WellingtonEat & Drink
The exterior of Thistle Inn, the oldest standing tavern in New Zealand on Mulgrave street.

Thistle Inn

  • Location

    3 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, Wellington

  • Website

    Thistle Inn

The Thistle Inn has stood in the same spot on Mulgrave Street, Thorndon since 1840. It received New Zealand’s second-ever liquor license and is the country’s oldest surviving tavern.

Fire destroyed the inn in 1866, and it was rebuilt in its current spot in the same year. Today the Thistle Inn is an all-day gastropub, with a tasty menu and local wine, beer, and spirits to match. Tours of the historic building are available if you book in advance. These take 15 minutes and are the perfect way to work up an appetite before digging into a hearty meal.

A waiter inside Thistle inn smiling at the camera.

Before a couple of earthquakes (notably a magnitude 8.2 in 1855) and a land reclamation project, the harbour shoreline was right outside the pub. It’s said that Māori chief Te Rauparaha (Ngāti Toa) used to pull his onto the beach outside and enjoy a whiskey inside. Rumour has it the chief was never required to pay for a drink.

Another Thistle regular was writer Katherine Mansfield. She wrote the pub into one of her short stories, Leves Amores, published in 1907. The story tells of a single night spent with a woman who lived in the hotel. It begins, “I can never forget the Thistle hotel. I can never forget that strange winter night.” You can also see one of Mansfield’s poems about her experiences at the Thistle hanging in the dining room.

A cabinet of antiques inside Thistle Inn.