Brisbane has plenty of amazing new bars; rooftop bars, whisky bars and even BYO-food bars, but sometimes you want to hang out in a place with a bit of history.
Below is our guide to 9 awesome old school pubs to visit where well-kept booze, warm welcomes and tasty pub snacks are guaranteed.
From ghosts and floods, to civil rights protests, brothels and even a resident pooch, these pubs boast pasts as colourful as the characters who often sit atop the bar stools. Raise a glass to these old school Brisbane pubs and take a moment to think what stories they’d tell if their walls could talk.
The Breakfast Creek Hotel
Easily Brisbane’s most famous pub, it’s practically a requirement visitors are taken for a steak from the Spanish Garden and beer “off the wood” at The Breakfast Creek Hotel. The pub’s colourful past includes three floods, a shootout, a visit from USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev, two neighbouring brothels and a potty-mouthed parrot which used to announce when the ‘working girls’ entered the bar. Plus it’s said to be haunted by the ghost of former Lord Mayor William MacNaughton Galloway, the pub’s original owner, who died after falling out of a second story window while drunk!
The Norman Hotel
If you’re a vegetarian, you may want to look away now as the heritage-listed The Norman Hotel proudly proclaims to be Brisbane’s worst vegetarian restaurant. Previously a working class pub and a hub for bikies back in the 1980s, the Norman’s latest incarnation as a steakhouse has proved a winner with diners able to watch chefs char grill their steak to perfection.
Dubbed the ‘Grand Lady of the Brisbane River’ the Regatta Hotel at Toowong has survived four floods, civil rights protests and numerous changes in ownership, to remain one of the city’s most loved watering holes. You’d be hard pressed to find a local who hasn’t met, mingled or created memories beyond her iron-laced verandas. Once a holding area for traveller’s horses and buggies, the cellar has been redeveloped into The Walrus Club, a cool underground whisky bar.
If people watching over a pint sounds like your perfect weekend activity, then the Plough Inn is the place to be. The hotel maintains its historical façade, original staircase, and ornate ceilings while filling its spaces with live music and an infectious ambience. Grab a spot on the upstairs veranda for city views over South Bank’s famed Streets Beach and blooming bougainvillea and order the hickory barbecue pork ribs for a true ‘Plough Inn experience’.
The Normanby Hotel
The Normanby Hotel’s 100-year-old fig tree was toppled during recent wild weather leading to an outpouring of memories from thousands of locals who had marked milestones from first kisses to engagements and even post-wedding celebrations under its branches. A true Queenslander, this revamped historical hotel with its decorative ceilings, ornate windows and brick arch work oozes fun – especially on Sundays.
Set across the street from Moreton Bay, the Grand View began operating in the 1850s and proudly claims to be Queensland’s oldest licensed pub. The hotel used to have an onsite bathing house, jetty and boat that could be used by guests, but these days they’ve been replaced with a beer garden and, on sunny days, views to North Stradbroke Island. The beer garden is great for families with live music on weekends, a grassy area, and an outdoor children’s playground.
St Bernard's Hotel
With old world charm, views overlooking Guanaba Gorge and the Pacific Ocean, open fireplaces and an emphasis on seasonal and locally produced ingredients, there’s plenty to love about St Bernard’s Hotel. However, it’s the welcoming committee who won us over; Molly the St Bernard can usually be found sleeping by the front door but when she’s up and about she’s partial to belly rubs.
Take the advice of the Pet Shop Boys and ‘go west’ to Toowoomba. Once you’ve had your fill of art-filled laneways head to the Spotted Cow to warm up over a pub meal and a schooner. Established in the late 1800s, the Spotted Cow has become a favourite with beer connoisseurs thanks to its commitment to craft beers. In October, grab your lederhosen and head up for their Oktoberfest celebrations.
Two hours from Brisbane in the Noosa-region, the picturesque Apollonian Hotel features rolling green lawns, wide verandas and roaring fireplaces. First built during the 1870s Gympie Gold Rush before being moved to the shore of Lake Cootharaba in the late 1980s. The colonial-style hotel offers a unique pub-style menu including counter meals and their award winning meat pie, but local know it’s the place to go for Sunday lunch to enjoy the wood-fired spit roast.
Image credit: Jeff Andersen
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