As Kiwis we seem prone to underappreciating our homeland, particularly its breathtaking natural beauty, and the unique adventure opportunities that its “100% Pure” bushland, beaches and mountain ranges afford us.
More often than not, we put off experiencing sights and activities located right on our doorstep, the very same sights and activities that are the envy of tourists the world over. Usually we simply assume we will get around to it eventually; because these sights are so close to home, we can experience them “whenever we want”. After all, why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? Inevitably, these good intentions frequently fail to come to fruition, as life gets in the way.
So, I’m using this opportunity to encourage everyone to take the time and play the tourist in your own backyard.
You don’t even need a lot money to enjoy what our spectacular country has to offer; chances are there are plenty of sights and activities that involve little or no cost right on your doorstep. You only need to get out and explore your surroundings!
The Devonport War Tunnels are just one example of a low-cost, yet absolutely magnificent, opportunity to experience one of New Zealand’s most historic sites. They also happen to be located in one of the last places you would expect to find a place so steeped in history and natural beauty: the heart of Auckland City.
The Devonport War Tunnels at North Head
Wander through ammunition holds, dug-out trenches, and sentry lookouts that were built for the New Zealand Defence Force in 1885. Discover the invention of world’s first “Disappearing Gun” and see the four WWI field guns charged with defending the Hauraki Gulf during WWI and WWII. These guns may have only ever been fired once – in order to salute Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the area in 1953 – but despite their lack of official military use, these tunnels are nothing to scoff at. On top of the hill where these tunnels are situated, you’ll find an incomparable, picturesque 360 degree view of Devonport Beach, Auckland CBD, Rangitoto Island, and the Hauraki Gulf.
When you (eventually) tire of the view and you’ve taken all the panoramas you can handle, start your descent on the side facing Chelthenham Beach. Here, you may be lucky enough to discover several human-sized pieces of cardboard, waiting patiently for your attention. Cardboard lying all over the ground may not sound exciting to you (and will hopefully go against every fibre of your inner environmentalist), but add a large grass-covered mountainside and you’ve got yourself the fantastic sport (unofficially) known as “grass surfing”. Conveniently, North Head just so happens to be one large grass-covered mountainside. Give in to your inner child and jump at the opportunity to try out this down-to-earth Kiwi pastime. Trust me when I say it’s worth the extra grass stains to get your adrenaline pumping and regress to your 10-year-old self for a few seconds as you fly down the mountainside, clinging on for dear life.
When you do come to rest (most likely cardboard-less) you’ll find yourself back near the entrance to the tunnels. From here both Devonport and Cheltenham Beach are just a few minutes away on foot, so no matter which direction you choose next, you will soon find somewhere sit back, relax and regain your normal heart function.
And the cost of this day out? Absolutely nothing. $0.00. No admission or booking fees and no ticket lines at the gate; just be sure to bring your willingness to scramble up the hillside, and let your inner child out.
Don’t forget to get out there and play the tourist in your own backyard this weekend! What are you going to do?