The suburb, which includes the peninsula of Northcote Point, includes the northern approaches to the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the culturally diverse Northcote Central shopping centre.
In 1882, the St Heliers and Northcote Land Company was formed and some land in the area was subdivided. In 1889 a major subdivision was the result when the Bartley Estate was auctioned. Before the construction of the Harbour Bridge in 1959 the Northcote Wharf was heavily utilised by the Auckland Harbour ferry service. After the Harbour Bridge was built the Northcote peninsula became a quiet cul-de-sac. The wooden Northcote Tavern was once in the thick of things, it still stands but now surveys a quiet streetscape.
To the north on the main road leading to and from the Harbour Bridge is the busy Northcote Shopping Centre, which was developed in the early 1960s and has undergone continuing change during the 1970s to 1990s. It is now a multi-cultural retail hub featuring many Asian food outlets and with a mix of tenants that bears little resemblance to its first years in the 1960s.
Northcote is surrounded by the suburbs of Birkenhead, Hillcrest and Takapuna to the west and north, and the waters of Shoal Bay, an arm of the Waitemata, to the south and east. State Highway 1 stretches along the waterfront of Shoal Bay, heading north from the bridge towards Albany.