Historic Devonport Ferry Returns


The 105-year old wooden former Devonport ferry the Kelstrel has tied up again at Auckland’s waterfront.

She is moored at Queens Wharf after coming up from Tauranga which has been her home for some years.

A Tauranga businessman had bought it off Fullers and tried to run it as a restaurant business after the ferry was tied up on the Tauranga waterfront but that business closed a couple of years ago.

The 39m Kestrel is the last survivor of Auckland’s original harbour fleet and now a preservation society is looking at options after bringing it up from Tauranga.

The society’s site says the boat was built at Chas Bailey & Sons boatyard in Auckland and launched in December 1905 , the second of the Albatross class of double-ended passenger ferry steamers intended for the Devonport service.




  1. Geoff says:

    Is this the ferry that was moored at Hobsonville, near the Upper Harbour Highway bridge for many years, and before that at Napier?

  2. rtc says:

    Yes it is, I think it was withdrawn from service in the mid 80′s or so, I used to catch it from Devonport everyday until they replaced it with the Kea which still runs.

  3. Andy says:

    Wow. I remember seeing it all run down when moored by the bridge and wondering what on earth it was. It just sat there for years….

  4. James B says:

    I remember it did a run to Devonport around the new millenium (I think they had a series of breakdowns around then and needed to press it into service) it took 25 minutes to cross the harbour!

  5. Lti says:

    Its a shame that the money can not be found to restore its sister the Toroa, which seems to be slowly rotting into the ground next to the motorway in Henderson.

  6. Jon Reeves says:

    The Kestrel and Toroa are extremely valuable pieces of Auckland’s nautical transport history and must be saved. Besides the history, they would be excellent for tourism.

    The sister ferry, SS Ngairo, was the floating restaurant in the viaduct until the mid 90′s. It is now sitting moored in Tairua.

    The Toroa is really the most valuable of the 3 as the orginal steam engines are intact. The Kestrel was converted to diesel power in the 1950′s.

  7. Joust says:

    Looks like the famous “star” ferries in Hong Kong.

  8. Feijoa says:

    @Geoff, RTC, Andy:
    I think you’re mixing up the (double-ended) Kestrel for a different single-ended (as well as smaller and newer, I think) ship that was moored in the Upper Harbour for many years, if not decades.

    The Kestrel was still operating to Devonport every Friday evening until it was sold by Fullers and sailed to Tauranga in 2002. It would start around 6 or 7pm on Fridays, replacing the Kea for the leisure travellers. A 3 piece jazz band (The BBC) would play downstairs in the bar. A group of regulars would ride back and forwards with beer and music, on what was Auckland’s cheapest and most character-rich harbour cruise.

    The boat was in great operating shape, so it was a real shame when it was sailed down to Tauranga to be permanently moored as a restaurant. The same thing had happened to the Toroa in the 1980s or early 90s, including a stint as a character’s home on Shortland Street, and you can see the state it got into through non-sailing neglect.

    It will probably cost millions of dollars to get the Kestrel back to the condition it had been in, but it would be wonderful if it could return to the harbour and offer us the great times and heritage link it is capable of.

    I’m not sure what the name of the ship was in the Upper Harbour, nor what has come of it. It used to be in the local newspapers every few years either for sale or with a new (wishful) owner who would (finally) get it operating dinner cruises.

  9. Jon Reeves says:

    The single ended ferry moored in the upper harbour was the Baroona I believe.

  10. Feijoa says:

    No, I don’t think it’s the Baroona either, which looks quite different in this article.

    You can still see the other ferry on the Upper Harbour on the google maps satellite image so maybe it’s still moored there?


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