The North Shore. For some people it is Auckland, the only place to be other than the occasional excursion over the bridge to work, for others it’s a soulless sprawl of new houses enlivened by some beautiful beaches. I’m more in the second camp to be honest, though there are some parts that keep bringing me back…
Considered by me and the Auckland Unity Plan to be an inner city suburb, Devonport is the one of the few places on the Shore with some history and character. In typical NZ fashion pretty much all the cafes and restaurants are away from the waterfront, despite the place being surrounded by the coast. However it is hard to beat taking the ferry over and wandering along the waterfront to Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, which has one of the best situated cafes in Auckland, before tackling the gun emplacements of North Head. Mount Victoria rewards a steep road up to the summit with some charming fake mushrooms, and Vauxhall Road Cafe sell what may be the best date scones in Auckland, though more research is required 😉
A relatively unknown gem which is literally the first place you’ll travel through on the Shore, thanks to the Auckland Harbour Bridge running through the middle of it. Home to only a handful of places to visit but each one is among the best of their kind in Auckand. Northcote Tavern is a proper pub, Stafford Road Wine Bar is what it’s name suggests, Sausalito is a lovely cafe with awesome mango smoothies, The Bridgeway is a four screen art house cinema, and The Engine Room is always rated by Metro as the best bistro in Auckland (though I prefer Ponsonby Road Bistro). It is also home to the lovely Halls Beach, perfect for a quick walk post brunch, pre dinner.
East Coast Bays
The main attraction of the Shore is ready access to a host of beautiful yellow sand, relatively calm, beaches running from Cheltenham (often rated as one of the best beaches in the world, though there is some competition in New Zealand), up to Long Bay (which appears to be one of the most popular beaches in Auckland). The Milford to Takapuna costal walkway is justifiably popular, particularly if finished with a sweet treat from Takapuna Beach Cafe.
Okura Bush Scenic Reserve
Possibly the best day walk in Auckland, this has it all in the space of a 3-4 hour return walk. Beautiful bush track, stunning sea views, coastal walking along the top of and round the base of cliffs, and an historic cottage. Just north of Long Bay it’s only 40 mins from the CBD but feels a world away.
There are 35 regional parks in Auckland, with eight of the best on the Shore. Beautiful at any time of the year they’re among the best things about Auckland. My favourites are probably Tawharanui and Mahurangi, but Scandrett, Wenderholm and Shakespear aren’t far behind.
Best combined with a side trip to Tawharanui or the marine reserve at Leigh, Matakana is home to some rather upmarket markets, great ice cream, and some rather fancy public toilets (though there are plenty of those in New Zealand).