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Auckland North Shore – Guide for Backpackers

Tourism NZ

A 10 minute getaway from Auckland central.

Ever heard the phrase “it’s better to be in a cave and have the view of a palace, rather than be in a palace and have a view of a cave”? In this situation North Shore is the cave (plus, it actually has some caves) and Auckland Central is the palace. What many forget when staying in Auckland is to get out of the city centre and get that urban skyline view. Just a 10min ferry to Devonport is all it takes.

Turn your back to the city and you feel like you are in a different place all together. North Shore is lined with sandy beaches and with them some appealing seaside towns and villages.

Find more things to do in Auckland in 14 Free or Cheap Things to do in Auckland.

Things you can’t miss in North Shore

  • Clamber through military tunnels in Devonport.
  • Shop ’til you drop in Takapuna.
  • Do bush walks in Birkenhead.
  • Relax on the many beaches of North Shore.
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Beaches, lookout points, military tunnels and charming seaside town is what attracts locals and backpackers to Devonport. A 10min ferry from Auckland to Devonport is a quick escape from the bustling city. At NZ$12 return it makes our list of the 14 Free or Cheap Things to do in Auckland.

The great thing about Devonport are the awesome skyline views of the CBD captured from a quick climb up Mt Victoria and North Head.

Apart from views, North Head, on the east side of Devonport has a network of military tunnels, caves, bunkers and guns. Armaments started appearing on North Head after 1875 when there was a Russian invasion scare. The Russians did not come… Then in World War Two there was anticipation of a Japanese attack. The Japanese did not come… But the guns from WW2 are practically in pristine condition to see atop of North Head today.

Make sure to grab some lunch at Auckland’s best value fish n’ chips. It is the cheapest looking fish n’ chips shop but between you and me, it’s the best one. The NZ$10 meal is more than anyone can finish! For more good food, check out our Cheap Eats in Auckland.

PhillipC on Flickr


North of Devonport, you will come across the stylish Auckland suburb of Takapuna. With beaches to the east showing a spectacular view of Rangitoto Island and Lake Pupuke to the north, there are plenty of cool places to relax after a hard day of being an awesome backpacker.

If you can’t resist a good shopping session, then Takapuna has a 70+ store shopping mall. A well-renowned market is Takapuna’s Sunday Market – you’re best bet if you want a bargain and something locally produced.

GPS 56 on Flickr


There’s more to explore on North Shore’s west coast. A suburb worth checking out is Birkenhead. Apart from close proximity to amazing beaches of Beach Haven and views of the city, Birkenhead has bush walks and a ‘sweet’ history. You can see New Zealand’s only sugar factory, which was built in 1884. There is even a Sugar Workers Walk to see the main points of interest in Birkenhead and follow in the footsteps of the sugar workers.

Another place where the city couldn’t feel further away is at Leroy’s Bush. This 1 hour Maori Pipi Walk is through native bush with the extremely vocal birds all around you. Come here in the evening to see the Riverbank Glowworms.

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North Shore Beaches

Around 20 beaches line North Shore, so once the sun comes you are spoiled for choice with bathing beaches. Aucklanders also take advantage of this coast for sailing, paddle boarding and windsurfing. Make sure to never miss a beach by taking the North Shore Coastal Walk from Long Bay all the way to Devonport.

Cheltenham Beach in Devonport is a long stretch of sand leading to North Head. It has the perfect isolated view of Rangitoto Island. Additionally, check out Takapuna’s 1km long crescent shaped beach; a host of recreation activities.

Find some beaches off the beaten track are along Beach Haven and Chatsworth: Charcoal Bay, Island Bay, Soldiers Bay, Onetaunga Bay and Kauri Point Centennial Park.

If you have more time in North Shore…

  • Eat some ‘fush n’ chups’ in Devonport. Riba has backpacker-friendly prices. And the good fish helps.
  • Visit the Topedo Bay Navy Museum.
  • Do the Kauri Point Walks.
  • And the Northcote Point Walks.
  • Go the the theatre; The Pumphouse.
  • Check out more things to do in 10 Ways to Enjoy Summer in Auckland
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