During my first trip to New Zealand, I took the short ferry ride from Auckland to Devonport rather a lot. Each time I would walk the coastline to North Head Historic Reserve to take in amazing views of the surrounding islands, explore bits of history, and just enjoy the beautiful space. Upon returning to New Zealand with my husband it was the very first place we went on the very day our plane landed. North Head is such an easy excursion from Auckland that even after 13 hours on a plane we still enjoyed it.
North Head Historic Reserve sits on an old volcanic cone formed about 50,000 years ago - so check, super cool geology. In the 1840's it became a pilot station to guide ships into Auckland's harbor and by 1885 a defense fort was built on the island for fear of war with the Russians. Today, it's a public reserve where you can get lost in dark tunnels, have a picnic with gorgeous views, lounge by the water, or even get married!
When you walk through the gates of the reserve and up the hill to the right, one of the first view's you'll see is this amazing view of the Auckland skyline. It's one of the best views of the city skyline you can get, so enjoy it!
You'll also find one of the first tunnel entrances here. The tunnels are not lit, so if you want to explore them I'd recommend bringing a flashlight. The light from your phone screen probably won't be enough - we ended up taking flash photos with our camera and then looking at the display to see inside the pitch black spaces. There are lots of different small and large rooms to explore from the engine room to the batteries.
For the military history buffs, you'll find plenty of interesting tunnels, lookouts, and leftover facades from long ago. One of my favorite things is seeing how the natural world is starting to overtake the structures we humans built on top.
Don't forget to look out for Annie's Cave, which is said to have been built by convicts and happens to have a perfect view out over the water.
My favorite place in North Head is the small beach area on the far side where you can relax with a perfect view of nearby Rangitoto Island.
Lastly, don't miss watching the sunset from North Head - it's simply gorgeous.
If you're staying in Auckland and plan to visit North Head Historic Reserve for the day - you don't need to bring anything special other than some good walking shoes and a flashlight to explore the tunnels. The ferry will drop you straight into Devonport where you can grab some lunch (I recommend The Patriot) and then take an enjoyable coastal walk to the reserve gates.