As the nights get longer and warmer, and the possibility of travel is finally back on the table, there are few ways we’d rather spend our evenings than drink in hand at a classic Aussie pub. And while there is no shortage of watering holes across our fair nation, if you’re looking for a unique experience, there are certain pubs that stand out from the rest. From true blue taverns in the farthest-reaching corners of Australia to the tried and tested favourites of our major cities, we’ve teamed up with the best ready to drink Bourbon & Cola in the biz, Easyrider, to give you the inside scoop on which famous pubs are well and truly worth a visit. Cheers!
Satisfy your inner outlaw with a trip to bushranger territory. Beloved by locals since the gold rush, Tanswell’s Hotel first opened in 1853, and was frequented by Ned Kelly and his Gang, to down schooners and plan their next escapade. In 1869, the pub was badly burnt in a fire but was rebuilt soon after, and more resembles an English tavern, with black and white checkered tiles, a glossy wooden front bar and billiards room. Today it’s run by James Cleeve and Therese Shanley, who has put together a simple but tasty menu focused on local produce. With a sprawling balcony overlooking the charming main street of historical Beechworth, Tanswell’s Hotel is the perfect shady spot to relax with an ice-cold bevvy.
The Imperial Hotel
When Dawn O’Donnell, fondly known as ‘the mother of gay Sydney’ bought The Imperial Hotel in 1983, it began a new life as not only a safe space but a place of celebration for the LGBTQIA community. While various owners have come and gone over the years, it has retained its reputation as one of the best queer-friendly pubs in all of Australia. After undergoing an extensive makeover in 2018, the interior is now impossibly chic while still honouring its campy roots and retaining the iconic art deco design. While it’s fabulous during the day, it’s at night that The Imperial really comes alive. Tear up the disco-esque dance floor, while you belt out Cher and Whitney Houston, or if you fancy your salmon with a side of sequins, be sure to check out their famous ‘Drag ‘n’ Dine’ nights (every Wednesday to Sunday).
The Family Hotel
What’s better than a visit to the art gallery? A pub where you can have a drink or two at the same time as admiring art by one of Australia’s most iconic artists. While the impressive age of this nearly 140-year-old pub is reason enough to visit, the real drawcard is the spectacular murals adorning the interior walls. In the 1960s, when a group of Aussie artists including Russell Drysdale and Clifton Pugh spent a few weeks painting in the outback, they stayed at the Family Hotel. Before leaving, they put brush to brick and left the pub with a permanent art installation that’s now gone down in history. Since then, other artists have added their own embellishments over the years, and for a gold coin donation (that goes straight to the Royal Flying Doctors Service) you can have your photo taken in front of the impressive work. Whiskey and coke with a side of culture? Sign us up.
The Portsea Hotel
There are a few nicer places to soak up the summer sunshine than at the veritable institution that is the Portsea Hotel. Smack bang on the Mornington Peninsula, the best part of this gigantic Tudor-style pub, which was built in 1876, is the expansive deck that looks out across the sparkling turquoise water of Port Phillip Bay. While the scenic drive from Melbourne’s CBD only takes an hour and a half, once you’re nestled under a vast umbrella with a crisp aperitif and sliced-to-order salumi from the Fatto Da Mama (“Made by Mum”) kitchen, you’ll be transported to the Italian Riviera without even hopping on a plane.
The Prairie Hotel
Knock the froth off a few at this part-quaint, part-quirky, but an utterly quintessentially Aussie pub. First licensed in 1876, The Prairie Hotel sits exactly where the Flinders Ranges turn into the outback – a lone figure in a town of 16 people, set against the imposing mountains and red earth. While a glance at the menu might initially make you queasy, don’t be fooled by the unappealing name – the ‘Feral Mixed Grill’, inspired by road-kill, and consisting of kangaroo schnitzel, camel sausage, goat chop and emu mignon earned the pub a listing on Gourmet Traveller’s Top 100 Gourmet Experiences. So dig in!
The Palace Hotel
Broken Hill, NSW
How often do you get the opportunity to sleep in a room that was used as a location for one of the most iconic Australian movies in history? Here at the ultimate home of kitschy Australiana decor, The Palace Hotel, you can do just that. Immortalised in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, in a number of key scenes (notably while Hugo Weaving had donned his infamous ‘thong dress’), this Broken Hill icon is an absolute riot on the senses. Originally built as a coffee palace in 1889, but three years later transformed into a pub, nearly every section of the wall inside is covered in murals and paintings of landscapes, waterfalls, mountains and horses by local Indigenous artist Gordon Wayne, plus a few others by the pub’s former owner Mario Celotto, who even attempted a version of Botticelli’s Venus on one chunk of ceiling. Grab your feather boa, and head down to the bar to continue the fabulous legacy.
You’ll need to fill up the tank to reach this one, but we promise it’s worth the drive. Tucked away right on the edge of the dusty expanse of the Simpson Desert, sits the Birdsville Hotel. Enjoy a refreshing (and much-needed, trust us!) brew to escape the heat, and don’t say we didn’t warn you if a local wants to chew your ear off with tales of the tiny town. Since 1884, it’s weathered floods, fires and cyclones, and acted as a safe haven for weary travellers on their way either in or out of the harsh desert. Inside the main bar is a time-warp, a cluttered and chaotic room chock-a-block full of dog-eared Akubras, flags, Aussie souvenirs and posters, paying homage to its vibrant history. It’s time to plan your pilgrimage to this pub like no other.
The Pub With No Beer
Taylors Arm, NSW
The local joke is that this humble pub is actually the eighth wonder of the world, thanks to its famous reputation in Australian country music legend. Originally The Cosmopolitan Hotel when it opened in 1903, the name was later changed after it became the location for one of Slim Dusty’s most famous songs of the same title. As the story goes, Slim’s mate Gordon Parsons adapted a poem by Irish Dan Sheahan who had written about a flood cutting off the supply of beer to a remote country town. Gordon rewrote the ditty so that it was about their local pub instead. The whole place emulates a log-cabin vibe, while also acting as a kind of shine to Slim – with records, photos and memorabilia densely packed into the rooms. Classic pub grub is cheap and cheerful, with burgers, steak sandwiches and, not to worry, the taps won’t ever run dry, regardless of what Slim says.
If reading this has made you thirsty and you can’t hit the road just yet, grab a pack of Easyrider’s bourbon and coke cans to scratch that itch in the meantime.