Devonport is a harbourside suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. It is located on the North Shore, at the southern end of a peninsula that runs southeast from near Lake Pupuke in Takapuna, forming the northern side of the Waitemata Harbour. East of Devonport lies North Head, the northern promontory guarding the mouth of the harbour.
The population of Devonport and the adjoining suburb of Cheltenham was 5,337 in the 2006 Census, an increase of 126 since 2001. With the additional suburbs of Stanley Bay, Vauxhall and Narrow Neck, the 2006 population was 11,142.
The suburb hosts the Devonport Naval Base of the Royal New Zealand Navy, the main facility for the country's naval vessels, but is best known for its harbourside dining and drinking establishments and its heritage charm. In its scenery and setting, Devonport has been compared to Sausalito, California.
In 2011 the Devonport community, led by parents and local publication the Devonport Flagstaff, launched a grassroots movement protesting the sale of the synthetic cannabis Kronic in local dairies. The battle was a success, and Kronic was banned from the area.
The earliest evidence for (Māori) settlement dates from the mid-14th century (roughly during the same time as the supposed landing of the Tainui waka which is commemorated by a stone memorial on the foreshore). The last remaining significant Māori settlement in the area, on North Head, was wiped out by rival tribes in the 1790s.
Jules Dumont d'Urville, a French explorer, is thought to have gone ashore in the area in 1827, possibly as the first European. The first permanent European inhabitant was a pilot and harbour master stationed on North Head in 1836. The suburb of Devonport itself was first settled in 1840 and is one of the oldest in Auckland and the first on the North Shore. It was initially called Flagstaff because of the flagstaff raised on nearby Mount Victoria (Takarunga). For the first half century or so of its existence Devonport was geographically isolated from the rest of the North Shore, and was sometimes called "the island" by the local inhabitants. Only a thin strip of land beside the beach at Narrow Neck connected Devonport to Belmont and the rest of the North Shore peninsula. In the late 19th century the mangrove swamp that stretched from Narrow Neck to Ngataringa Bay was filled in to form a racecourse, now a golf course. A new road was built along the western edge of the racecourse allowing more direct travel to the north.
On the southern shore, to the west of the centre of Devonport, a nearby deep water anchorage suitable for Royal Navy vessels, the Devonport Naval Base was established. William Hobson, then the Governor of New Zealand, considered the sandspit-protected area a better choice for a naval installation than the shallower Tamaki waters on the southern side of the harbour. While some facilities have expanded and shifted in location over time, the area is still the primary base for the Royal New Zealand Navy. The Calliope Dock at Stanley Bay, part of the base, was opened on 16 February 1888 and at the time was the largest dock in the Southern hemisphere. The suburb also had one of the oldest New Zealand shipyards, now part of the Devonport Yacht Club area.
The main centre of the suburb slowly shifted west from Church Street and the original wharf at Torpedo Bay, to its current location around the ferry wharf. The settlement itself was renamed Devonport by 1859 after the English naval town of Devonport. Devonport achieved Borough status in 1886 and was incorporated into North Shore City in 1989.
Devonport played a special role in the nuclear free movement. In 1981 the Devonport Borough Council voted to declare Devonport a nuclear-free zone, the first local council in New Zealand to do so.
The first ferry services to Auckland city began in the 1840s These were open sailing cutters operated by local seamen running passengers to the foot of Queen Street Auckland's main road. In 1860 the first paddlesteamer ferries began operation.
These were in turn replaced by double-ended, screw-driven ferries in 1904. Both passenger and vehicle ferries operated on the Devonport run until the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959. Immediately after the opening of the bridge passenger ferry services to other North Shore destinations (such as Northcote and Birkenhead) were cancelled as were all vehicular ferries. The Devonport passenger ferry was retained on a much reduced timetable. The majority of the ferries were scrapped, only a handful being retained until being replaced by more modern vessels. The last of the old-style double-ended ferries, the diesel-engined Kestrel (built in 1905), was retired from the commuter run in 1988 and was then operated for cruises and sightseeing. In 2002 the Kestrel was moved to Tauranga to serve as a floating restaurant. The Kestrel has since changed hands again and moved back to Auckland, currently residing at the Auckland City ferry terminal.