Jacob’s Ladder Is Back


Auckland’s historic Jacobs Ladder staircase in St Marys Bay will reopen next Wednesday after being closed since March 2010 for work associated with the  Victoria Park Tunnel project.

Opening at the same time is the staircase to Beaumont Street section of a new walkway beside the State Highway 1 motorway at the bottom of the St Marys Bay cliffs.

Both the Jacobs Ladder staircase and the walkway will ultimately connect to a new footbridge being built across the motorway from the cliffs to Westhaven Drive. The truss or framework of the bridge has been installed and it will open early next year after the decking and cladding have been installed.

Jacobs Ladder was originally built in the 1800s to provide access down the steep St Marys Bay cliffs to the Waitemata Harbour foreshore, and a  was once the most direct route between Ponsonby and wharves in St Marys Bay that were used by cutters and whalers in the 1800s and ferries later.

The staircase was also the main access to HMNZS Ngapona, base of the Naval Volunteer Reserve Unit, from 1925 until 2007.  The unit’s headquarters at the base of the St Marys Bay cliffs were demolished two years later to make way for motorway widening as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel project.

The upgrade of Jacobs Ladder was a joint NZTA and Auckland Council project.

NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker says they have replaced old wooden steps with metal ones, to bring them up to the same standard as the new walkway and foot bridge.

“They will be stronger and also safer because they will also be included in the CCTV surveillance of the area.”

Jacobs Ladder in St Marys Bay before it closed

Waitemata Local Board chair Shale Chambers says Jacobs Ladder provides a vital connecting link between the Western Bays, Victoria Park and the vibrant new waterfront are.

“In recent years the stairs have been well used by commuters walking to and from work in the Auckland CBD and by runners and walkers as part of their keep-fit regimes and we’re delighted to be able to return this popular route back to the community,” Mr Parker says.

The name “Jacobs Ladder” is biblical, referring to Jacob’s vision of a ladder leading from earth to heaven.  In naval terms, a Jacobs Ladder is a portable ladder made of rope or metal and used primarily to board ship.




  1. George D says:

    They’d never allow this to be built now!

    Still, it appears well loved and used.

  2. Max says:

    Not sure why it would “not be allowed to be built now”? NZTA is intending to build a totally new set of stairs under the Newmarket Viaduct in Newmarket, connecting Gillies Avenue with Clovernook Road. It may be slightly less steep, but it is still a set of stairs…

  3. tbird says:

    I’ve live in Auckland five years now, and have never been up JL. I only found out about it around about the time work for the tunnel started, and of course it has been shut.

    This walkway and the new path along the motorway will add a bit of variety when I feel like going for a walk/run around the area.

  4. Max says:

    With the bridge now up (what a shame it is only supposed to open in six months!) it will be even better, because you can have a stroll to the waterfront too. Shame they didn’t add cycling ramps on the north side (instant new cycle route avoiding crossing the horrific Fanshaw Street), but hopefully that can come later.

  5. tbird says:

    Went for a walk up there tonight.

    As I said, I haven’t been there before, but I think a lot of it’s character is gone now it’s just a metal staircase. It reminds me of going down the fire stairs in an office building.

    I’d have loved to have run up the old rickety wooden, narrow passageway with trees shrouding me from above. An experience I’ll never have. :-P

    I do like the walkway along the motorway. It’s only open until the ladder, but you get a cool view of the exit of the VP tunnel.

  6. k hardman says:

    lived in ponsonby during the war was down at jacobs ladder a lot there used to be a rope swing tied onto a tree on the cliff…happy days a long time ago

  7. Irene says:

    I used to live at the top of Jacobs ladder just over 40 years ago and used to run up and down the steps weekly. A friend and I are going to go down them and across to the viaduct on Wednesday probably would struggle going up now if I remember correctly there are around 100 steps.


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