Elisabeth Easther finds herself stoked with a small town's selection of brews.

Where is it?

In the South Island, snuggled between Richmond and Nelson.

Origin of name: Originally called Brook Green, it was later renamed Stoke by William Songer — the area's first European settler and servant of Arthur Wakefield — in honour of his English birthplace.

Population: 17,000 — with 21 per cent of them over 65, some call Stoke the "oldies capital of New Zealand".


Town saying: People used to say "the best things about Stoke are its brewery and the bypass", but that's not really fair or true.

Town icon: The Stoke Hand, a sculpture outside the local library.

Accolades: In 2010, Stoke was voted the "Keep New Zealand Beautiful People's Choice Best Place in New Zealand".

Crunchy or smooth:

Arguably the world's best peanut butter is made in Stoke.

Pic's Peanut Butter

started out selling at a stall at the famous Nelson Market and is now a multimillion-dollar business. Take the free tour, weekdays, 10am (for details, see the website).

Chips ahoy: Proper Crisps are another Stoke success story; first seen at the Nelson Markets these scrumptious snacks are described as "sunshine in a bag".

In cider trading: The region has long been famous for its apple orchards, and Stoke used to be home to four cideries within four blocks with Rochdale Cider still operating today.

Famous locals: Georgia and Caleb Knott from Broods.

Best website: nelsonnz.com.

Main employers: ENZA; the freezing works; Nelson Airport; Honda has its distribution centre in Stoke; Sea Dragon Marine Oils; NZ King Salmon.

Source of pride: McCashin's Brewery, New Zealand's first craft brewery, opened in Stoke in 1981, started by former All Black Terry McCashin.

Literally literary: A clutch of streets in Stoke are named for famous writers, including Kipling Crescent, Shelley Avenue, Dickens Street and Coleridge Place.

Town fiestas: Rose Day each November and Carols in the Park in December, both at Broadgreen House.

Here for a short time: If you're fond of a brew, hire a bike from The Gentle Cycling Company then pedal off on a craft beer odyssey. Start with a tour of McCashin's Brewery, then visit Bay's Brewery before deviating to Dick Tout's Lighthouse Brewery, one of the smallest breweries in the land. Dick is a real character.

Best place to take kids: Tahuna Beach is beautiful and there you'll find bumper boats, a model train, hydroslide, playgrounds, cafes, a skating rink and a heavenly holiday park.

For more fun: Visit historic Broadgreen House, and enjoy the playground and The Garden Window Cafe (with real fruit icecreams).

Best playground: Tahuna Playground is right beside the beach.

Wander-full: Run, walk or cycle along the Railway Reserve; connecting Stoke with Richmond and central Nelson, this land was set aside for the railway line but was never laid with tracks.

Best walks:

There are several walking tracks in Marsden Valley, from the bird sanctuary to the cemetery; tracks range from 15 minutes to several hours. There are astonishing views across the whole district.

Isel Park's tree walk

is also tremendous, ditto the

Settlement Trail


Saunter in Stoke


Best view: Climb the 357 stairs from Tamaki Drive to the top of Princess Drive, not only will you get a fine workout, you'll enjoy views over the city and across to the sea and the spit; if you're not feeling too frisky, you can just drive to the top.

Best swim: Tahuna (Tahunanui) Beach is super safe — great for kids, paddle boarding, kite surfing and dog walking.

Nice arts: Go to The Point Studio (at the Crusty Crab Cafe), enjoy coffee and cake while browsing for art.

Shopping: For retro treasures, Black Cat Vintage is the place to go.

Bean here: Stokers are as keen on coffee as they are on beer — McCashin's Brewery Kitchen & Bar does a super coffee, and their cinnamon scrolls and lemon curd donuts are out of this world. At Pomeroy's Coffee Factory Cafe the aroma of coffee being roasted will blow your mind, as will their chocolate-coated coffee beans. Blackbird Eatery on Quarantine Rd does sublime coffee and the best paleo treats, if you're that way inclined.

Best food: The Boat Shed Cafe hangs right over the water at Wakefield Quay. They serve fresh, simple food and the chef will make suggestions if you don't know what to order. The Honest Lawyer in Monaco dishes up English-style pub grub; with its outdoor area, it's heaven at high tide. The Monaco Kitchen at the Grand Mercure is also excellent.

Al fresco: Two Little Fish on Nayland Rd for tasty fish and chips, perfect for eating in the rose gardens at Broadgreen House or on the beach at Monaco.

Wet your whistle: Eddyline Brewery and Pizzeria, Stoke's newest brewery, is well worth checking out. Or try the Sprig & Fern in Tahuna, serving their own beer on tap, or sample a few of Bel Aire Tavern's 27 different tap beers.

Best cycling: The wider Nelson region is MTB paradise and was recently rated a Gold Ride Centre by the International Mountain Biking Association, one of only six in the world. Tasman's Great Taste Trail, which passes through Stoke and Marsden Valley, also has some groovy rides.

Best kept secret: Monaco, a residential peninsula on Waimea estuary, is excellent for walking and boating. At high tide you can't get your car out of there — a fine excuse for being late to work.

Wildlife: Natureland at Tahuna is a zoo and conservation centre home to a wide range of native, exotic and domestic animals including reptiles, birds, meerkats, marmosets and yaks.

The verdict: Stoked. Thanks to Emma McCashin.

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies from Auckland to Nelson.