A boutique New Zealand microbrewery, the Mussel Inn in Golden Bay, has made it into Lonely Planet's latest Bluelist, an annual title that captures what's hot in travel for the coming year.
The Mussel Inn, although remote, is named alongside luminaries such as Guinness (Dublin), Monstein (Switzerland) and Cascade (Hobart) in the 10 top brewers.
Last year, a "beer bounty" offered by the Mussel Inn assisted the cull of thousands of possums. The inn exchanged a handle of beer in return for every possum tail delivered.
Built in 1992 by the Dixon family, the inn is described on its website as "Kiwi woolshed meeting Aussie farmhouse in style". A two-hour drive from Nelson, it is 17 kilometres from Takaka on the way to Collingwood. Next direction: keep an eye out for parked cars. A "land" telephone pole with old cellphones nailed to it is perhaps indicative of being removed from the rat race. You might spot a celebrity face among the patrons (a colleague swears that he saw George Harrison, of Beatles fame, there one night).
If you're visiting, try the flagship brew Captain Cooker Manuka Beer. The cider and wines are all produced on the property, with homemade lemonade and ginger beer also available. Steamed mussels and mussel chowder are naturally part of the menu at the Mussel Inn Bush Cafe, which also has steak, fish and vegetarian options.
In the North Island, the Bluelist also touts Napier Prison Backpackers as one of the world's best venues for sleeping behind bars (prison variety). It is described as New Zealand's oldest prison. Guests nowadays can tour the hanging yard (where locals paid a shilling to watch executions), sleep in converted cells and get a mugshot taken as a memento of their time in the clink.
Other New Zealand attractions listed include jetboating on the Shotover River ("one of the world's great river trips") near Queenstown, Te Puke's giant kiwifruit sign (Kiwi360), Queen Charlotte Sound, and volcanic Whakaari (White Island).
Heading Bluelist's friendliest countries is the land of saints, scholars and song - Ireland.
The Irish are described as having a "deliciously dark sense of humour and a welcoming attitude towards strangers. "That famous ability of the Irish to find craic (fun with convivial company) - in boom or bust times - means you're always in for a treat. These days, after the end of the `Troubles', a cautious optimism reigns supreme, infecting the land once again with the sense that anything's possible."
The special theme for this year's Bluelist is 'Travel Islam', with the guide depicting a region sometimes misrepresented in the West. It is a chance to journey through the cultures and countries of the Islamic world and sample the wonders, art, sport and religion. Helpful tips cover things such as clothing, alcohol, smoking, eating, conversation and touching in Islamic countries in the 30-page Islam section.
Bluelist 2008 contains 30 categories ranging from great film festivals and food wonderlands to a new section profiling endangered wildlife.
- The Press