8 great Kiwi pubs

8 great Kiwi pubs

As well as being a popular social destination, pubs are often at the centre of communities, providing a place to congregate and reflect on local history on their walls. In some places, they are the last remaining commercial business and the hub of a community. Wendy Montrose visits a few of her favourites and shares why they are so special.

1. Wimbledon Tavern, Herbertville, Hawke’s Bay

As happened to so many of the old pubs, the first Wimbledon pub built in 1886 burnt down. It was replaced three years later. Now firmly planted in the 21st century, the Tavern has solar panels on the roof to supplement its power, with the excess fed back into the national grid. Less than an hour south of Waipukurau, this Category 2 historic building continues to survive as a tavern in a difficult economic climate that has seen many country pubs disappear. Friendly hosts Eric and Susan Gathercole provide a range of good food, occasionally even smoked over an open fire. There’s motel-style accommodation in a cottage out the back and a designated area for overnight motorhome parking.

2. Whangamomona Hotel, Forgotten Highway

Thirty-five years ago, when a shift in district boundaries took half of Whangamomona’s residents from Taranaki to Manawatu, the town declared itself a republic (within the walls of the hotel). You don’t need a passport to pass through, although, you can buy one at the pub if you’re concerned. Built in 1912 after the original hotel was destroyed by fire, the walls are adorned with historical photos and memorabilia. The bar oozes history and the locals are always up for a chat when you stop to wash away the dust from the Forgotten Highway. I recommend that you at least stop by for lunch, as they make a mean toasted sandwich. The nearby Whangamomona Camping Ground is a short walk from the hotel.

3. The Blue Pub, Methven

8 great Kiwi pubs
The unmissable Blue Pub is internationally famous among skiers and snowboarders

Methven’s relaxed vibe and warm hospitality are reflected in the unmissable Blue Pub, built on the site of Methven’s first hotel. The Blue Pub is located right in the middle of town and, with its proximity to nine ski fields, is internationally famous among skiers and snowboarders. When it’s cold outside, the fire is sure to be roaring in the bar. Food is served all day and the bangers and mash, made with locally produced sausages, will take you back to your childhood. The Blue Pub is an NZMCA park over property where members can park up for the night for no charge and enjoy the hospitality.

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4. Moutere Inn, Nelson

8 great Kiwi pubs
Moutere Inn is New Zealand’s oldest pub in its original building

New Zealand’s oldest pub in its original building, the basic structure of the Moutere Inn has been unchanged since the 1850s. Originally built by German settlers, today, the Inn has a number of craft beers on tap and the wine list is filled from within a 10km radius. With no TV, jukebox, or pokies, the friendly and welcoming atmosphere is much like it was in the old days. Newspaper clippings on the dining room walls tell stories spanning the past 160 years, and there’s a long proud history of the Inn serving good food and drink and of offering travellers a bed for the night. These days the Inn also allows free overnight camping for self-contained campers in the car park.

5. Thistle Inn, Mulgrave Street, Wellington

8 great Kiwi pubs
Book a historic tour of the Thistle Inn

One of the oldest pubs in New Zealand, and the holder of the second liquor license to be issued in Aotearoa, the Thistle Inn has witnessed 175 years of Wellington history. In 1840, when the original tavern was first built on Mulgrave Street, the sea lapped at the beach just below its front door. Destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1866, it stands as a reminder of our colonial past, these days surrounded by modern steel and glass. Frequented by dock workers, rail workers, politicians, government workers, and many others over the years, the Thistle Inn also hosted many historical figures, including Māori chief Te Rauparaha and Katherine Mansfield. Open Monday to Saturday, you can book a 15-minute historic tour. Visit thistleinn.co.nz for details.

6. Kentish Hotel, Auckland

8 great Kiwi pubs
Kentish Hotel claims to hold the longest continuous liquor license in NZ

Occupying a central location in the historic town of Waiuku, the Kentish Hotel claims to hold the longest continuous liquor license in New Zealand. Granted to Edward Constable on 10 January 1853, the same license continues today. The hotel, built on a busy trade route, thrived in colonial times and even survived the land war years. With more than 450 historic photographs on its walls, the hotel is a piece of Kiwi heritage. The port-side restaurant offers gourmet dining, a senior’s lunch menu, and great views of the harbour.

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7. Vulcan Hotel, St Bathans

8 great Kiwi pubs
The Vulcan Hotel at the heart of St Bathans

The tiny town of St Bathans in Central Otago was once a busy gold and coal mining hub with more than a dozen public houses. Today, only the Vulcan remains to serve locals and tourists alike with good country food and a cold drink. Called the ‘heart of the town’ by locals, the Vulcan is also the haunt of a benign ghost known as The Rose. A lady of the night who plied her trade from one of the rooms, she was murdered for “the little bit of money and gold” she carried. Manager Sue Ingram says The Rose won’t leave because her murderer was never caught. You may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of your eye. Stay free at the Saint Bathans Domain DOC Camp.

8. Formerly the Blackball Hilton, Blackball

8 great Kiwi pubs
Formerly the Blackball Hilton serves a great range of Reefton Distillery products

Built in 1910, this old-school style pub is the focal point of a once bustling and notorious mining village and maintains its original look to give visitors a taste of the local history. Known for its early union militancy, the town today boasts a population of around 300 and a number of community groups, continuing to thrive despite the 1964 end to the local mining industry. The Hilton serves a great range of Reefton Distillery products and offers à la carte dining using the best West Coast ingredients. Take the opportunity to try the excellent local venison. Accommodation is available and self-contained campers are catered for with six powered motorhome sites. For more details, visit blackballhilton.co.nz.

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