Mt Victoria and North Head
Views, painted mushrooms and the musical bunker. This hill is found immediately behind the Devonport shopping centre. Parking is available at the top, alternatively the walk up takes approx 10 - 20 minutes. Spectacular views of North Shore city, the gulf and Auckland City can be seen as well as remnants of the Kawerau tribe fortifications.
Mt Victoria - The famous 'Painted Mushrooms'
The guns and tunnels… It takes a 15-20minute walk from the ferry terminal to North Head. The Department of Conservation administers the area and it is open daily. Spectacular views of the harbour and islands of the gulf can be seen. Vehicles are able to drive up and parking it available. North head contains an extensive collection of military tunnels which are open for exploration. Pictures of North head below.
North Head - World War II artillery emplacement
In the 1870's there were rumors of a growing Russian fleet in the North Pacific and possible invasion. It was in 1875, the beginning to have heavy armaments on North Head.
1880 the British Royal Engineers reported to house a battery consisting of three 7 inch and three 64-pr guns. The defensive plan continued and North Head was made into a fort with trained soldiers stationed ready for battle. In 1889 Fort Cautley was developing with new guns, an 8 inch disappearing gun, with a 7 inch RML and a 6-pr Nordenfelt on both northern and southern flanks of North Head. (meaning if the enemy got around the north side then the south side would also be able to attack).
During the 1890's Fort Cautley was complete with tunnels, underground storerooms, Barracks, guardrooms, kitchens etc.
Search light emplacements built and now the role of Fort Cautley was to stop any enemy sailing entry to the harbour of Auckland. Interestingly most of the work was done by prisoners with simple pick and shovels digging the tunnels by hand.
In 1896 the minefield was laid extending from North Head across the inner harbour, a generator room can still be found on the south side to provide the power to detonate the mines.
The turn of the century North Head was heavily fortified but the Russian invasion did not eventuate and it was decided to dismantle the guns at that time. Almost all of the guns were sold for scrap metal. Some say that several are still buried into the side of the hill. One gun is known to be at Newmarket in Auckland pointing down the main street.
Then in 1933, the government decided to reconstruct North Head of new batteries. Work began in 1935 with three new search light emplacements and emplacements for 4 inch guns at North Battery.
North Head - World War II defence bunkers
It wasn't until 1941 when Japan entered the Second World War that the defences were scaled up and guns were camouflaged in anticipation of active service. Alarms and telephone communications around the Head were also upgraded.
Transport and haulage of all equipment around North Head was done by means of horses as well as motor vehicles in later years. This was quite a sight to see, as horses and man power hauling parts up the mountain and then assembling a ten-tonne gun.
As the invasion did not happen, the only shots fired from North Head where for either practice purposes or as salutes to the Queen when she arrived.
At the end of the war North Heads evolution to this day has turned into a reserve. Now run by Department of Conservation, the tunnels today are still in place and well worth a good look around, especially the south battery which is still housing a disappearing gun. Stories are told that there are 2 planes from the war buried inside.
In the mid nineties the Army was called in to jack hammer and try to find these planes supposedly in the hill. Local residents where told possible ammunition still fully charged could go off at any time, but nothing was found after several weeks work. Many of the tunnels now days are blocked and the public can only go so far. Take a look around there are numerous places to explore.
North Head - World War II heavy gun emplacements