Auckland’s Red Fence Heritage Walk

The Red Wrought Iron Fence

It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the Yellow Brick Road but the Red Fence is just as colourful and much easier to find.

In fact, if you are in downtown Auckland, it’s hard to miss the Red Fence as it stretches out along the waterfront keeping the goings-on at Auckland’s port in and the public out.

The decision to paint the wrought iron fence brilliant red was inspired. A fence, after all, is just a fence but with a splash of paint this particular fence became a city landmark worthy of heritage status.

Construction of the Red Fence began in 1913 but was halted because of Auckland’s infamous waterfront strike. When the strike collapsed and port operations resumed, the fence began to snake its way along Quay Street. Ornamental gates and lamps were added and a gate keeper was appointed for each of the 12 gates.

Sadly, the gate keepers are long gone and most of the gates are padlocked but it is still possible to follow the line of bright red paint along the waterfront and to learn the history of this area.

The Red Fence Heritage Walk starts at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum and finishes about an hour later at the Ports of Auckland building sitting next to the helipad at Mechanics Bay. Numbered signs provide information about points of interest along the way making this an easy self-guided walk.

After passing the ochre-coloured Ferry Building, Queen’s Wharf (home to Shed 10 and the Cloud), Admiralty Steps and Captain Cook and Marsden wharves, you’ll reach Britomart Point Rock which marks the spot where, in 1840, the British flag was raised in a ceremony marking the foundation of Auckland. Britomart Point was demolished during the 1880s but across the road is its namesake, the  Britomart area popular for trendy shopping, good coffee and a Saturday city market.

The half- way point of the heritage walk is the Rainbow Warrior memorial which commemorates the sinking of the Greenpeace anti-nuclear protest ship, the Rainbow Warrior, at Marsden wharf in 1985. The Rainbow Warrior was irreparable and she is at rest now in Matauri Bay in the Far North, providing a site for diving and a sanctuary for fish. The ensuing outrage (the French government agents only served 2 years of a 10 year sentence) and public relations disaster (for France) strengthened New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance and irrevocably changed New Zealand’s foreign and defence policy.

The remainder of the heritage walk follows the Red Fence past more wharves, and the banks of containers and sky high cranes of the container terminal. The fence ends finally at the Ports of Auckland building situated next to the heliport at Mechanics Bay. Beyond this point, the road carries on to the eastern bays and unobstructed views across the harbour.

This is an out-and-back walk and there is no danger of losing your way. Just follow the Red Wrought Iron Fence.

Things to know before you go

  • The full walk takes approximately an hour each way
  • You’ll get great views into the container terminal from the observation deck in the Ports of Auckland building  (during the week only) or from the public walkway near the heliport.
  • The  Red Fence Heritage brochure can be downloaded from

Categories: New Zealand

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