Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve

Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve is located at the head of the Rangitoto Channel in the Hauraki Gulf.


Fort Takapuna, was built between 1886 and 1889 as a military defence fort. It was designed by Major Tudor Boddam, a Royal Artillery Officer.

The fort originally housed two 6 inch disappearing guns and two quick firing Nordenfelt guns.

In 1926-27 the fort was converted into a storage for naval ammunition. The guns were removed and the gunpits roofed over to allow for extra storage. It was used for storage until 1936 when the new Naval Armament Depot was built at Kauri Point.

The brick building was were the soldiers lived. When it was first built there was a deep ditch around it. It has since been filled in and only the small part in front of the barracks remains.




Behind the barracks there was a series of underground tunnels and magazines.

The three concrete shelters were built in 1942 during the Second World War. These were designed to protect the gun crews. The guns originally came from HMS New Zealand (a First World War battlecruiser). By 1941 there were six guns mounted here, for at this battery, known as Left Battery and two at Right Battery, which has since been demolished.

Two of the guns were sent to Tonga, two were given to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and the other two were scrapped.




An Anti-Submarine Fixed Defence Station was also built to house the electronic equipment used to detect enemy ships approaching. The building was altered following the war with its bay window removed.

Fort Takapuna is located on Vauxhall Road, next to Narrow Neck Beach.





Sea Lions at San Francisco’s Pier 39

Pier 39 in San Francisco is home to a group of wild sea lions that have drawn tourists since 1990.


The sea lions started arriving at Pier 39 following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. At that time boats were still docked at the pier. There was discussion about moving the sea lions, but it was decided that they could stay and boat owners were relocated. The docks were later replaced with floats that were able to withstand the sea lions weight.

The best time to see the sea lions is from late July to mid May, as during June to July many of the sea lions leave to breed. You can also view the Sea Lions via the Sea Lion Webcam.

The sea lions are located at K-Dock in Pier 39, which is on the edge of the Fisherman’s Wharf district.







My parents were holidaying in Orewa for the week so yesterday I went up to see them. Orewa is a small coastal town on the Hibiscus Coast, just north of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula.  It is approximately 25 minutes drive north of Auckland city.

After having morning tea on the deck of the holiday home overlooking Orewa Beach we walked along the beach. The high tide was quickly approaching so some quick and careful footwork was needed to avoid getting wet feet.

Peppermint tea overlooking Orewa Beach

Peppermint tea overlooking Orewa Beach

Walking along Orewa Beach as the hide tide approaches

Walking along Orewa Beach as the hide tide approaches

Orewa Beach

Orewa Beach

From beach we crossed Hibiscus Coast Highway and picked up the track for Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway and Walkway next to the Western Reserve.

Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway and Walkway map

Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway and Walkway map. Click here to download map

This 7.5km shared path follows the estuary along past Orewa Western Reserve to Orewa West and then comes out on Arran Drive and follows Millwater Parkway past the new Millwater subdivision, Silverdale School, Kingsway School and loops back around to the Western Reserve via a pedestrian footpath on the Hibiscus Coast Highway road bridge.

The track takes approximately 1 hour 45 minutes to walk or 40 minutes cycle.




Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway and Walkway

Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway and Walkway

After lunch we walked back along Orewa Beach following part of the Millennium Walkway to Old North Road. The Millennium Walkway is a 2 hour oval walk around the Orewa township – the blue footprints on the footpath mark this walk.

At Old North Road we walked up to Alice Eaves Scenic Reserve. This 16 hectare forest is named after Alice Caroline Eaves whose family bequeathed the land to become a public reserve in 1960.

It will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes to walk this scenic reserve.


Alice Eaves Scenic Reserve

Alice Eaves Scenic Reserve

The Old Hollow Kauri tree, approximately 800 years old - has survived storms, lightning strike & the miller's axe.

The Old Hollow Kauri tree, approximately 800 years old – has survived storms, lightning strike & the miller’s axe.

After walking the Eaves Scenic Reserve we walked back along Orewa Beach to the holiday home.

With its sandy beach and being a perfect base to explore the rest of the Hibiscus Coast, Orewa is a great destination for a day trip or long weekend away.




Birkenhead is a suburb of Auckland, located on the north shore of the Waitemata Harbour.

To travel to Birkenhead, I took the 9:10am service, which is the first weekend morning service departing Downtown. The ferry service is operated by Fullers and departs from Pier 1. Adults are $5.50 one way, $10.10 return. Child $3.30 one way, $5.20 return. Discount fares are available for AT Hop cardholders.

Fullers' ferry boarding at Pier 1, Downtown Ferry Terminal

Fullers’ ferry boarding at Pier 1, Downtown Ferry Terminal

It is approximately a 15 minute ferry ride to Birkenhead Wharf via Bayswater and Northcote Point.

The ferry travels underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge to reach Northcote Point and Birkenhead. The Harbour Bridge is 1,020 metres long, rising 43.27 metres above high water level. I had never travelled under the harbour bridge before, which was one of the reasons for choosing ferry travel.

The ferry travels underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge

The ferry travels underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge

The ferry docks at Birkenhead Wharf at the bottom of Hinemoa Street. The original entry point to Birkenhead Village was via ferry, making Hinemoa Street one of the oldest streets in Birkenhead. It is just under a 2km walk past many historic buildings from the Wharf to Birkenhead Village.

Birkenhead Wharf

Birkenhead Wharf

A few notable points on this heritage walk:

On the corner of Hinemoa St and Rugby St stands the Marinovic Building (94 – 98 Hinemoa St). This two storey masonry building is in Edwardian style, and was constructed in 1912. The old Hellaby butcher’s occupied this site until 1911 when it moved to the rear of the building. The old butcher’s shop is now Ravenhill café. I tried the raspberry and frangipani slab ($4.50) from their cabinet.

Ravenhill cafe, a former butchery. Building constructed 1912

Ravenhill cafe, a former butchery. Building constructed 1912

At 128-130 Hinemoa St is Gumdiggers Restaurant, which is open for dinner from 6:30pm Tuesday to Saturday. The building that was built in 1910 was originally a drapers shop.

Gumdiggers Restaurant, originally a drapers shop. Building built 1910

Gumdiggers Restaurant, originally a drapers shop. Built 1910

Next to each other at 243 and 245 Hinemoa St are the Royal Thai Restaurant and Bambina (a baby clothing and toy store).  243 Hinemoa Street was the Samuel Roberts General Store established in 1910 and 245 Hinemoa St was Henry Hawkins Grocer established in 1927.

At Highbury Corner stands the Oborn Buildings, which was originally named Payne’s Building, and was constructed between 1927 and 1928 for local businessman and council member W. H. Payne.

Oborn Building, formerly Payne Buildings, built 1927-8

Oborn Building, formerly Payne Buildings, built 1927-8

On the corner of Hinemoa Street and Rawene Road is Nell Fisher Reserve.  Situated in the reserve is the Birkenhead War Memorial monument, which was unveiled in 1927 to remember the soldiers killed in WWI.

Birkenhead War Memorial, Nell Fisher Reserve

Birkenhead War Memorial, Nell Fisher Reserve

Located behind the War Memorial is the Birkenhead Public Library. It is worth going up to the mezzanine floor for a moments rest and to admire the views.

Views of Auckland city from mezzanine floor, Birkenhead Public Library

Views of Auckland city from mezzanine floor, Birkenhead Public Library

It is here that the Sugar Workers Walk begins. Click here to download a map.

After visiting the library and Nell Fisher Reserve make your way along Rawene Road. There are several residential houses here with historical significance. At number 51 is the former home of Bert Stanley, who was the mayor of Birkenhead from 1968-77.


51 Rawene Rd. Former home of Bert Stanley, Birkenhead mayor, 1968-77

There are several sugar workers cottages on Rawene Road. 35 cottages were built in the 1880s in an area at the bottom of Colonial Road. In 1905 these cottages were sold for 5 pounds each and relocated to sunnier sites. 44 Rawene Road is an example of one of these original cottages.

44 Rawene Road, early sugar workers cottage

44 Rawene Rd, early sugar workers cottage

At the end of Rawene Road is an entrance to Chelsea Estate Heritage Park. Follow the track down and where the track forks turn to the right and follow the track across the dam to the Sugar Refinery grounds.

This pink and blue Victorian factory was built from 1883-84 using one million handmade bricks made from clay from the surrounding hills.

Chelsea Sugar Refinery

Chelsea Sugar Refinery

Take a moment to watch the ducks frolic in the large duck pond before crossing the bridge and heading up the hill to four historic Worker’s cottages. These two storied brick cottages were constructed in 1910 and are now private residences.

Four historic Workers' cottages. Constructed 1910

Four historic Workers’ cottages. Constructed 1910

In the large grassy area stands the ‘Ships Grab’ sculpture, which was donated by New Zealand Sugar Company when it sold 37 hectares of its property to the Council in 2008. This property became the Chelsea Estate Heritage Park.

'Ships Grab' sculpture

‘Ships Grab’ sculpture

This area is where the original 35 cottages were located. Opposite the Ships Grab sculpture is a walking track that leads up to Huka Road. Huka is the Māori word for sugar. Alternatively you can walk up past the four historic Worker’s cottages and walk up Colonial Road, just watch out for the sugar trucks.

If you walk up Huka Road, like Rawene Road, there are many cottages of historical significance to the sugar refinery. Number 44 is two sugar workers cottages, which have been joined together. Numbers 22 and 25 are Victorian bay villas and numbers 29 and 33 are Edwardian style houses. These five properties are more examples of the homes that sugar factory workers would have lived in.

45 Huka Road, two sugar workers cottages joined together

45 Huka Road, two sugar workers cottages joined together

Both Huka Road and Colonial Road come out at Mokoia Road. Turn right and walk along Mokoia. There are many cafés located along this strip. At 14-24 Mokoia Road is Highbury Buildings. This retail building was constructed in 1934.

Next I walked back down Hinemoa St and entered Le Roys bush walk. I walked this native bush walk through kauri, nikau palms, totara, past mangroves and out to Little Shoal Bay for more views of the city. I returned from Little Shoal Bay to the exit on Onewa Road (between 210 and 12 Onewa Road).


Le Roys bush walk

Le Roys Bush walk

Little Shoal Bay

Little Shoal Bay

At the corner of Birkenhead Ave and Onewa Road is Zion Hill Church. It was first church to be built in Birkenhead in 1880. This church was replaced by a new church building around 1886.

Birkenhead Transport has bus services from Onewa Road into and from the city. There are also over 900 free carparks located throughout Birkenhead Village so it is an easy place to visit.



Ferry to Devonport

Earlier this week a friend from Los Angeles and her partner were visiting New Zealand. I had a day off on Thursday, so rather than just catch up for coffee and lunch somewhere in the city I suggested going to Devonport, a harbourside suburb on the North Shore.

It is only a 12 minute ride across the harbour.  Fullers offer services that run every half hour from Downtown Ferry Terminal.


Explore the tunnels at North Head Historic Reserve

After arriving in Devonport we walked up to North Head Historic Reserve. North Head is an easy 20 minute walk from Devonport ferry terminal. Walk along King Edward Parade past the Devonport Yacht Club. Just before the Navy Museum make a slight left at Cheltenham Road and take the second street on the right, Takarunga Road. The entrance is at the end of the road. Vehicle gates shut at 8pm and pedestrian gates close at 10pm.


Disappearing gun, North Head

North Head is one of two remaining volcanic cones that make up Devonport’s landscape. It was a fortified Maori pa site before European colonization. Military tunnels and underground storerooms were built here and still remain today and are open to the public to explore. You will need a torch or the light from your cellphone to properly explore these. North Head also features one of the last remaining disappearing guns in the world. There are two theatres, the Stone Kitchen Theatre and the Fire Command Post Theatre, which play short documentaries about the landscape and its history, which are well worth the watch.


Torpedo Bay Navy Museum

Next we stopped at Torpedo Bay Navy Museum (64 King Edward Parade). It is a small museum with exhibits about The Royal New Zealand Navy, naval history, and the Navy’s connection with Devonport. Entry is free and museum is open 10am to 5pm, 7 days a week.

We walked back into Devonport Village and walked up Victoria Road. We stopped for lunch at the Devonport Stone Oven Bakery and Café (5 Clarence Street). A little bit of history the café is housed in the building that was originally the Telephone Exchange.


Mount Victoria

After lunch we walked up to Mount Victoria (access from Kerr Road). Like North Head this is an easy walk and is only 15 minutes from the ferry.  Mount Victoria is 87 metres (283 feet) above sea level and like North Head provides picturesque views of Rangitoto Island and Auckland City.


Posing for pictures outside Devonport Naval Base

Before heading back to catch the ferry we walked along the waterfront to the Devonport Naval Base. There is no public access pass the gate.

Devonport has an old English seaside village vibe to it and is a perfect outing.



Rose Gardens, Takapuna

Yesterday afternoon I went to Takapuna Beach. After a quick visit to Shore City mall I made my way through the rose gardens and walked along past the Hurstmere Road shops and down to the beach.


Takapuna Beach Cafe & Store, The Promenade

Once on the beach I walked down to the rocks at the end of beach and then walked back to the boat ramp and stopped for a Peanut butter and choc ice cream at Takapuna Beach Cafe & Store.

I then walked back up to Hurstmere Road and ordered fish n chips from High Tide Seafood, which is opposite the Hospice Shop at the end of Parkway Arcade (56 – 60 Hurstmere Road).


Takapuna Beach, Rangitoto Island in the distance

I sat on the grass eating my fish n chips overlooking the beach as beachgoers swam, sunbathed, kicked a soccer ball around, played volleyball, and parents watched young triathletes prepare for a triathlon.

The Takapuna Beach .kiwi Tri Series was being held on Friday. I watched the 3:9:3 youth event, where they swim 300 metres, bike 3km, and run 3km.

The adult category followed the youth triathlon but rather than stay and watch I walked to Killarney Park, which surrounds one side of Lake Pupuke, a fresh water lake in a volcanic crater. It is amazing that in this country you can walk from a beach to a lake in less than 15 minutes.


Lake Pupuke, Killarney Park

Couples were picnicking in grassy slopes of Killarney Park, while screaming teenagers dived and ‘bombed’ into the lake from the jetty. Some say if you take a bird’s eye view of the lake it resembles a heart – I heart Takapuna!


The PumpHouse Theatre, Killarney Park

In 1884, a pump house was built on the shores of the lake to supply the local area with fresh water. This pump house was replaced in 1906 and was used a water supply source until 1944. The iconic pump house building, which still stands today, became a protected heritage building in 1983 and is now a theatre venue. Unfortunately when I visited construction was being undertaken so the building was surrounding by scaffolding.

Next to the PumpHouse Theatre is a café which is open from 10am to 4pm. So it was closed when I visited.

At the PumpHouse I watched Shoreside Theatre’s summer Shakespeare in the Park production of Othello. It’s interesting to note that this year marks the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth so what better time to enjoy Shakespeare’s rich language.

The play was held in the outdoor amphitheatre under the stars. Shoreside Theatre provide cushions for the wooden bench seats, which are much needed as the play runs for just under three and half hours.