Devonport’s pioneers knew how to make “irresistible” tea. But does the seaside suburb’s modern cafe culture run to a good cupPA?
Talk about swimming against the tide: as Aucklanders migrate north for the summer, we’re heading south for a week or so in the Queen’s City.
But not just any part of Auckland; this tea-finding mission is hyper-local; we’re Doing Devonport, and have high hopes for some good brews in the seaside suburb.
We are not total strangers to the place; my beloved lived there in the 1980s, I lived in neighbouring Bayswater in the 1990s, and in the 2000s, our son went to school in Devonport.
We were fond of the place then, but more than a decade of life in the semi-tropical, laid-back, uncongested North has given us an aversion to cities.
Still, if you’re going to do it, January is the time, when Aucklanders evacuate to experience a bit of what we have every day. And so we are taking up residence in an old wooden villa and making forays out into the village’s cafes, restaurants and hotels.
Devonport wears its history on its sleeve, from 50,000-year-old volcanic cones (Mts Victoria and Maungauika aka North Head; Mt Cambria has been quarried out of existence) to military fortifications. The houses are either renovated working-class cottages or elegant villas, and evidence of the area’s ship-building and farming past are not hard to find.
For centuries, the summits and slopes of Victoria (Takarunga) and Maungauika have provided Maori and pakeha warriors with the high ground. Both peaks were pa, and in 1840, after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Maungauika, with it spectacular views of the Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbour became a lookout station for the colonial government. During the Russian Scare of the 1880s, heavy guns were installed, and the site continued service as a strategic defence post in World War Two.
Like its British namesake, New Zealand’s Devonport is a naval base, home to HMNZS Philomel (the Navy’s administration base) as well as training facilities. What was the Navy’s dry dock, the historic stone Calliope Dock, is now privately operated.
Once a largely working-class suburb, Devonport’s white-sand beaches and the fact that it’s just a short ferry-ride away from downtown Auckland has seen it gentrified, and the average house price is now $1.5 million.
But expensive houses and a cafe culture aren’t guarantees of high-quality tea. Can you get good tea in Devonport? To find out, we are about to put six cafes through their paces. First up is Manuka Cafe.