The old adage says "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" but centenarian Bill Peters has swapped the apple for a whisky.

Mr Peters was born 100 years ago on July 10, 1917, at Punakitere, between Taheke and Kaikohe.

His secret to a long life is a simple one: "Every day about half past four or five o'clock, I'll have a whisky. I'll blame that, if it's not doing me good, it's not doing me harm."

He said he's been following this ritual for about 50 years.

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"I've never been a drinker but I've always enjoyed a drink in the afternoon."

He was named Herbert Netherton Peters, after his mother's brother who was killed at Gallipoli, but his father wanted him to be called Bill.

So that's what he called him, and it stuck - for 100 years.

A birthday celebration is planned at Barge Park today, with family and friends from as far away as Australia making the trip to Whangarei to celebrate.

He met his wife, Verna, at a local dance and the pair got married at the registry office in Auckland on September 17, 1940.

Mr Peters went off to war just a few weeks later on October 3, 1940.

He was a member of the 24th battalion and served in North Africa, Italy and spent six months in Fiji.

To this day he still uses a wallet he bought in Cairo, Egypt on his way home in 1945.

Despite growing up on a farm, he always wanted to be an engineer.

When he returned from the war, he spent the rest of his working life working on boilers at various businesses, including the Maungaturoto dairy company.

Mr and Mrs Peters had four children, two daughters and two sons. He has 15 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

The couple lived at various places around Northland after the war, with a 15-year stint in Auckland the only exception.

He has two main hobbies and those exploits adorn the unit he lives in at the Kamo Home and Village - hunting and woodworking. Today's birthday cake will have a hunting theme.

His wife died in 1997 and he moved into the unit in 1998.

He still makes his own breakfast every morning, and cooks dinner with his neighbour, 92-year-old Florence Hargreaves.

Mr Peters' eyesight is poor, and he can struggle with his hearing sometimes. Ms Hargreaves reads his mail to him.

He has some arthritis but is generally in good health.