FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Exploring North Head

Posted in Auckland, New Zealand by folkestonejack on March 23, 2013

Although it is hard to imagine now, fears of Russian attack in the late 19th century prompted the rapid development of a series of forts to defend Auckland harbour from attack. To make the most of a fine day we headed across the water to Devonport and set about exploring the surviving defences at North Head historic reserve.

At North Head three large gun batteries were constructed in 1885 to defend the Rangitoto channel and the inner harbour. The fact that it makes such a terrific viewpoint today tells you everything about you need to know why the defences were built here.

The view from North Head

The view from North Head

To get the most out of our visit we took the self guided walk (available as a leaflet from the tourist information centre in town or online at North Head Historic Walk) which makes a great job of explaining the sometimes curious layout of the complex. The DOC website suggests that the walk should take 60 minutes but we spent closer to 90 minutes taking a leisurely stroll along the route, lapping up all the information proffered at each location. There is also a short film on North Head’s history available in one of the rooms that soaks up a bit more time still.

Entrance to the hidden world of North Head

One entrance to the hidden world of North Head

As you get down to the lower levels there are some fascinating surprises, such as a searchlight emplacement which hides the entrance to a chamber known as Annie’s Cave, reputedly built by convicts. It’s not mentioned on the display boards, so you really need the self-guided walk leaflet to guide you in. Indeed, it is fair to say that the leaflet is invaluable in navigating the entire complex in a logical fashion.

I love the fact that the site has been opened to the extent it has – you can wander around the top, explore the tunnels and experience the gloom of the interior. It’s the sort of place I would have loved as a child and it probably brought out more than a little of the big kid in me today!

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