Take a seat, young barhopper. We might be a trendy new name in the foodie world, but at its core, Brisbane is an Aussie country town. Pick up your pint glass, saddle those schnitty cravings, and settle in for the history lesson your teachers never wanted you to learn. Folks, it’s time to dive into Brisbane’s most characterful pubs—the ones with hundreds of stories in their walls and even more beer stains on their floors.
Stand aside, Betty White: this 146-year-old has the whole ‘aging gracefully’ gig down to an artform. In spite of our city’s historic floods, the Grand Lady of the Brisbane River has chaperoned nights out for generations. Today, crowds pour in for top-tier steaks at the Boat Shed, cheeky cocktails in the Walrus Club, and Friday nights at The Regatta by the river.
The Breakfast Creek Hotel
You know a pub’s got game if they’ve been slinging beers since your great-great-great-grandparents were out on the town. Since throwing open the doors in 1889, the Brekky Creek Hotel’s staked its claim as an iconic Aussie pub. Between choosing cuts of beef from the famous steak cabinet, to one of the biggest rum lists in the world, you’ll wanna pencil in a whole night—and recovery morning—for this one.
Okay, real talk: anyone who doesn’t have an iconic or outrageous story of The Normanby is almost definitely lying. Sitting around the bend from QUT, Roma Street and Suncorp Stadium, this city slicker has aided and abetted more than its fair share of saucy afternoons. But after a massive reno late last year—including replanting the iconic fig tree that fell in 2016—it’s new beginnings for this old girl. We’ll cheers to that.
The Plough Inn
For generations, South Bank’s Plough Inn has acted as haven to city workers, weary tourists, and parents who just can’t take another minute wrestling kids through the parklands. This Victorian-style heritage pub is a breezy background to the South Bank foot traffic, serving up pints, classic pub bites and primo people-watching views. Fair warning, though: there’s guaranteed to be a crowd for the live tunes at knock-off, so snag a seat.
Port Office Hotel
Andddd… breathe. After a kitchen fire forced its temporary closure, locals have waited with bated breath for this heritage pub to switch the lights back on. The Port Office Hotel has been a mainstay for city workers since 1864, after all, and old habits die hard. Now, finally, crowds are settling into chairs in the upstairs Colonial Bar, pairing oysters with bubbly in the famous Office dining room and raising a pint on the wraparound verandah.
Stay those pitchforks, folks. Despite sharing a namesake with the current PM, The Morrison has been plating up man-sized pub grub since 1927. At the front, you’ll find a brick-built steakhouse that could be transplanted into any rural Aussie town. Out the back, though, things get a little more trendy, with over 300 whiskeys, 30 craft beers and a collection of cocktails nestled in the Naked Whisky Bar. Bottoms up.
The Transcontinental Hotel
Take 130 years of experience, three bars, a restaurant, and a dash of CBD charm, and you’ve got the recipe for an iconic local pub. (And probably a hangover, but we digress.) Folks have been pounding the pavement for over 130 years to pull up a pew at this inner-city gem. Just across from Roma Street and a quick stumble to Suncorp, The Transcontinental Hotel is a popular icon for footy nights, corporate lunches and that totally tax deductible business meeting. Cough.
The Pineapple Hotel
If you’ve never had a punt, a pint or a parmy (mass props to the trifecta crowd) at The Piney, are you even a Brissie local? The OG Golden Girl has been pouring cold ones for over 150 years, drawing onlookers with her famous Australia Day bash, footy nights, and—let’s face it—one of the best corner pubs in Brisbane history.
The Waterloo Hotel
Waterloo, couldn’t escape if we wanted to. After a decidedly art deco inspired refurb, this iconic watering hole is looking as timeless as Keanu Reeves. (Another mystery for another day.) Blending debonair class with a knack for the trendy, you’ll find everything from parmies to pork belly bao at the Waterloo.
The Boundary Hotel
Riddle time! What has ten beach umbrellas, five bars, and its own pizza oven? Yeah, alright, ya cheaters. After a Hollywood-esque makeover, West End’s oldest pub is looking fresh, fine, and ready for your dining pleasure. Whether you’re sinking those Sunday afternoon woes at the rooftop bar or settling in with a pizza in the open-air Backyard, The Boundary Hotel has learned more than a few new tricks.
The Alliance Hotel
A small slice of London shimmied its way into town in 1864, and, like anyone with a British accent, Brisbane welcomed it with open arms, fell in love, and decided that it could never leave again. The rustic charm and award-winning fare of the Alliance Hotel is downright legendary, pairing your favourite tipples with plates of deep fried triple cream brie, smoky shakshuka, and pan fried gnocchi. Whew…is anyone else out of breath?
The Elephant Hotel
Now, for the elephant in the room. After a long stint as the Elephant and Wheelbarrow, a combo pub-and-backpackers spot, the Elephant Hotel relaunched in 2013. Strutting a new look, new name, and new menu—we’re talking bespoke pizzas and house-crumbed schnitties—this 132-year-old has made one thing abundantly clear. An elephant never forgets—unless it's had too much tequila.
The Jubilee Hotel
Ahh, the Jube. After keeping us alive through our uni years (glory to the $3 steak nights), keeping us sane in the work-heavy years that followed, and keeping the bangers coming on RnB Fridays, this old-school beaut is copping a much-deserved makeover. The heritage-listed hotel is prepping to host a brand new commercial tower on its corner of the Valley. Stay tuned: this old girl still has plenty of mileage on the clock.
The Osbourne Hotel
If these walls could talk … they’d probably be slurring pretty damn hard. The Osbourne’s been kicking for most of our river city’s history, but as of recently, it’s actually a pretty fresh face in the Brisbane booze scene. The whole space has been stripped back to the original brick, vaulted with sky-high ceilings, and reborn as a leafy beer garden pretty unique to the Valley scene. 10/10, would hangover again.
The Fox Hotel
If you’re a Brisbane local, this foxy lady won’t be a stranger. Standing in the heart of South Bank, The Fox Hotel’s best known for her ripper pub lunches (half-price burgs and pizzas!), frosty pints, and banging Sunday sesh. You might wanna designate a drink fetcher, though: those outdoor benches are a hot commodity after knockoff.
Prefer somewhere with a bangin' cocktail list and bartenders who sport man buns? Check out Brisbane's absolute best bars right here.
Image credit: Ariana Gillrie