North Head Historic Reserve (Maungauika)
Once fortified against a Russian invasion that never came, and again during both world wars to protect the precious harbor, the North Head Historic Reserve ultimately became the preeminent coastal defense system in all of New Zealand. There’s a self-guided walking path that points out many of the sights, and from the hill’s summit looking out over Devonport, visitors are treated with a view of Waiheke Island, the Coromandel, and Auckland’s downtown skyline.
Things to know before you go
- Combine a guided tour of the military bunkers with paddling around North Head from a kayak, or view the extinct volcano and its tunnels from a helicopter.
- Wear hiking shoes suitable for walking on uneven surfaces with sudden drops and holes, including in dark tunnels.
- Dogs are permitted but must be kept on leashes at all times.
- There are no garbage cans, so it is required that you carry out any rubbish.
- Camping, lighting campfires, and disturbing historic artifacts is prohibited.
How to get there
Departing from the Ferry Building, the 12-minute ferry runs to Devonport Wharf, which lies 1.2 miles (two km) from the North Head Reserve/Maungauika. It’s about a 30-minute drive from downtown Auckland and free parking is available. Vehicle and pedestrian access is via Takarunga Road, reached by following King Edward Parade along the waterfront, then turning left onto Cheltenham Road and taking the second road on the right.
When to get there
The North Head Historic Reserve opens at 6am daily. The pedestrian gates at Takarunga Road and at the southern end of Cheltenham Beach close at 10pm, but the vehicle gate via Takarunga Road closes at 8pm.
Military History Lessons
The weapons here were cutting edge for the time they were built and installed, and included a pair of “disappearing guns” that would actually recoil back into the ground once they had fired a shot. The guns are visible at the South Battery, which along with tunnels dug by prisoners using light from flickering lanterns, are eerie reminders of the lengths it takes to defend a nation’s coast.
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