by Celia Walker
Vintage postcards and photographs abound of Devonport’s Cheltenham Beach crowded with bathers and well-dressed citizens promenading. Not much has really changed – in the heat of summer the level of undress may be a little more daring, but many heritage features around the beach area remain.
The most obvious link to the past is with the tearooms, where refreshments have been served since 1913. Now McHugh’s, and a bearing some alterations from its original appearance, this building juts out onto towards the water at the beach end of Cheltenham Road. This is now a restaurant and functions venue – beach-goers can get their ice-cream fix at Milk Bar in the not quite so historic, but still charming Vauxhall shops (Vauxhall Rd, by Tainui Rd).
The remains of a tidal pool at the base of North Head is one of several found around the rocky foreshore of beach areas in Auckland, harking back to days of very sedate bathing habits; the raised promenade along the beachfront also suggestive of that past love of detachment from properly natural spaces.
While the tidal nature of the beach might not always be ideal for swimmers, the shallow stretches of mud can make for an enticing play space for small children, with the usual low-tide joys of starfish, tiny hermit crabs and cockle-shells. It is possible to walk around to Narrow Neck beach at low tide – though it pays to keep an eye on the rock faces – the low-hanging pōhutukawa in some places are losing their grip on the cliff, and the cliffs themselves are making a bid for the beach, and are quite unstable in places.
Image Credit: Celia Walker