There's nothing like summer in Auckland to make me nostalgic for the year I spent living in London. The rest of the time I remember the face-in-armpit commutes, poky council flat and office straight out of . . . well, The Office. When Auckland heats up, however, I start thinking wistfully of English beer gardens. Is there any better place to spend a warm summer's evening than on a wonky picnic table, cold beer in hand and plate of fish 'n' chips on its way?
New Zealand may be lacking on the beer garden front compared to the UK but after years of agonising research I've found we do have a few spots that fit the bill. Next time you're craving a pint in the sun, check out one of these al fresco watering holes:
1 Parua Bay Tavern, Northland
As outdoor drinking spots go this is one of the country's best. Right on the water's edge at Whangarei Heads, the tavern has a beachside lawn as well as a large outdoor deck with unobstructed (apart from a lone pohutukawa) views of the bay and surrounding headlands. Go for fresh fish 'n' chips washed down with a cold beer and you'll be living the Kiwi summer dream.
• 1034 Whangarei Heads Rd, Parua Bay, ph (09) 436 5856
2 Swashbucklers, Westhaven
Okay, so it's not a beer garden by any stretch, but if it's a picturesque location you're after (or for that matter, a pirate-themed one), you could do a lot worse than Swashies. With its sunny deck perched right on the edge of Westhaven Marina, this is one of the best spots in the city to enjoy the harbour. Who needs a garden when you've got stingrays to look at, anyway?
• 23B Westhaven Drive, Westhaven, ph (09) 307 5979
3 Puhoi Pub, Puhoi
I love bringing visitors to this place. An old-school country pub beloved by biker gangs and weekend day-trippers alike, the pub is the main event in historic Puhoi village (about 40 minutes drive north of Auckland). The food is standard pub fare and there's nothing fancy on the drinks list, but it's nostalgia you're here for, not negronis. Do check out the insane memorabilia-covered walls inside, as well as the American Indian gift shop across the road.
• 5 Saleyards Rd, Puhoi Village, ph (09) 422 0812
4 Brothers Brewery & Juke Joint, Mt Eden
Tucked away down an unassuming residential street in Mt Eden, Brothers Juke Joint has one of the best outdoor drinking spots for big groups and families. There's a big covered deck that gets drenched in evening sun, as well as a covered faux-grass courtyard and sandpit for kids. Make sure you order some brisket and tater tots from the American barbecue servery.
• 5 Akiraho St, Mt Eden, ph (09) 638 7592
6 Sawmill Brewery, Matakana
Not to be confused with Leigh Sawmill, this is Sawmill Brewery's flash new site at Matakana. As far as beer gardens go, it's one of the most relaxing I've visited: there are large beanbags for lounging on the grass, a sunny courtyard with picnic tables and rolling green hills to admire. Try a tasting paddle of the excellent Sawmill beers as well as the house-smoked dishes on the menu.
• 1004 Leigh Rd, Matakana, ph (09) 422 6555
7 Purangi Estate, Coromandel
Yes, it's more of a wine garden but for a place that is this much fun I'll bend the rules. The family-run Purangi Winery is a laid-back, eclectic little spot near Cooks Beach known for its warm hospitality, build-your-own pizzas and house-made wines, ciders and liqueurs. The garden is the ultimate summer backyard, complete with mismatched furniture, lush native plantings, outdoor games and five, count em', five cats.
501 Purangi Rd, Whitianga, ph (07) 866 3724
8 Hallertau Brewery & Restaurant, Riverhead
If only I could find more willing sober drivers, I'd be out at Riverhead every other weekend. Half an hour's drive north of the CBD, Hallertau has a large covered beer garden based around a central bar and wood-fired pizza oven. The Hallertau beer is fresh-from-the-tanks delicious and the food is leagues above your average pub grub. Anyone wanna split an Uber?
1171 Coatesville Riverhead Hwy, Riverhead, ph (09) 412 5555
9 Golden Dawn, Ponsonby
The outdoor space at Ponsonby's coolest bar is more of a courtyard than a garden, but it has picnic tables and plenty of sunshine so I say close enough. The courtyard has its own bar, lots of seating and a fun, lively vibe courtesy of whoever's picking the tunes. Best of all, they've got Hallertau beer on tap and a great selection of local and international craft beers in the fridge.
Cnr Richmond Rd & Ponsonby Rd, ph (09) 376 9929
10 The Northcote Tavern, Northcote
Could this be Auckland's best, or at least its most authentic British-style beer garden? Built in 1884, the Northcote Tavern is a grand, traditional hotel and Scottish pub with an awesome backyard. I'm talking harbour views, picnic tables, a lush lawn and a petanque area. Leave the car at home and catch the ferry to Northcote Point so you can enjoy a few Lion Reds with your fish 'n' chips.
• 37 Queen St, Northcote Point, ph (09) 480 7707