Forts of Auckland

Preserving history

North Head


North Head is a small strategic headland at the entrance of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour. Its commanding views over the Hauraki Gulf and inner harbour have made it an important lookout and defence site for centuries, first for early Maori inhabitants and later for European settlers.

North Head is also a historic coastal artillery defensive location covering the entrance to the port of Auckland.  It has been a defensive location for the port since the arrival of the pakeha.  North Head is the most significant of all New Zealands's historical coastal defense sited that remain today.


North Head is located at the entrance of Auckland's lovely Waitemata Harbour.

The views from the fort over the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland city are stunning.


Disappearing gun at North Head

North Head was one of a number of defence forts that were rapidly set up in the late 1800s to defend Auckland from a feared Russian attack. The fort was later expanded as part of Auckland's coastal defence system during World Wars I and II.

A complex of tunnels, guns, searchlights and other fortifications make this a fascinating area to explore. It is now a historic reserve managed by the Department of Conservation.

One of the most interesting items to look at on North Head is the 8 inch disappearing gun, so named as it fired 8 inch shells.  The gun was built in 1886.  The gun's design was quite ingenious.  As the gun fired the recoil pushed the gun backwards and downwards into the pit.  This in turn pushed the big bronze shaft under the gun into the lower cylinder where water and air were compressed through a series of valves.  The compressed air was stored in the cylinder.  The gun was then reloaded and aimed while still out of sight of the enemy.  When the gun was ready to fire the pressure in the cylinder was released.  This pressure pushed the gun back up to the surface, where the gun was immediately fired.  Then the process started all over again.

You can learn more about the history of North Head by watching the video on show in the 1885 stone kitchen, now a theatre, open daily from 8.30am-4pm

Stone Kitchen

Getting there

From Devonport, follow King Edward Parade along the waterfront and you will see signs to North Head. Vehicle access is via Takarunga Road.

Ferries run regularly between downtown Auckland and Devonport. Contact Fullers Ferries ph +64 9 367 9118.

By car, take the Esmond Road exit from the Northern Motorway, right onto Lake Road, left at Old Lake Rd, via Narrow Neck beach to Vauxhall Road, left onto Tainui Road, right into Chelternam Road and left up Takarunga Road and park in either the lower or upper carpark.


Interested? We suggest you join a tour and learn more about the North Head.

To find out more about tours Contact us.

Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.

P O Box 34 778 Birkenhead 0746, Auckland.