DEVONPORT, New Zealand -- Travelers who are disinclined to make
city centers their base for sightseeing forays have an ideal
alternative here to Auckland, New Zealand's largest metropolis.
Devonport, a hamlet of fewer than 17,000 people, offers a
charming and convenient alternative that sits on a tiny peninsula
at the opposite side of Haitemata Harbor from Auckland.
Devonport is so close that it offers a clear view of downtown
Auckland; a half-hourly ferry ride (at about $4 roundtrip) takes
only 12 minutes. But it is far enough away that, while founded in
1840, the same year as Auckland, it has stayed small, quaint and
free of skyscrapers.
The area's tallest points are two hills that provided valuable
vantage points for defense purposes during New Zealand's days as a
British colony. Today, the hills are the best vantage points for
viewing the Auckland skyline.
One of the hills is North Head, which boasts cannons left behind
by the British Navy. It also bears the bank-and-ditch signs of a
fortified Maori village.
The other is Mount Victoria, also the site of a Maori
settlement. Here visitors can use a circular relief map designed to
help them identify what they see on the Auckland-area horizons.
As for Devonport itself, the attractions are:
• An extensive
collection of 19th-century homes: the simple, wood-frame houses
that accommodated the earliest settlers; a collection of
well-preserved Victorian homes; and a number of small homes notable
for the watchtowers that emerge from their roofs, designed so
residents could get early notice of warnings coming from the
• Arts and crafts outlets, antique shops, restaurants and cafes,
and museums. Jackson's Muzeum, located in a former post office, is
a facility loaded with thousands of oddities, mostly from the
• The 100-year-old Esplanade Hotel, located steps from the ferry
terminal and refurbished for 21st-century travelers with an
affinity for historical properties.
Rates at the 17-room property, valid through September, range
from about $115 to $325 and pay 10% commission to agents.
Glyn Taylor, general manager, said the hotel also works with
tour operators such as Abercrombie & Kent and Swain
Tourists who don't come here as part of a package, or business
travelers with an afternoon to spare, have alternatives for getting
to and around Devonport.
The Devonport Tour Co. operates hourly Explorer tours from 10
a.m. daily, departing from the Auckland ferry terminal. For about
$12.50, the itinerary includes roundtrip ferry transportation and a
one-hour coach tour of historic Devonport, including visits to the
two volcanos. The tour is operated on a hop-on, hop-off basis, and
visitors can take any return ferry to Auckland.
The Devonport Tour Co., which pays commissions, also operates an
Explorer tour with buffet lunch and an evening tour that includes
Visitors also can book their Devonport tours at Auckland's ferry
building or pick up the coach portion after disembarking from the
ferry in Devonport.
Meanwhile, more-independent travelers can walk everywhere. The
farthest point is North Head, about two-and-a-half miles way; Mount
Victoria is about one-and-a-half miles distant. An information
center next door to the Esplanade Hotel has walking tour maps.
The Esplanade offers a special rate (to nonguests as well as
guests) with President Taxis, a local company that uses Mercedes
vehicles for sightseeing excursions, at about $30 an hour. Bookings
have to be made through the hotel and can be made on day of
For more information on Devonport Tour Co.'s Explorer Tours,
call (011) 64-9 357-6366 or visit www.devonporttours.co.nz. For details or reservations
at the Esplanade Hotel, call (011) 64-9 445-1291 or visit www.esplanadehotel.co.nz.
You can reach the journalist who wrote this article at [email protected].