The Best Bars in New Zealand

You’ll quickly find that your favorite daily task in New Zealand is meeting or catching up with new friends. The best places to do that? Over drinks at some of the country’s bars, breweries, and other watering holes. Whether you enjoy craft beer, Japanese whiskey, mixed drinks, or a strong local red, there’s a place for you in New Zealand. Many places, really. From bars in Auckland to hidden gems further afield, you’re guaranteed a good time when friends and drinks are on your NZ itinerary.

32A Somerset Street, Frankton, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand
Formerly Hamilton’s Church of St. George, the high-ceilinged space at Good George Brewery and Dining Hall now attracts happy drinkers reading from the gospels of fine craft beer and excellent wood-fired pizza. On weekend afternoons local musicians with a singer/songwriter vibe perform in Good George’s garden bar—delivering tunes you’ll probably know all the words to. The brewery’s ciders and fruit beers are regarded as among New Zealand‘s best. For a similar feel, and the opportunity to drink other beers from around the country, head to Little George on Hood Street, the center of rowdy nightlife in the city. A five-strong tasting flight is the best option for curious drinkers keen to experience New Zealand’s fantastic craft-beer scene.
Following the 2011 earthquake that destroyed many of Christchurch’s eating and drinking hot spots, local bar owners were forced to come up with innovative new openings amid the city’s slow but steady rebuild. One such debut was Smash Palace, which was constructed in and around a retro school bus and which combines hipster cool with a sunny beer garden full of quirky urban detritus. It’s known regionally as one of the city’s best craft-beer bars—local Canterbury brewers include Three Boys and Harringtons—and Smash Palace’s damn fine burgers are all made by hand on site. Welcome to an unpretentious and energetic testament to the resilience and tenacity of the fine people of Christchurch.
70 Anzac Ave, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
Despite a population of less than 5 million, New Zealand has one of the world’s most diverse and interesting craft-beer scenes, and many of the country’s successful brewers were originally inspired by Richard Emerson in the southern city of Dunedin. In 1993, Emerson fashioned the Bookbinder bitter that was one of the country’s original small-batch concoctions, and now the company’s expanded range can be tried at its wonderful tasting room and restaurant near Dunedin’s waterfront. Look forward to innovative seasonal beers as well—sometimes inspired by the Dunedin musicians and bands found on the legendary Flying Nun record label.
Auckland, New Zealand
Slyly concealed at the back of the K’Rd Food Workshop—itself an interesting multi-vendor destination for traveling gourmands—Love Bucket is a hip drinking establishment amid the vintage-clothing stores, cheap ethnic restaurants, and late night/early morning nightclubs of Auckland‘s Karangahape Road. Operated by the team at Hallertau Brewery in West Auckland, Love Bucket is a cool showcase for their more challenging sour and barrel-aged beers, as well as tap cocktails, an international wine list, and superior bar snacks including cheese and charcuterie plates. Look forward to eclectic decor—a sort of gentlemen’s-club-in-the-1970s style—and a pleasing mash-up of retro vinyl beats coursing discreetly through the bar.
1004 Leigh Rd, Matakana 0985, New Zealand
Surrounded by the rolling pastures of the Matakana region north of Auckland, the rustic ambience of this craft brewery belies the subtle sophistication of the food and drinks on offer. The attached Smoko Room restaurant turns out excellent shared plates with a global spin—try the turmeric-spiced goat hummus with cumin flatbreads—and the canny brewers are forever making interesting seasonal beers to complement Sawmill’s core range. Standout pints include a citrusy pale ale and a crisp lager showcasing zesty New Zealand hops (the tasting tray of five brews is the best option for curious traveling beer fans). Save room for dessert: an ice-cream sandwich fusing New Zealand’s signature ANZAC cookie with salted-caramel gelato.
More From AFAR