Crossing an exasperating little stream: the Milford foot bridge

Originally built to allow pedestrians to easily reach the 'new' Castor Bay Estate at the northern end of Milford beach, the Milford foot bridge has long been a focus of debate for local residents.

Image: Photographer unknown. Beachgoers on the Milford over bridge, 1923. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, EF0021.

The first foot bridge was initially built as a temporary crossing for the Wairau Creek in 1923. It was known as a ‘lighthouse’ structure, and since the depth of the creek allowed scows and other sailing vessels to sail upstream, as far as Sheriff’s Gum Store at the lower end of Shakespeare Road, it had to be built high enough to allow "the largest yacht to pass under".

Image: Photographer unknown. Steam tram at Sheriff's Corner, Milford. 1920s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0134.

Image: Photographer unknown. Footbridge over the mouth of the Wairau estuary, Milford beach, 1920s.Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0368.

The foot bridge was popular and due to the demands of local residents who wanted a regular means of accessing Milford beach and beyond, a permanent crossing was approved. In the 23 January 1923 issue of the Auckland Star it was noted: "…the foot bridge is to become a permanent, not a temporary means of crossing the exasperating little stream".

Image: Castor Bay, Auckland. Morrison, John M, fl 1883-1951 :Photographs of Takapuna and Milford. PAColl-6494-24. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The bridge was erected at a cost of £270 by the Public Works Department. The Castor Oil Bay Company, Takapuna Borough Council and Waitemata County Council each paid a share of the costs.

Modifications were carried out in 1933 owing to the susceptibility of the base steps to the tidal flow of the estuary. The lower steps were extended outward by the addition of a platform mid-way up, an addition that proved popular with swimmers, who used it as an unofficial dive platform. Construction of a stone embankment and wooden breakwater also provided an improved beach and reserve. The stone-built groyne (low wall) at the mouth of the creek was built in the 1960s.

Image: Footbridge to Castor Bay, 1949. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T6375.

The bridge gradually fell into disrepair and disuse and it was considered so dangerous that it had to be demolished. Early one morning in May 1975, a tow truck was driven onto the beach and hooked up to the supports. Footage of the demolition shows that the truck had barely begun to move before the bridge buckled and came down.

Image: Carolyn Beck. The new Milford Bridge. 2016.

It was not until 2015 that an elegant new bridge was built at a cost of $3.1 million. It was officially opened on 17 December 2015, reuniting the headland walkway with the northern end of the beach after a 40 year hiatus. The central span of the bridge can be raised to allow yachties access to the present-day Milford Marina, and walkers can at last walk directly from the headland to the beach without a long detour.

Author: Carolyn Beck, North Auckland Research Centre, Takapuna Library.


  1. When I was 15 (1959) I worked at Eastern Bays Obstetric Hospital in Castor Bay. I was working as a nurse aid, until I was old enough to go training. I lived in Saltburn Road, and used to walk along the beach and over the bridge to go to work.

  2. The original bridge was gorgeous full of character kids jumped off at high tide, occasionally throw sand and shells at incoming boats! Was a direct route from my family home to a friend (Ben Stokes) in Castor Bay.

    1. Do you remember if the central support was right in the middle of the creek I 'seem to remember it was nearer the cliff to let boats past this would have been in the late 1960s

  3. It's funny because when I lived in Milford in 1967 we used to use this bridge a lot I don't remember it having that large support in the middle of the creek how did the boats get past? did they modify it when they built a marina upstream I also remember before I returned to England in 1974 how rickety it had become if you stood on the top and rocked back and forth you could feel the whole bridge moving I'm not surprised they demolished it cant believe it took 40 years to replace it.

  4. Those supports were there as fewer boats in those days went up or down the creek, mostly people came to look at the swimming pool or the pirate ship or used the bridge to get to. Caster Bay. My mother caught me jumping off the bridge one Sunday when I was supposed to be in church. The local kids from Milford Motor Camp swam in the creek along with the eels and life was good.


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