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Get to know Northcote Point

Motorists coming off the harbour bridge may not realise that just beyond State Highway 1 lies a picturesque suburb with a rich history, sea views and an abundance of beautiful homes.

Northcote Point is a miniature isthmus, joining the North Shore to Auckland Central via the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Northcote Point is not to be confused with the neighbouring suburb, Northcote. The shared boundary between the two suburbs is through Little Shoal Bay Reserve and along Onewa Road.  

Other nearby suburbs are Birkenhead, Hillcrest, Takapuna and Northcote Central.

Northcote Point Parks

The area has the vantage point of some of Auckland’s best sea, city, and Harbour Bridge views, whether from homes or public places. Looking out to the Waimate Harbour, Little Shoal Bay Reserve is a popular spot for locals; picturesque with anchored yachts in the shallow bay. Once a tidal estuary with mangroves and salt marshes, the bay’s wetlands risked full reclamation, but have since been restored and made into a beautiful bush walk. In addition, enjoy the playground, BBQ facilities, exercise equipment and open fields.

Another large park is Stafford Park, which is suitable for all ages. It features a playground with a swing, slide, rope bridge and climbing wall, bicycle track, open fields and picnic tables. The sports fields are busy with community and school teams covering baseball, gridiron, junior rugby and various fitness groups. The nearby Le Roy bush in Birkenhead is also a popular spot for bushwalkers and nature lovers.

Local dining options

As far as lifestyle goes – eateries and shops are aplenty whether in the immediate area or nearby in Northcote or Birkenhead.

The Engine Room is a reliable fine dining staple in the Auckland foodie scene. With a consistent reputation for quality food and service since 2006, it’s somewhere that locals are proud of and Aucklanders from the wider area readily make the journey for. I will also mention that most conversations or reviews about The Engine Room involve four words in particular – twice baked goat soufflé.

Also in the meal mix is Billy Cafe, and for a glass or two there is Stafford Road Wine Bar. This is rated amongst Auckland’s top 10 bars on any list you can get your hands on, offering wines, beers and tapas.

Education options in Northcote Point

Local secondary schools include the longstanding Northcote College (established in 1877), and Hato Petera College (established in 1928). Primary aged children can attend Onepoto Primary School, Northcote Primary School (established on its present site in 1918) or St Mary’s School (established in 1933).

Architecture

It’s worth noting the architectural and aesthetic difference of Northcote Point visible today compared to the rest of the North Shore. European settlers developed Northcote Point along with Devonport at a similar time to central Auckland in the mid 1800’s. The North Shore on the other hand was urbanized in the 1950’s once the Harbour Bridge was built.

Northcote Point’s old-world charm lives on with many villas dating from 1880-1910 now beautifully restored, for example Quinton Villa near the Harbour Bridge. Queen Street features original shops such as the butcher, former post-shop, and Bridgeway Theatre to catch a movie (previously named the Onewa Picture Drome).

Looking north east towards Northcote across Little Shoal Bay showing Birkenhead Wharf (foreground), showing premises of William MacKenzie and Hinemoa Street (left). 1904. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

History

The area was utilised by Māori tribes from the 1500’s, the earliest known residents were Ngai Tai from 1650. It was named Te Onewa, (‘divided earth’), describing the protective trench surrounding a pa at the end of the point. Inhabitants carefully cultivated orchards and crops and made the most of the point’s prime fishing. Ngai Tai abandoned the point due to attacking tribes in the 1790’s, returning to the wider area and settling in Takapuna from the mid 1830’s. This time marked the last resident chief of Te Onewa and the tribe Ngai Tau, Heteraka Takapuna. Much is recorded about the Maori history in Te Onewa courtesy of local resident, George Graham (1874-1952). George lived in the area with his wife Takurangi Kahupeka Hapi and worked with iwi and friends to keep the area’s stories alive.

European settlement

The wider area was gradually sold off to the crown from 1840, who named it Rough Point, after Auckland’s first “harbour-master and superintendent of works” Captain David Rough. During this time a John Campbell (not to be confused with the infamous John Logan Campbell) bought 21 acres in 1843, before the land was both sold back to the crown and subdivided in 8 lots. The name Rough Point didn’t last long, changed in 1848 to Stokes Point after Captain J.L. Stokes. The end of the point got its own name in 1867, when it became the town of Woodside and was subdivided and sold by the Crown.

Portrait of Captain David Rough, first harbourmaster of Auckland,1880. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

One of the earliest residents in the area was an Irishman by the name of Phillip Callan. He owned a brickworks on what was Sulphur Beach from as early as the 1840’s. The beach was on the east side of the peninsula and was reclaimed during the construction of the Harbour Bridge in the 1950’s.

James Reed began the first ferry service from central Auckland to Northcote Point in 1854. Today, Fullers runs the ferry service, however the number of ferry crossings drastically reduced after the Harbour Bridge opened in 1959. The Northcote Tavern remains today as a throwback to busier days on the wharf. Built by Phillip Callan in 1884, the tavern sits on the waterfront, with glorious views.

Looking west towards Freemans Bay and Point Erin showing the Northcote Ferry Steamer, the ‘Osprey’, as it Approaches the Ferry Wharf in Auckland, 1909. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Check out the council-produced “Northcote Point Heritage Walk” brochure for a mapped walk through the historic buildings and sites of interest along the streets of Northcote Point. The brochure is a wonderful read, with vivid historic detail of the area’s colourful past lives and labours of love.

So, come for the history, stay for the view and meet a community of friends that will last you a lifetime.