Before I’ve even finished my latte, while sitting on a ferry watching the cityscape shrink into a sea of blue harbour, we’ve pulled up at the dock of a seaside village a world away from Auckland’s central business district.
Devonport is a little more than ten minutes from New Zealand’s largest city and it perfectly reflects its heritage as one of Auckland’s earliest settled areas, with colonial housing, luxurious accommodation, boutique shops and pretty coastlines.
A favourite weekend escape for Aucklanders, it provides some of the best views back to the city, much like the beaches of northern Sydney would.
On arrival, you immediately get a sense that things are slower here; and it’s the way the locals like it. It’s why owner of restored Victorian villa, Peace and Plenty Inn, Judy Machin, decided to call Devonport home.
Originally from the UK, Judy bought the 1888 waterfront villa some 13 years ago after coming to New Zealand to visit her daughter and falling under Devonport’s spell.
“It’s just such an historical area with a real sense of community, a feeling of peace and there’s beautiful beaches surrounding you” she tells me, adding she "wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world."
Since taking over the property, Judy has maintained and added to its historical feel, in what she calls “French provincial and English antique style” and it extends to everything she does here - including serving high tea in vintage china.
Her largest room called the ‘Windsor’ has a veranda style Victorian bathroom with the stain-glass window and claw-foot bath. With a deep pink colour scheme (which she admits won’t be to everyone’s liking) the room includes a day bed and ornate cast iron fireplace, and there are plenty of other rooms to choose from with varying views.
Just up the road and former English teacher Penny Raine and husband John (who works for Auckland university) took their educational expertise to a ‘higher’ level - taking over the local Church’s former Sunday School building, which was converted almost five years ago to boutique accommodation.
The historically protected building was Devonport's former Salvation Army Citadel built in 1909, at the end of Queen Victoria's reign.
Working in hospitality wasn’t completely new to Penny who had worked as a housemaid and receptionist during university, but owning her own boutique accommodation certainly was and while she admits its been a learning curve she says they wouldn’t look back now.
As well as an abundance of unique heritage listed properties to call home, there are plenty of other things to do in this tight-knit village, from numerous art/cultural experiences to bush walks and sight-seeing.
For Art And Culture Lovers
Devonport Ceramic Studio/Gallery features the pottery of second-generation potter Jengis Poor, who has 25 years experience in art ceramics.
Auckland-born Jengis’ pieces are made of porcelain and earthenware clays, which are both for decorative and functional pieces.
He says watching his Dad doing pottery as a young child encouraged him to establish a career down the same path - and his Dad “while largely retired” does still dabble in pottery, with some of his pieces also for sale in studio.
It’s a broader family affair here too, with Jengis’ aunty also making and selling her works there. A visit to the studio allows you to watch Jengis’ in action and have an opportunity to purchase items at studio prices.
Flagstaff Gallery was the first dealer gallery on Auckland’s North Shore and is now one of the leading dealers in contemporary fine art.
On display are the works of more than 60 different New Zealand artists, uniquely including four local Devonport artists, with all of the works up for sale.
From Up High
There’s no better way to explore a region than by air, and Heletranz offers two scenic flights from the city across Devonport.
The flights cruise over two of Auckland’s volcanic cones in Devonport, Mount Victoria, the highest volcano on Auckland's North_Shore and North Head - a public reserve which was used by the New Zealand Army for defence purposes, and where (once back on land) you can explore the gun emplacements and tunnels.
Established some 20 years ago, Devonport Chocolates in the main street was bought by Stephanie Everitt in 1999 as a retirement job - but little did she know it would grow from one staff member to 24 within a matter of years.
Stephanie now produces 15 tonnes of chocolate a year - all hand-made and sold from its store in Devonport, and to luxury hotels around Auckland.
On sale are all manner of chocolates from boysenberry, hazelnut, lemonade and gingerbread flavours to chocolate shoes and Kiwiana chocolate featuring a local artist’s drawing of pukeko and Kiwi.
With a publishing and teaching background Stephanie says she had never worked around chocolate before, and with such demand “retirement has been put on hold”.
If you’re wanting something a bit more substantial than chocolate, Manuka Café has been an iconic institution in central Devonport since 1998.
Housed in a heritage listed building, you can grab a hardy Kiwi meal of New Zealand whitebait fritters or fresh New Zealand flounder, or for a quick treat - try the home-made pastries.
Before boarding the ferry to Devonport in Auckland city, make sure you get some serious retail therapy from renowned luxury New Zealand designer stores in the new Briomart building - home to Trelise Cooper, Karen Walker, WORLD and Kate Sylvester.
The ferry departs and returns approximately every half hour from the Auckland ferry terminal in downtown Auckland city.
The best time of year to visit Auckland is the summer months from December to March when the weather is most settled.
As Judy from Peace of Plenty puts it, there’s ‘plenty of peace’ in this tranquil environment - so if quiet strolls along the beach, boutique shopping and dining at leisure are your thing, there really is no better place to be.