At the end of a day’s travelling, there’s often nothing better than sitting back with a cool drink on the shady verandah of a country pub and quietly surveying the local scene. Here’s my guide to some of the best country pubs around Australia.
1-Royal Hotel, Hill End NSW
Perhaps more than any other town in Australia, Hill End is a living snapshot of what life was like during the gold rush.
A partly unsealed road from Bathurst brings you into an avenue of trees planted by gold miner Louis Beyers in the 1870s. One of the first buildings you come to is the Royal Hotel. One of 27 hotels built during the gold rush, it opened in 1872 but today is the only pub in town.
It has a period-style dining room and a garden bar, where you might spot grazing kangaroos or other wildlife. Take a walk around the village (everything has sign-boards) or the 2km walk to the Bald Hills mining area.
2-The Pub in the Paddock, Pyengana, TAS
Best known for its beer-drinking pigs, The Pub in the Paddock is literally just that, tucked away in the lush Pyengana Valley in north-east Tasmania, about 27km from St Helens.
On arrival, you’ll spot the resident pigs waiting contentedly in their pens knowing that someone will soon bring them a beer (it’s mostly water).
The Pub in the Paddock is one of Tasmania’s oldest country pubs, licensed since about 1880. It was built as a homestead for the Terry family, who had 15 children (some of the boys reputedly more interested in drinking than in farming).
Their home became St Columba Falls Hotel, named for the cascading waterfall a little further down the valley. Ask a local and you’ll hear the story of how it got its current name.
3-Royal Hotel Harrisville, QLD
The Royal Hotel Harrisville, about 30km from Ipswich in south-east Queensland’s Scenic Rim, began life in 1875 but the charming colonial style pub on the site now was built in 1920. Publicans Steve and Monika Patrick bought it about three years ago and have transformed it.
The beer garden overlooks a creek with views of the Great Dividing Range and there’s free camping (and a soon-to-open restored railway carriage) for overnighters.
Tuck into a hearty steak, schnitzel or fresh barramundi while you marvel at the 10 metre mural painted on the dining room wall. In summer the French doors are thrown open, in winter there’s a wood fire burning. And there are no pokies here!
4-Ulmarra Hotel, NSW
Set on the banks of the mighty Clarence River, just 12km north of Grafton, in northern New South Wales, the wonderful Ulmarra Hotel has a massive beer garden that runs down to the river.
Built in 1906, this Federation style pub (formerly the Commercial Hotel) has verandahs on three sides and rooms upstairs, some of which open out onto the verandah.
There’s also a restaurant/café with indoor and outdoor dining, spilling out into the shady beer garden. The pub is the heart of the charming Ulmarra village, which has interesting little shops to browse in. And it’s all only about 150 metres from the busy Pacific Highway.
5-Peeramon Hotel, QLD
There’s a vintage petrol pump outside the front door and an old piano in the dining room, and a bit of a sense that the historic Peeramon Hotel has seen better days. But there’s a great view from the front verandah of this Atherton Tablelands classic pub and the locals are friendly.
Built around 1908, the Peeramon was a hub for travellers and workers, many of them loggers working bullock teams and railway workers.
In 1910 the Tolga-Johnstone railway line reached Peeramon, providing a new link to the coast. But it closed in 1964 by which time the town of Peeramon had almost disappeared.
The last original building on Main Street, the pub was badly damaged in 2006 when Cyclone Larry swept through the area, but is still a great old Queensland country pub (complete with resident ghost, so they say).
6-Farmers Arms, Daylesford, VIC
Three small brass plaques, engraved with the names Squizzy, Tubby and Wally mark ‘reserved’ places at the end of the bar for long-time patrons of Daylesford’s popular pub, the Farmers Arms.
It’s a sure sign that this is a ‘local’ indeed. The original timber hotel went the way of many old pubs, and burnt down. The current distinctive red brick corner hotel has been standing since 1857.
Beer is pumped straight from the keg, you’ll find local news and historical photos on the walls, a wood fire in the corner, lots of period charm, and a well-deserved reputation for fine food. It’s only an hour and a half or 180 km down the freeway from Melbourne, but it’s a great country pub.
7-The Austral Hotel, Quorn, SA
Built in 1878, the Austral was the first pub in town to be licensed and is one of four pubs still remaining in Quorn, a small town (population around 1070) about 40 km north-east of Port Augusta.
This is a pub that runs on old-fashioned country hospitality; bring your appetite because the meals are generous (and the wine list carries a lot of South Australian labels).
The menu has a strong nod to native Australian ingredients, including kangaroo. In the bar, there’s a large espresso machine which is kept busy at all times of day and in winter a fireplace to get warm beside.
On the last Sunday of the month (April to October) the Austral Luncheon Car departs on the historic Pichi Richi Express steam train service (book at the hotel), Quorn’s major tourist attraction. Stay overnight in one of 11 new guest rooms, in a building behind the original pub.
8-Mundaring Weir Hotel, WA
The biggest day of the week at the Mundaring Weir Hotel is Sunday, when the hotel is packed with families from Perth and about 550 meals are served (lamb on the spit the specialty).
There’s live music, a playground, face-painting, and a swimming pool. Built in 1898, the pub has been transformed in recent years, with a stunning amphitheatre at the back playing a key part in its revival.
Set in the heart of Mundaring State Forest, about 45 minutes from Perth’s city centre, it has seen international artists including pianist David Helfgott, Marianne Faithfull, flautist Jane Rutter, The Platters, Kate Ceberano, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and The Black Sorrows grace its stage for Saturday concerts.
After lunch, take a walk to the weir and walk across the dam wall, or head down to the No. 1 Pump Station at the foot of the weir, now a National Trust museum and interpretive centre.
9-Imperial Hotel, Ravenswood, QLD
Pushing open the saloon doors to the front bar of the Imperial Hotel in the tiny Queensland settlement of Ravenswood is like stepping into a different era. Even the grand Edwardian exterior gives no hint of the opulence inside; it’s real “wow factor” stuff.
Built in 1902, near the end of Ravenswood’s heyday when gold miners had the choice of 30 pubs, this pub has changed little over the years.
Inside, there are elaborate archways, turned columns, lead lighting, and brass and cut glass door handles, and an intricately carved wooden bar, imported from England.
Classified by the National Trust, Ravenswood is about 90 km south of Townsville. When the boom went bust, it became almost a ghost town…but the pub lives on, with a juke box in the bar, and a pool table where the late Eddie Charlton once played. Upstairs are guest rooms for those who want to stay overnight.
10-Rudd’s Pub, Nobby, QLD
The Queensland Darling Downs village of Nobby seems an unlikely place to have produced two of Australia’s most famous fictional characters, but it has done just that – and the local pub has been turned into a shrine to them.
A visit to Nobby shows just how proud the tiny hamlet is to have been called ‘home’ by author Steele Rudd and his famous creations Dad and Dave.
Arrive in Nobby – about 35km from Toowoomba – and it’s easy to find the local hotel where Davis spent hours writing his most famous works including On Our Selection.
The outside is painted with scenes from the books, and the red roof of the building is emblazoned in white with the words: Rudd’s Pub. Inside is a vast collection of Rudd memorabilia. The pub, built in 1893 became ‘Rudd’s’ in 1988.
Lee Mylne is the author of Great Australian Pubs, published by Explore Australia.