iwi. Archeological findings and human occupation is illustrated by pā terraces and pits associated with food-storage and settlement areas can be seen on the northern slopes of Mount Victoria.
Grave of Chief Eru Patuone
The old Devonport cemetery is the final resting place of the grave of Maori Chief Eru Patuone (the peacemaker). Eru Patuone was born in 1764 and lived 108 years, until 1872. Patuone lived during the early years of Pakeha settlement in New Zealand and played a meditation role in nineteenth century New Zealand.
Patuone was known as the peacemaker due to his relationships with both Maori and Pakeha and his role as a mediator between them. During his life Patuone had a relationship with all of New Zealand’s Governors and was consulted by them regarding Pakeha Maori relations. Patuone was particularly close with Governor Grey (who served two terms as governor in 1845 and again in 1861) and when all Maori were required by Grey to sign an oath and give up their arms or move out of the area, Patuone remained close by in Takapuna on land gifted to him by the Governor.
MOUNT VICTORIA WALKING TRAIL
Devonport’s highest volcanic cone offers commanding views of Rangitoto Island, the Waitemata harbour and the Hauraki Gulf.
walk up Devonport’s high street. If you need a quick break or some retail therapy, Victoria Road is lined with boutique shops and cosy cafés. Near Victoria Picture Palace (the earliest purpose built cinema still in existence in the southern hemisphere) Victoria Road turns slightly towards the left, however, you want to take the road to the right- Kerr Street. Across the road and on the left of Kerr Street you will see the main entrance up to Mt Victoria. Follow the road upwards to reach Mt Victoria.
On Mt. Victoria’s upper slopes you will find the Signal House, which in the past was used to inform residents about the arriving and departing ships. Many houses in the Devonport area were built to provide a direct line of site to the signal station so the inhabitant’s could easily read the flags. Whilst the first signalmen lived in a tent or hut, later a Victorian styled villa was built to house the signalman and his family. The last signalman to live in this villa died in 1943. Today the Signalman’s House is the Michael King Writer’s Centre which both supports and promotes New Zealand literature.
Mt. Victoria is the highest of Devonport’s volcanic cones, first occupied by a Maori pā, abandoned mid eighteenth century due to tribal warfare. Subsequently developed as a means of protection from Russian invasion. Evidence of the mountain’s historical uses such as pā terraces and pits, and one of Devonport’s disappearing guns can still be seen on the slopes today. Historically, Mt. Victoria has been used for artillery emplacements, farmland and various concrete army bunkers. One bunker is now home to the Devonport Folk Club. With some of the best views in Auckland, the top of Mt Victoria provides a panoramic scene of the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf, unique to this viewing point
Travel Pack Information
- PacificJane acknowledges the contributions of the volunteers of the Devonport Vistor Information Centre. Due to financial constraints the centre is operating on limited hours.
- Devenport village visitor brochure PDF
- North Head historic reserve PDF
- North Head Reserve self-guided tour PDF
- Weekend option — forward bookings are strongly encouraged.
The journey is worth it.