Drinking and nightlife in South Island

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Christchurch

    Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn

    With more than 30 taps featuring the best of NZ craft beers, Pomeroy’s is an essential Christchurch destination. Among this cosy British-style pub's other endearing features are regular live music, a snug and sunny courtyard and Victoria's Kitchen, serving comforting pub food (mains $25 to $34). Also onsite, pretty Little Pom's cafe serves excellent brunch fare ($11 to $25) until mid-afternoon.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Christchurch

    Smash Palace

    Epitomising the spirit of transience, tenacity and resourcefulness that Christchurch is now known for, this deliberately downcycled and ramshackle beer garden is an intoxicating mix of grease-monkey garage, trailer-trash park and proto-hipster hang-out, complete with a psychedelic school bus, edible garden and blooming roses. There's craft beer, chips, Cheerios, and burgers made from scratch ($11 to $15).

  • Nightlife in Cardrona

    Cardrona Hotel

    The wood-panelled facade looks like a film set, but it's the real deal – NZ's most photographed pub is a gold-rush relic from 1863. The sense of history is palpable and things get busy in the après-ski thawing hours. Meals are delicious (bao buns, burgers, beef stew; mains $24 to $36), and there are 14 lovingly restored rooms (from $150) if you don't want to leave.

  • Nightlife in Wanaka

    Rhyme x Reason

    Beer-loving locals head to this inconspicuous tin shed – situated in a light-industrial strip on the edge of town – to escape the tourists down at the lakefront and to sip on quality crafts brewed by one of their own, Jess Wolfgang. Her regular range (including an award-winning kölsch) is joined on tap by seasonal and guest brews. Bring your own food.

  • Nightlife in Stewart Island (Rakiura)

    South Sea Hotel

    Welcome to one of NZ's classic pubs, complete with stellar cod and chips, beer by the quart, a reliable restaurant (mains $16 to $33) and plenty of friendly banter in the public bar. Great at any time of day (or night), and the Sunday-night quiz offers an unforgettable slice of island life. Basic rooms (single/double from $75/95) are available, too.

  • Nightlife in Wanaka

    Lalaland

    Before the Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone flick, there was already this Lalaland in Wānaka. Sink into a comfy chair at the little, low-lit palace/bordello, where bar staff concoct elixirs to suit every mood. The lake view might be better at other upstairs Ardmore St bars, but can they top this playlist or cocktail list? Enter via the rear stairs.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Arrowtown

    Blue Door

    The only indications that you've arrived are the unmarked blue doors – push them open and it's like stepping into a prohibition-era speakeasy. The low-lit little bar has a formidable wine list and enough rustic ambience to keep you mellow for the evening. Low ceilings, an open fire and abundant candles create an intimate setting.

  • Nightlife in Wanaka

    Gin & Raspberry

    If you're in the swing for bling, this lush bar is like stepping into a Baz Luhrmann film set. Gilded mirrors, a grand piano (yes, you can ask to play it) and mood lighting provide a backdrop to classic cocktails (including various martinis). The gin collection is impressive and the deck is the perfect sunset perch.

  • Nightlife in Nelson

    Free House

    Tastefully converted from its original, more reverent purpose, this former church is now home to an excellent, oft-changing selection of NZ craft beers. Munch on bar snacks on the outside deck, and visit on a Friday or Saturday afternoon to browse the vinyl at the excellent Family Jewels Records pop-up store.

  • Nightlife in Queenstown

    Atlas Beer Cafe

    There are usually 23 craft beers on tap at this pint-sized lakefront bar, headlined by brews from Dunedin's Emerson's Brewery and Queenstown's Altitude; pick four to sample on a tasting paddle. It also serves excellent cooked breakfasts ($17 to $22), and simple substantial fare such as steaks and burgers.

  • Nightlife in Queenstown

    Perky's

    That hint of wobbliness you feel isn't the alcohol (yet), it's the fact that you're drinking on an old tour boat that's now permanently moored at the lakeshore. If you're feeling peckish, you're welcome to bring your own food aboard.

  • Nightlife in Arrowtown

    Fork & Tap

    Built as a bank in 1870, Fork and Tap's currency is now craft beer, with up to 19 suds on tap. Add in good food, including shared meat and cheese platters, and a large, sunny, kid-friendly back garden, and you have the pick of Arrowtown's pubs. Grab a tasting paddle of four 150mL beers of your choice ($16).

  • Nightlife in Christchurch

    The Brewery

    An essential destination for beer-loving travellers, the Cassels & Sons' brewery crafts beers using a wood-fired brew kettle, resulting in well-balanced ales and lagers. Tasting trays are available for the curious and the indecisive, live bands perform regularly, and the food – including wood-fired pizzas ($20 to $26) – is top-notch, too. Cassels' Milk Stout has deservedly won awards internationally.

  • Nightlife in Lyttelton

    Eruption Brewing

    Every heritage port town needs a decent craft brewery and Eruption Brewing doesn't disappoint. It's a firm local favourite, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when the vintage 1970s furniture hosts punters enjoying decent brews like the Eruption IPA packed with citrusy NZ hops. Dining options include pizza, platters and gourmet burgers. Ask what other interesting seasonal beers are on offer.

  • Nightlife in Lyttelton

    Governors Bay Hotel

    A scenic 9km drive southwest from Lyttelton is one of NZ's oldest operational pubs (1870). You couldn't ask for a more inviting deck and garden in which to quaff an afternoon tipple. The food is good, too, covering all the classic pub-grub bases (mains $22 to $36) with burgers, bangers and mash, and seafood.

  • Nightlife in Takaka

    Mussel Inn

    You will find one of NZ's most beloved brewery-taverns halfway between Takaka and Collingwood. The Mussel Inn is rustic NZ at its most genuine, complete with creaking timbers, a rambling beer garden with a brazier, regular music and other events, and hearty, homemade food (snacks $6 to $19, dinner $30). Try the signature Captain Cooker, a brown beer brewed naturally with mānuka.

  • Nightlife in Akaroa

    Harbar

    Sporadic opening hours, sometimes dictated by the seasons, weather and demand, should not deter you from attempting a sundowner at Akaroa's favourite waterside bar. There's no better location for a harbourfront tipple. Gourmet burgers, fish tacos and local Canterbury craft beers are other essential attractions. Check the Facebook page for notice of occasional live music.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Dunedin

    Pequeno

    Head down the alley opposite the Rialto Cinema, with the black-and-white kākāpō street-art piece by Phelgm, to discover this intimate and sophisticated lounge bar. Music is generally laid-back, with regular live acts. The leather couches, fireplace, tapas menu and excellent wine and cocktail list make this backstreet bar perfect for a chilled night out.

  • Nightlife in Christchurch

    Institution

    The Institution may well be Christchurch's smallest bar – there's only room for around 20 punters upstairs – but there's no trade-off in the range of beers on offer. The taps often feature beers from smaller Canterbury breweries and there's a well-priced selection of interesting cans and bottles in the fridge. Service from the barstaff is chatty and friendly.

  • Nightlife in Twizel

    MoW Bar & Eatery

    A decent selection of NZ craft beers and ciders partners with good pizza ($20 to $26) and bar snacks at this convivial hybrid of bar and restaurant. Score an outdoor table on a warm summer's evening or cosy up inside on cooler nights. The industrial decor references NZ's Ministry of Works, the government agency responsible for Twizel's development in the 1960s.