At the centre of gravity in every regional New Zealand town you will find a public house.
It's a mythical place, decorated with three generations of sports memorabilia, a roaring log burner, and yarns that stretch time, space and credulity with each retelling.
A place where adventures start and perhaps some failures end.
You'll find it somewhere in the intersection of good food, within earshot of a battered jukebox and at the end of a long, meandering walk.
So to help you zero in on New Zealand's best provincial pubs and most characterful bars:
As you arrive by water on the Rangitopuni, The Riverhead makes an impression. The 160-year old pub north of Auckland is a gem. Today you'll find fewer smugglers and more smug daytrippers from Tāmaki Makaurau. In summer the oak-lined garden comes into its own.
On the other side of Riverhead, you'll find the Hallertau brauhaus. Don't let the Teutonic affectations put you off. This is no stuffy bierhalle but one of Auckland's trendiest, young breweries. As well as local beer on tap, you'll find reusable flagons and fresh food made from the kitchen garden.
Last year the brewery opened a second, 600-litre, 25-tap lineup in Clevedon, South Auckland. It's not far from the farmers' market and you'll find plenty of local produce on the menu, including Clevedon buffalo mozzarella. Yum.
Not far away, near the Waiuku harbour, the Kentish Hotel has been pouring pints since 1853. While the original Kentish publican may no longer be behind the bar, it is Auckland's longest-serving pub.
Good George's own country.
Although Aucklanders rarely have anything good to say about the Hamilton brewery, south of the Bombay hills such talk is blasphemy.
Rumour has it that even the Green Dragon at Hobbiton is a tap for the regional brewery.
Begun in 2011 in the lapsed St George Church in Frankton, the house of God turned public house made a characterful setting for the company. Today you can still pull up a pew in the huge dining hall.
Converted churches became something of a thing for Good George. A short distance away from the Tron, the Good Union in Cambridge continues the tradition.
Making use of the former Pink Church on Victoria St, the Good Union also runs courses to show homebrewers the righteous path and convert the uninitiated.
In the alpine heart of the North Island, Ōhakune has a choice of apres-ski hangouts. The Powderkeg at the Powderhorn Chateau is an obvious start. The roaring fire and wooden panels is an alpine experience more warming than a Julie Andrews musical.
Far away from the lonely goatherd, but less than five minutes' walk from the Chateau, is Kings Pub. You'll find hearty mountain fuel on the menu, including a slow-cooked venison hotpot. A highlight is the Ōhakune Carrot Margarita cocktail.
An hour's cycling outside of Napier, on the hard shoulder of the Hawke's Bay cycleway - the Puketapu is a favourite beerstop for bikers.
It will have to be a swift one to make an appointment at the Roosters Brewhouse. This big red barn on Hasting's Omahu Rd is a good 40 minutes away by pedal. As well as a range of home beers, here you can refuel on pub grub. (Think burgers and gyoza dumplings.)
Roosters is a side business to the owners' Bay Espresso company. Perfect if you need a pick-me-up.
Finishing the circuit back to Napier's Masonic Hotel. You'll want to change out of your worn cycling gear before stepping into the hotel's swanky Emporium Bar. This is a country mile away from your rural pub, but the Art Deco cocktail list and bar has more character than a Miss Marple whodunnit.
At the top of the South Island, in Moutere Valley outside of Nelson, the Moutere Inn has made the contentious claim of being New Zealand's oldest pub. One thing everyone can agree on is the selection of local beers on tap and wines sourced within 10km of the bar.
In Nelson proper, the pubs are harder to discern. Far away from the Moutere's old-world charm is the industrial Workshop Brewery. Serving out of a cargo container, owner Nigel Jerard's describes it as his man cave turned community boozer.
Up the road, the Free House on Collingwood St is another bar masquerading as a chapel. There's a modest onsite kitchen for light bites, but may be the only pub that welcomes patrons to BYO takeaway.
Home on the Maniototo plains, the Waipiata Hotel near Ranfurly is a characterful Central bar. You have to be quick on the draw to get one of their famous hot pies.
Further into cowboy country, the saloon bar at the Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans is the kind of place where spurs and a ten-gallon hat wouldn't look out of place.
Further out towards Bannockburn and New Zealand's monument valley is the Ōmakau Commercial Hotel. You'll have to leave your trusty steed at the door, as the schist-stone stables have been repurposed for the Dark Horse Beer Werkz.
For a few dollars more - out towards the Cromwell Gorge, you'll find the Bannockburn Hotel.
So, it's more of a wine bar than a country pub, the menu and extensive drinks list of more than 200 labels is sure to win you over. With a pint glass of exceptional student-brewed beer from the Otago Brew School, the overall experience is an A+.
CANTERBURY AND KAIKŌURA
On the shorefront with views of the Kaikōura ranges, sea air doesn't come much fresher than on the terrace at The Pier Hotel, Kaikōura. The seafood makes for the perfect pub stop to break the coastal road to Christchurch.
On the way to the Lewis Pass there's the Hurunui Hotel. Paired with a trip to the nearby Balmoral Fire Lookout (about 1.2km north of the hotel), it has some of the most picturesque settings for a pub walk.
If you don't mind breaking a sweat, and swapping the stroll for a 32km adventure race - the Blue Pub in Methven could be just the tipple. The Peak To Pub race in September involves a ski, cycle and run from the top of the Mt Hutt ski field to the front door of the Blue Pub.
The current record is 1:12:39. Thirsty work.
Ello 'ello 'ello, what have we here then? The Pig & Whistle in Rotorua is a converted 1940s police station. Apart from the cheeky nod in the name, there's plenty of constabulary memorabilia incorporated into the pub. Today it is downhill cyclists not bobbies that are on the beat. It's the unofficial clubhouse of the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club and Trails Trust.
The South Seas Hotel on Stewart Island is the last pub before Antarctica. It has become a landmark on Oban's waterfront for those setting off on the Rakiura Trail. One for the trivia fans: the Sunday night Stewart Island Pub Quiz is fiendishly difficult. As Prince Harry found out on his 2015 tour.
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