New Zealand's North Island's top activities right next to the finest craft breweries.
Earn your craft beer. Thats what this article is about. It’s about experiencing the best activities that NZ north island has to offer and then sitting down and drinking a golden crafty ale. It’s the best of both worlds.
This list has been compiled by many many hours researching activities and of cause drinking craft beer. As you can imagine finding craft breweries that aren’t smack in the middle of a major city like Auckland or Wellington can be a task. If this was a article about the best Auckland craft breweries that would be easy. But this list is special. It’s about getting out there and experiencing the north island. Seeing the amazing sites that it has to offer and then settling in for a few cold ones.
Below are the Top 6 activities crossed referenced with local craft breweries. In NO particular order.
#1 Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo is world famous for fishing and is one of the stand out features of the northern island. Here you are really spoilt for choice. Being a fly fisherman myself I would defiantly suggest a fishing trip out on the lake. The lake is steeped in trout fishing history. As early as 1887 brown trout were introduced to the lake. At one stage they had so many thou in the lake they had to put up nets to reduce the number. The Lake has produced some magnificent specimens over the years. For the real big ones you have to look way back to the early 1900’s, Budge Hintz described a fish from this time era as being so big they had to cut it in half to weigh it. 17kg (37.51b). These days the trout are smaller but by modern day global standards are still some of the biggest around.
There are many way to fish the lake and it’s surrounding tributaries. I would suggest getting a local guide to show you the best spots. Although here is some info to get you started.
January and February produce some great dry fly fishing.
For those that aren't interested in fishing there are still loads of options to keep you busy. River rafting, Float planes, Steamboats, bungy or just having a swim. Along the river running into the Lake is the Huka falls Rated #1 of things to see in Taupo by trip advisor. You can tackle the falls by foot or for the more adventurous you can get up close and wet on a river jet boat.
Crafty Trout Brewing Co. (Taupo Brewery Ltd)
When it comes to wetting your whistle after your day of fun on the water you have two options. The first is a fairly recent addition and links to those people who like to fish. It’s called The Crafty Trout Brewing Co. They run an Austrian Alpine themed Bier Kafe. Serving pints, steins and glassboots, choose from 14 tap beers/ciders all handcrafted on-site. 5 metres from brewery to mouth! Off-licence also for a range of their bottled products or fill up your flagon.
Mineral waters formed through volcanic fire and glacial ice are brewed with New Zealand's finest hops, malts and yeast. Everything from a Taupo Pale Ale to a Hefe Weizen and even a smoky ginger beer.
Crafty Trout are located here and are open Wednesday to Monday from 10 am onwards
For those that are not so interested in fishing there are still loads of options to keep you busy. River rafting, Float planes, Steamboats, bungy or just having a swim. Along the river running into the Lake is the Huka falls Rated #1 of things to see in Taupo by trip advisor. You can tackle the falls by foot or for the more adventurous you can get up close and wet on a river jet boat.
Lakeman Brewering Co.
Another option for craft beer is the Lake House Taupo. Here they serve a bunch of craft brews from all over NZ. They also feature one of the other local breweries - Lakeman Brewing. These guys create beer from Taupo’s purest natural water and boasts malty, hoppy flavours. They have 7 beers, their top rated beer the TPA - Taupo Pale Ale.
You can find the Lake house Taupo here
Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest
This one is one of my favourite from the list. It’s been a dream of mine to see a magnificent Giant red wood. At Whakarewarewa Forest the redwood forest is primarily a productive plantation but it’s open to the public to enjoy by walking, cycling or even horse riding. In 55,000ha you can loose yourself amongst magnificent stands of towering Californian Redwoords, lush native forest and exotic trees.
There are obviously a few different options when exploring the red woods. There are two shorter walks. One around half an hour and the other an hour. You also have a few longer options. The longest walk is around 3 and a half hrs long and is 11.5km in total.
If tramping isn't your style you can also bike around the forest. The forest is actually a Mecca for bike riding, with Red Bull rating the Whakarewarewa trails in the top eight in the world. There are so many different options here. So many I couldn’t even begin to break them down. But you can find info here and here.
Croucher Brewery: Brew pub
So when it comes to a nearby craft brewery you don’t have to travel far. In the town of Rotorua there is The Croucher Brewing Company. Now you can’t go to the distillery but they do operate there own pub called the Brew pub. - 7 mins away from the redwoods.
These guys Paul Croucher and Nigel Gregory apparently started the brewery the after having a dual mid-life crisis and decided to take up the challenge of creating a craft brewery. They currently have 5 beers available, with a whopping 10 seasonal/ speciality beers. Their 5 core beers have all picked up awards. They have pilsner, pale ale, American black ale, IPA and a low alcohol IPA. Their IPA is called Nuclear free and packs a punch at 7%. I guess thats why they made a low alcohol version at 2.7%.
The Brew pub itself is grown into one of the best craft beer pubs in NZ. #7 in Top 10 New Zealand Beer Venues 2014. So you know they aren’t messing about. The nice thing is as well as having all their current beers on tap they do bring in other NZ craft beers. So there’s always lots to choose from.
If you are a twitcher you will love this. How does getting within a few feet of the world’s largest mainland gannet colony sound?
The Cape kidnappers(Strange name) is a headland at the southeastern extremity of Hawkes Bay and sits at the end of an 8 km peninsula which protrudes into the Pacific Ocean. It is 20 km south-east of the city of Napier. Access to the Cape by road stops at Clifton where located at the beach reserve you'll find a motor camp, a shop and a popular cafe. A popular way to see the Gannets is by taking a family friendly tractor ride with Gannet Beach Adventures. (Don’t worry - the trailer has cushion seats) Travel along the ruggedly beautiful coastline of Cape Kidnappers whilst learning about the geology of the area from one of your fun friendly guides. The tour allows for an hour and a half at the Cape so plenty of time to view the Gannets and enjoy a swim or picnic at the beach. But please check for the months when the Gannets are going to be there. The best time for viewing the gannets is between early November and late February. Nesting commences in mid-September and continues through to mid-December. The first chicks hatch in the first week of November and the last chicks depart the colony during May for their migration to Australia.
Roosters Brew House
So if you are lucky enough to get to see this natural spectacle you’ll defiantly need a crafty pint after. There are two options for you.
The first is Roosters Brew house which is half an hour drive. Roosters makes it’s beer the natural way. They follow the laws that were set out by a German Monastery in 1536. Nothing but malted grains, hops, yeast and water goes into their beer.
They have 5 different beers for you to getting involved with. A lager, a Golden wheat, a dark, a draught and a beer called the Haymaker, which is 7%. So watch out for that one.
Their Lager and dark beer have picked up numerous awards. Their dark seems to be a firm favourite being voted NZ’s best dark beer in every comp they have entered it into. So not a bad one to try. Roosters is open 10 am till 7 pm Monday to Friday and 2 pm till 7 pm Saturdays
Another way to get down to the gannets is of cause by walking. From Scotmans Point at Clifton allow at least 5 hours for a comfortable return walk along the beach. This can only be down at low tide, with the best times of departure being no sooner than three hours after high tide and departing from the Cape no later than 1.5 hours after low tide. You don’t want to get stuck when the tide comes in.
Hawkes Bay Brewing
Your second option is Hawkes Bay Brewing company, which is about 20 mins drive from the Kidnappers. You can’t go the brewery itself but right next door to the brewery is a place called the filter room.
The Filter Room Ale & Cider House has a tasting room which features Hawkes Bay Brewing's entire range. That covers their traditional range and their Cuisine range. These guys were the first brewery in NZ to put beer into wine bottles and create a exclusive and original Cuisine range. The bottles just look amazing and really add to what they are producing. Very unique.
Also their Black Duck Porter beer has recently picked up a gold at the Brewers Guild Awards. It’s brewed with 5 different malts in a 18th century London style, with an extended maturation process.
Another local favorite is their 4% Ginger Fusion beer which is infused with mandarin.
It is also great to see is that these guys produce a non-alcoholic ginger beer. This is something that we at Crafty Drop like to see. We feel that the non-alchoholic Craft Beer space needs more growth.
Adventure forest. Now that sounds utterly amazing or very very cringe worthy. Well at least that's what I thought when my friend sent it through to me. Because either it’s going to veer on the overly crowed, organised fun Disney world or it’s actually going to be an actual experience. Now I can’t vouch for it myself and say its the latter but the friend that sent it to me. He can vouch for it. He’s a 29 year old beer drinking, beer brewing father with the mortgage and all.. and he enjoyed it! Looking at some of the shots from their website I can understand why.
Also found this on trip advisor
"This was a great experience that I would highly recommend to others. We had an awesome time playing in the trees, feeling like monkeys. This was the highlight of our trip up north. We will be telling all of our friends about it as it was a great activity. Thank you very much."
Adventure forest is place where you can experience a journey through the tree tops. You cruse along high wire circuits packed with thrill and action. They have tight ropes, swings and flying foxes. The nice thing you can bring the kids along as they have track for them as well.
Usually it will take about 3 hours to complete the tracks. The adventure forest is open weekends 10 am to 5 pm. You need to book if you want to go during the week.
The Brauhause Frings
Their beers are chemical and preservative free. They have a lager and draught and an Old Ale. The lager is as you would expect the favourite, but it’t the Old Ale I would give a go. It’s not like your normal dark beer that taste like coffee. Frings spent a long time craft this one and it’s well worth it. If you are lucky to be there on a seasonal beer day you’ll learn about things like "Wheat-Dreams" "Orange-Roughy" "Holy Smoke"
They seem to have a lot going on at this place so have a look at the calendar to see which night or day you want to pitch up, but i think you’ll be in for a party no matter what day. For instance they have live music 5 days a week. They also specialise in woodfired pizza.
#5 New Plymouth
So here you have two options of activities. One I would classify as mild, gentle and more of a Sunday stroll. The other rugged, extreme and more of a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday hike. So I guess it comes down to how much you want to weight the activity side of the day vs. the craft beer side of the day.
The New Plymouth coastal walk is a gentle walk along the coastline about 12 km in all. It's a well looked after path and can be cycled, strolled, meandered or conquered any way you like. Perfect for the kids and wheelchairs. It does get windy so be sure to take a jacket or two. The only problem with this is creating a loop to get back to your car. Although I guess you could do a back and fourth type thing. If that's the case I would start and end of the east side of the track at Hickford park and work your way west before turning back. OR... if you got dropped off on the west side. You could start at Port Taranaki and make your way to Hickford park. The reason why you want to end at Hickford is from there you only have a short 25 min drive through to Mikes organic Brewery. Click here for a map
Another option for doing the New Plymouth coastal walk which does’t require you have a designated driver. Is to start off at Hickford park and and walk west for 1 and a half hours. About 7.5km’s through picturesque farmland and the Fitzroy golf club until you reach the centre of New Plymouth. There you will find a fantastic little pub called The Hourglass. Route map here
The hourglass has won awards for outstanding bar, outstanding bartender and outstanding host. So you know they aren't messing about. You also know they aren't messing about because they have 86 different types of craft beer! Now that's a good number.
They're open from 4pm till late Tuesday through to Sunday.
Now if you think I casual stroll along the coast is not enough to earn you your beer, you could always tackle Mt Taranaki. It’s about an hours drive away from New Plymouth. It’s actually a volcano. An Active volcano! Which just sounds scary and amazing at the same time. At 2518 meters high it’s no Sunday stroll. The walk or should I say hike is about 5-6 Hr’s up an about 3-4Hr’s down. The track up to the summit can be broken in two if you want to tackle just the first part of it. This is the 1 - 2hr walk from North Egmont to Tahurangi Lodge (1,492 m) you can then decide to carry on to the summit (2,518m) which should take another 3-4 hr’s. You can find more info here and a “Map” more like brochure here
Mikes Organic Brewery
Mikes is a highly awarded brewery and pub that has been open since 1989, which makes it a very well established. In 2000 it received it’s Organic certificate and has a wide range of organic beers. Looking at their site, 18 in total. They have some really interesting beer with some really interest ingredients. How does Strawberry Blonde, Chocolate Milk, and Vanilla coffee sound. Not to mention they have a tasting room and beer garden.
# 6 Wellington
Rimutaka Cycle Trail
This trail has been voted by Lonely Planet as one of the hottest new tracks to cycle. It’s a 115 km trail along beaches, across creeks and ancient Maori settlement sites. It’s a unique landscape visibly shaped by millennia of seismic upheaval.
The ride loops through urban and wild terrain from Petone over to neighbouring Wairarapa and back to Orongorongo in Wainuiomata. It's mostly graded easy, with some intermediate sections, and can be ridden in two to three days.
Now I’m not suggesting you do the whole trail as that would leave little time for enjoying your earned craft beer. A smaller part of the Rimutaka trail is the The hutt river trail. (info here) If you do this trail backwards, starting just outside Te Marua (map here)
You could ride down towards Lower Hutt and ultimately to Queen of Jackson
The Queen Of Jackson
This is a not a craft brewery but it does hold all the local stock and is the nearest thing you'll find to drinking straight from the barrel. Unfortunately the local craft breweries don't double up as pubs but what they do do is make some mighty fine craft beer. The bayland brewery being one of them. One of the stand out features of going to The queen of Jackson is a thing called Karma Kegs on a Thursday. “At 4o’clock every Thursday we tap on a keg of locally brewed beer! Punters at Queen of Jackson pay whatever they reckon is ‘karmically fair’ for each pint of beer until it’s all gone, and we donate he lot to a nominated local charity!” Now that sounds awesome.