Two fires, a flood, great crowds and plenty of good yarns are among fond memories of an historic hotel which is up for sale in the Far North.

The land, buildings and Marlin Hotel business that sit on Whangaroa Rd overlooking the harbour will be auctioned by Bayleys Kerikeri on November 27.

Whangaroa resident Bob Kidd said he's had "one or two" at the pub over the last two decades he's lived in the small seaside village.

"The Marlin was always the place to have a few drinks and if you ever needed anything done there was always a tradie there who could do it or knew someone who could," he said.

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"There was a great crowd of people there, it was always a good local pub."


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The Marlin Hotel is believed to have been first established around the mid to late 1800s when it was named the Masonic Hotel.

Originally used as a boarding house, it has been the site of two fires: one in 1994 and the other in 2003.

Known as one of the most productive marlin fishing grounds in New Zealand, Whangaroa is the harbourside departure and arrival point for big game charter fishing boats heading out to the Cavalli Islands and Great Exhibition Bay.

The hotel is a popular stop-over for tourists and boaties.

American novelist and fisherman Zane Grey frequented the bar in the 1920s while visiting the Bay of Islands and made the region famous with his book Tales of an Angler's El Dorado.

Former hotel owners Laurie and Colleen Stephens with the newly restored hotel after a disastrous fire. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Former hotel owners Laurie and Colleen Stephens with the newly restored hotel after a disastrous fire. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The hotel was owned by Laurie and Colleen Stephens from 1995 to 2018.

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The couple, who still live locally, restored the building after it was nearly destroyed in the 2003 fire.

Though he wasn't in the hotel when the blaze took hold, Kidd recalls the incident which nearly gutted the building and reduced the kitchen, dining room and upstairs bedrooms to ash.

Firefighters from Kaeo, Kerikeri, Kaikohe and Mangonui took about 90 minutes to put out the flames, with help from local residents.

The fire-damaged Marlin Hotel in Whangaroa in 2003. Photo / Tania Webb
The fire-damaged Marlin Hotel in Whangaroa in 2003. Photo / Tania Webb

Kidd also recalls a flood of 2008 where "water ran right through the hotel and across the road".

"There was mud right through the place and the wall collapsed behind it."

Laurie Stephens said the pub was always "really busy", though patronage had dropped off over the years.

"They were fabulous days," he said.

"Especially on a Wednesday night you could go into a raffle... $5 ticket for half a beast. It used to bring in the crowds, you couldn't get in the door."

The current owners bought the hotel in 2018 and have carried out renovation works.

The building features seven guest bedrooms on its upper floor and a two-bedroom family suite. A separate bungalow-style building houses three backpacker-style rooms with shared bathroom facilities.

Salesperson Anthony van Gessel said the hotel has undergone a comprehensive renovation over the past 12 months creating a family-friendly dining area, replacing what was the former pub dining space.

"Kiwi country pubs have undergone a renaissance over the past decade – with the likes of the Duke of Marlborough in the Bay of Islands, the Theatre Royal in Kumara on the West Coast of the South Island, and the legendary Whangamomona Hotel in the Central North Island spearheading the trend and all becoming tourist destinations in their own rights," he said.

"With the right marketing, Whangaroa could be among that echelon."