Birkenhead was a city until amalgamated into North Shore City; prior to that it was a borough. As a city and borough it included areas known as: Birkenhead Point, Highbury, Chatswood, Verrans Corner, Birkdale and Beach Haven. Since amalgamation took place, it is less clear whether "Birkenhead" includes Verrans Corner, Birkdale and Beach Haven. In November 2010, the suburb was included into the North Shore ward, one of the thirteen administrative divisions of the new Auckland city, under authority of the Auckland Council. Under the new Auckland Council, Birkenhead is part of the Kaipatiki Local Board Area.
The southern part of the suburb is known as Birkenhead Point and lies on a promontory between Chelsea Bay and Little Shoal Bay, one kilometre to the west of the northern approaches to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It is surrounded by the suburbs of Northcote and Highbury to the north and Chelsea and Chatswood to the west.