If you ask which pub is the oldest in New Zealand, be prepared for a hotly contested debate on the matter. There are several pubs that like to claim this title, depending on how you define "oldest pub". Is it the date of the building? Or the date of its first liquor licence? Has it been a continuous pub throughout history or was there a break? Is it a pub, a tavern or a hotel?

We're not here to judge what defines the oldest pub in New Zealand, but here are a few with some pretty good claims to fame anyway.

Moutere Inn, Upper Moutere

Set in the fertile Moutere Valley, the Moutere Inn is considered the heart of the village and proudly states it's the oldest pub in New Zealand, dating back to 1850. These days, the establishment offers a variety of craft beers on tap and sources all its wines within 10 kilometres of the premises.
moutereinn.co.nz

The Duke, Russell

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell began in 1827, known then as "Johnny Johnston's Grog Shop," named after its owner who was an ex-convict. Originally frequented by whalers, traders and prostitutes, the establishment was renamed to the Duke of Marlborough and gained its first licence in 1840 after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. That makes it the first legal pub in New Zealand.

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Today, the menu showcases locally sourced seasonal produce and has more than 100 wines and 30 beers to choose from.
theduke.co.nz

Horeke Hotel, Hokianga

The Horeke Hotel also claims to be the oldest surviving pub in New Zealand, with a history dating back to 1833, even though it wasn't legally licensed back then.

The Horeke tavern in Northland as it looked in the early 1800's. Photo / Supplied
The Horeke tavern in Northland as it looked in the early 1800's. Photo / Supplied

Situated on the waterfront of Hokianga Harbour, it originally served the ship builders working in the area. It's now a fully licensed restaurant and bar with accommodation, including a "house over the water", which was built in 1923.
horekehotel.nz

Whangamomona Hotel, Taranaki

This Taranaki hotel on the Forgotten World Highway lauds itself as the most remote country hotel in New Zealand.

The Whangamomona Hotel. Photo / Stephanie Holmes
The Whangamomona Hotel. Photo / Stephanie Holmes

The hotel was actually used as a hospital during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic. The current hotel is the second built on the site, after the first burnt down in 1911. The kitchen coal range was the only thing that survived the fire, and the new hotel was built around it.
whangamomonahotel.co.nz

The Thistle Inn, Wellington

The Thistle Inn claims to have received the second liquor license ever issued in New Zealand. Its original incarnation as a tavern dates back to 1840, however it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1866. It's now a Category One historic building.

An early photograph of the Thistle Inn on Mulgrave St, Thorndon. Photo / Supplied
An early photograph of the Thistle Inn on Mulgrave St, Thorndon. Photo / Supplied

The Thistle Inn has had many a famous character to stay during its history, including regular visits by Katherine Mansfield, with one of the meeting rooms named after her. A poem by Mansfield now hangs on the wall.
thistleinn.co.nz