Historic places in Auckland: A history buff’s guide to the City of Sails

There are a surprising number of historic places in Auckland. We suggest you use this guide to find them all

Whether you have a keen interest in history or just want to see something new, there are plenty of historic places in Auckland for you to explore.

In fact, you will find a number of varied and intriguing historic sites scattered all over the city.

Whether you are interested in the World Wars, natural history, colonialism, or maritime history, there’s something for all history-buffs in the City of Sails.

While some of these places are well-known, others will likely be new to you.

With that in mind, we suggest grabbing your camera and using the following article to help plan your own self-guided tour of historic places in Auckland!

An old man standing at the door of a green train with white smoke coming from the outside.

The Best Historic Places in Auckland City

Central Auckland


Step back in time and see what life was like in 19th-century Auckland when you visit Alberton – an 18-room colonial mansion and farmhouse. 

This home originally belonged to Allan Kerr Taylor, a landowner, and his wife Sophia, a suffragette. Their home included a large ballroom which became a site for New Zealand’s elite society to mingle. The land itself and originally extended for 500 acres so provided plenty of room for guests! 

Fans of architecture may notice the Indian-inspired turrets and verandahs. Whilst inside, you can also examine the original wallpaper or check out the library with its selection of gorgeous old books. 

Great care has been taken with the restoration and management of the house, which ensures you will have an authentic experience.

100 Mount Albert Road, Mount Albert, Auckland 1025

Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill

Experience one of the best views in Auckland here.

This volcano was a stronghold of the chief of the Waiohua iwi, Kiwi Tamaki. You can still see the kumara pits and terracing today. 

Cornwall Park, which surrounds Maungakiekie, is also the perfect spot to take the dog for a walk.

670 Manukau Road, One Tree Hill, Auckland 1051

Auckland War Memorial Museum

A trip to Auckland Museum is especially recommended for those who are interested in New Zealand’s history!

If you like architecture, the neoclassical design makes it an instant landmark amongst New Zealand buildings. 

Inside, you will find an extensive collection of Maōri art and weaponry, along with natural history exhibitions. 

You will also learn all about New Zealand’s involvement in WWI and WWII. 

The museum hosts new exhibitions regularly. They are currently showing Brickman Awesome: Epic LEGO creations, where you can see a plane, whale, or boat made entirely out of Lego, amongst other Lego models.

The Weird and Wonderful section of the museum is a great place for children.  It includes microscopes (for viewing specimens like insects) and marine species in collection jars.

Guided tours also allow participants to see what happens behind the scenes. Entry is free for Auckland residents.

The white stone Auckland War Memorial Museum sitting on the grass of Auckland Domain.
Photo: Auckland Museum Collections.

Ewelme Cottage

Built in the 1860s, this charming cottage in Parnell was once home to Reverend Lush and his wife. It also functioned as a bolt-hole during times of tribal conflict in Howick, where Reverend Lush preached. 

Inside the Ewelme Cottage is a collection of roughly 7,300 items, including a library of 2,000 books along with sheet music, Gallipoli medals from World War I (won by the Reverend’s son) and original artwork and furniture. 

This house has remained largely intact and virtually unchanged in the years since when it was built.

It really is a fantastic glimpse into what life in New Zealand used to be like!

It is also rumoured to be haunted by the spirits of women and children, and in particular, by the spirit of a young girl – keep your eyes peeled.

After venturing the site, you can go and dine in some of the best restaurants in Parnell.

14 Ayr Street, Parnell, Auckland 1052

Did you know? Ewelme is actually pronounced You-elm.

Kinder House

Kinder House, built-in 1857, was once a residence for John Kinder, a clergyman and teacher turned landscape painter and photographer. 

With its grand Gothic revival design, wooded gardens and exhibitions of Kinder’s work, it is the perfect place for fundraising events, weddings, meetings or performances. 

2 Ayr Street, Parnell, Auckland 1052

Highwic House

This Carpenter Gothic house once belonged to the wealthy Alfred Buckland (a farmer, auctioneer and businessman) and his wife. It also housed his 21 children!

What began as a two-storey cottage in the early 1860s was extended in the 1870s to include a dormitory, reception rooms and a service corridor. 

Other features inside the Higwic House include its unique, brass door-knocker (in the shape of a woman’s hand). In the drawing room, you’ll also find an original needlework done by the Buckland women.

The large, well-kept grounds also serve as a wonderful background for events such as weddings. 

40 Gillies Avenue, Epsom, Auckland 1023

Pro Tip: If you are travelling to the Waikato region and would like to make a day of it, Highwic House is the first stop on the Waikato War Driving Tour, featuring thirteen sights of historical significance.

A two-story colonial-style house of Higwic House painted with cream white, having several chimneys, large white-framed windows surrounded by lush green trees and a well-manicured garden.

New Zealand Maritime Museum

Explore Auckland’s maritime history by taking a trip to the Auckland Maritime Museum. 

The Maritime Museum is broken up into different areas, each concentrating on a different era, such as early immigration from the Pacific Islands and the age of New Zealand exploration. 

Informative displays show how early sailboats were built and sailed, as well as the history of the America’s Cup.

There are also plenty of interactive activities for children. 

Corner of Quay and Hobson Street, Auckland 1140

Downtown Ferry Terminal

The Downtown Ferry Terminal is one of the most beautiful old buildings in Auckland’s CBD.

This landmark not only serves as a transport hub connecting the city with other parts of Auckland but is close to amazing restaurants, souvenir shops and top designer stores such as Gucci, Prada and Chanel. 

You can, of course, still catch a ferry from there to many fantastic locations around Auckland – including our favourite, Waiheke Island.

Quay Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010

Historic Places in Auckland’s Eastern Suburbs

Howick Historical Village

Travel back in time to the 1880s at Howick Historical Village.

This museum features over 30 original historic buildings including schools, shops, a courthouse, a pub, a blacksmith, a flour mill and more. See the grand homesteads and humble cottages that belonged to Aucklanders over 175 years ago.

It is committed to creating a real, authentic period feel, with people dressed in original costumes and Victorian-style classrooms in the mix on their monthly Live Day. These are held on the second Sunday of every month.

While visiting, you might choose to play some Victorian outdoor games or feed the chickens.

If you are hungry, why not enjoy a picnic lunch in the serene heritage gardens, or enjoy a snack and coffee at the cafe?

A sign near the road that says' "James White's General Store" at Howick Historical Village.

Northern Suburbs and Beyond

North Head

North Head is a great place to visit if you are interested in the military and naval history of Auckland.

With sweeping views of the Hauraki Gulf, it is a photographer’s dream. 

North Head has a long history as a coastal fortification site, and visitors will notice the large disappearing gun, as well as some tunnels that can be explored. Make sure to take a torch or use your mobile phone as one.

This place is perfect for taking the family on a summer’s day and having a picnic. 

It is within half an hour’s walk or a five-minute car journey from Devonport

Fort Takapuna

Less than 10 minutes drive away from North Head, this historic reserve features twin six-inch disappearing guns, an underground magazine, a barrack, gun pits, and observation posts.

During World War I, it was used as a training camp for Māori and Cook Island reinforcements and later accommodated German prisoners of war.

In 1919, it was even used as a hospital for flu victims.

Now, it’s an intriguing place to visit – especially for those with an interest in fortifications.

170 Vauxhall Road, Narrow Neck, Auckland 0624

Mansion House – Kawau Island

Located on picturesque Kawau Island, Mansion House is the former home of Governor Sir George Grey.

The property once housed exotic animals such as zebras and monkeys, and peacocks may still be spotted on the grounds today. 

Mansion House is especially popular with tourists who enjoy swimming or boating.  It makes for a fantastic day trip from Auckland City.

This is an excellent place to access walking tracks on Kawau Island. Popular walks include the Coppermine Lookout and the Redwood Track, both of which provide plenty of opportunities to take Instagrammable photos – whether it’s the ruins of the engine house at the Coppermine Lookout, or a shaded forest backdrop and miners’ cottage remains on the Redwood Track.  

Mansion House is accessible by ferry from Sandspit, with trips taking approximately 40 minutes each way.

5 Schoolhouse Bay Road, Kawau Island 0920

A large white two-story mansion with multiple chimneys, surrounded by lush green trees and bushes, and a wooden pier extending from the front of the mansion towards the water where a boat can be seen docked and two people playing by the shore.

West Auckland’s Historic Places

MOTAT: Museum of Transport and Technology

If you are fascinated by transportation and technology, why not visit MOTAT

This museum was built around the site of a beam engine pump house. There, you will find all sorts of transportation exhibits, including vintage traction engines, carriages, and cars, among others. In addition, you will find space exhibits including a Corporal rocket!

They host a range of fantastic science exhibits that are sure to interest the kids, as well as a colonial village featuring a blacksmith shop and a fencible village.

For those of you particularly interested in aviation history, you’ll also have the opportunity to see the world’s last remaining Short Solent MK IV – a seaplane from the late 1940s and 1950s.

In the ‘Pioneers of Aviation’ Pavilion, you will also see displays celebrating notable aviators such as Jean Batten and Charles Kingsford Smith (who made the first transpacific flight from the United States of America to Australia).

Admission includes unlimited rides on the vintage trams that travel through Western Springs. You can even choose to jump off and enjoy this peaceful spot. It’s the perfect place to take your family for a walk or picnic.

805 Great North Road, Western Springs, Auckland 1022

Wherever you travel throughout Auckland, these historic sites offer new opportunities to learn and discover the hidden wonders of the City of Sails.

Photo credit: Eventfinda, Matakana 360

By Sarah Ingleton.

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