Lonely Planet Writer

New Zealanders get around laws on alcohol by building themselves an island bar

An industrious group of friends in New Zealand welcomed the New Year in a truly unique way, by holding a party on a tiny island that they built themselves in the middle of the Tairua Estuary in the Coromandel Peninsula.

a group built a tiny island on the Tairua Estuary in the Coromandel Peninsula in order to have a party.
The group had a picnic table and some beers. Image by David Saunders

Eager to make merry, but not wishing to violate local laws prohibiting the consumption of liquor in public places, the group constructed a temporary sanctuary out of sand approximately 80 metres off the shoreline, and even carried a picnic table out to their new kingdom. The sight attracted attention from onlookers, and local man David Saunders managed to take some pictures of the bizarre occurrence.

The island was constructed at the Tairua Estuary in the Coromandel Peninsula.
The island was constructed at the Tairua Estuary in the Coromandel Peninsula. Image by Steve Fleming

“I was out walking and saw the guys building the island when the tide was out. On the way home, the tide had come in and they were out there, so I went home and grabbed the camera and took a few photos. I thought it was a bit of fun. It was just like a huge sandcastle with the top flattened off. There is always a liquor ban in effect in public places over the New Year period, and this is typical good Kiwi fun, always having a laugh at ourselves. The local media picked up the story and now the whole world knows,” David told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Locals joked that the island was now in international waters and could set its own rules.
Locals joked that the island was now in international waters and could set its own rules. Image by David Saunders

The images were also posted in a local Facebook group Tairua ChitChat!, and members joked that because the group were now in international waters, the laws no longer applied to them. Authorities and local police took the stunt in good spirits, commenting on the inventive spirit of New Zealanders.

According to David, the group was there until around 8pm that night, when the tide went out again. “The sand pile was still there the next morning. Some kids were out playing on it,” David said.