It may be dark, dated and musty — but that’s part of the charm.

Legend has it that a ghost walks the halls of the Rangiriri Tavern, known affectionately to locals and travellers alike as "the Rango".

The 109-year-old tavern, 77km south of Auckland on SH1 and among the Waikato's oldest pubs, is believed to be haunted, something which duty bar manager Huia Heke confirms.

"She was over there," says Ms Heke pointing near the kitchen.

"I was just starting for the day and there she was, just walking away, doing her thing," she said, giving my spine a brief shiver.


The pub's ghost, also seen by celebrity psychic Kelvin Cruickshank during a visit to the tavern about six years ago, according to staff, is believed to be the spirit of the original proprietor's wife.

"One truckie refused to stay in one of the rooms [there are 10 in the hotel] because his lights kept going on and his alarm kept going off ... but she's okay, she doesn't hurt anyone," said Ms Heke.

The tavern was built in 1866 but there's debate between Ms Heke and the bar's other duty manager Bernie Potts over whether it was flooded or partially burned down before it was rebuilt in 1905.

The hotel is a stone's throw from the site of some of the fiercest fighting between Maori and Pakeha as the British forces led by General Cameron began their invasion of the Waikato in 1863.

It was once a regular stop for travellers because it was at the halfway point between Auckland and Hamilton when SH1 was a more dangerous proposition than today.

It's also been the scene of a number of big nights that Mr Potts, a South Islander who has worked at the bar for the past 27 years, is quick to recall.

"When Waikato won the [Ranfurly] shield off Auckland at Eden Park in 1993 the captain said at the after match 'see you at the Rangiriri'."

"Well, I tell you what, at one stage that night there were 22 buses outside and bloody cars everywhere and by the time the team arrived they couldn't get in - it was just bloody chocka."

The tavern's exterior has seen a new paint job and there's a pleasant, grassed beer garden that's popular with motorcycle clubs and families on the warmer days.

The inside is dark, dated and musty - but that's part of the charm at the tavern, which was registered category 2 with the Historic Places Trust in 1985.

Among a small number of punters laying down bets at the bar's TAB is Neville "Skippy" Lane, who came to New Zealand on holiday in 1967 from his Port Melbourne home.

He stayed for two weeks and met a local girl and he's never left. Mr Lane runs a clothing business and provides uniforms for pubs around New Zealand.

His work takes him to hundreds of pubs but he says the Rango is among the best.

"I've seen some rippers around the country but ... this place is right up there."

The Rangiriri Tavern

Where is it?

At Rangiriri off SH1. About 77km south of Auckland.

Most interesting beer on tap?

Who's there when we visit?
A handful of diners enjoying lunch. A handful of punters.

Most popular thing on menu?
The tavern's seafood chowder at lunch time, steaks and pork spare ribs in the evenings.

Would I take an hour out of my journey to have a drink and a meal there again?

Has pictures of racehorses on the walls, old but comfortable leather sofas in what was clearly once a smoking area. Dated but that seems appropriate for one of the oldest hotels in the Waikato.