Some time ago we purchased the book “The Great Kiwi Pub Crawl” and thought it would be just the thing to add to my reference books in the caravan. This book tells the story of 50 iconic kiwi pubs which all have interesting stories to tell.
We are staying in Riverhead, Auckland, for the weekend, and remembered that the local pub was featured in our book. So this is the first story relating to our own personal pub crawl – “The Riverhead”.
At 153 years old, The Riverhead is thought to be New Zealand’s oldest riverside tavern and holds New Zealand’s second oldest liquor license and remains fully New Zealand owned. Nestled on the shores of the upper Waitemata, The Riverhead is steeped in local history and played a part in the development of early New Zealand, with thousands using the wharf and hotel as the gateway to lands in the north prior to the completion of roads and railway. Built in about 1870 by Thomas and Eliza Deacon, it was well known as a haven for weary travelers as they rested before continuing on their journeys. It was also a meeting place for gum diggers and traders.
There are many stories – such as a man falling off the wharf many years ago and being sucked into the mud below, what a terrible way to end your life. But that ooey gooey mud had other uses too, as once upon a time it was used to hide barrels of booze from the excise man. Attempted murders, a suicide, and even a supposed ghost of a former publican who wanders the pub, there is history galore in this old building.
Current owners Paula and Stephen Pepperell bought the run down pub from the Head Hunters Motorcycle Club. During this time it was a forbidding place to enter, full of violence, and was regularly raided by the police. But hard work and refurbishment over the next few years have turned in into such a trendy establishment that the former Head Hunter cliental would not want to step back over the threshold. A sign at the door reminds patrons to remove their dirty boots. The public bar is blokey and masculine with large pool tables, bar stools, stories of local heros on the walls and bits of rusty old tools as decoration.
We walked through to “The Landing” bar and restaurant and settled down to enjoy a drink looking out over the muddy Waitemata. Later a walk through the doors took us down onto a large deck surrounded by 100 year oak trees. It was such a lovely peaceful setting.
View from the deck
We asked if it was possible to speak to the owner Paula about their pub being in our book, and were delighted when she came to meet us. She was interested to learn that this was the first pub from the book we had visited, and graciously signed our book, “Great to see you here, best of luck with your travels”.
Paula writing a message in our book
So that’s one pub ticked off on our pub crawl, and forty nine to go. And I’m not even a beer drinker – it’s lucky that Robin is.