The 20-minute ferry to Devonport across Waitemata Harbour provides a fine view of Auckland's busy harbor. Originally known as Flagstaff, after the signal station on the summit of Mt. Victoria, Devonport was the first settlement on the north side of the harbor. Later the area drew some of the city's wealthiest traders, who built their homes where they could watch their sailing ships arriving with cargo from Europe. Aucklanders have fixed up and repopulated its great old houses, laying claim to the suburb's relaxed and moneyed seaside aura.
The Esplanade Hotel is one of the first things you'll see as you leave the ferry terminal. It stands at the harbor end of Victoria Road, a pleasant street for stopping at a shop, a bookstore, or a café; we recommend picking up some fish-and-chips to eat under the giant Moreton Bay fig tree on the green across the street.