1. Riverhead Tavern
Corner Queen and York Sts, Riverhead, ph (09) 412 8902, Mon-Sat 11-late, Sun 9-late
This meticulously renovated 1876 pub attracts the crowds - some arriving by boat to tie up at the jetty. With good food and waterside deck, this place is hard to beat.
2. Clevedon Hotel
26 Kawakawa Bay Rd, Clevedon, ph (09) 292 8783, 11am-2pm, 6pm-9.30pm, 7 days
As well as the expected bar and garden bar, there is the Wairoa Restaurant - bistro-smart with a changing seasonal menu proudly featuring local oysters and wines. Try the buffalo loin with ricotta and ravioli entered in this year's Monteith's Wild Food Challenge.
3. Puhoi Pub & Hotel
Ahiroa Rd, Puhoi, ph (09) 422 0812
The enormous garden bar is a magnet on a sunny day, but it's worth checking inside the 150-year-old villa for memorabilia of the 1860s settlers and interesting taxidermy. Good honest pub food, visitors rave about the friendly service. This is so not the city.
4. The Grand Hotel & Rosso Restaurant
1-3 Railway St, Helensville, ph (09) 420 7683 or 021 135 2990 Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, weekends 8am-10pm
Rosso has seasonally changing fine dining. The refurbished public bar re-opens at the end July, with good pub grub. With new accommodation, plans for summer farmers' market this completes the historic charm of this old railway town.