Look, Sydney, you’re awesome. We all love you and your grass-fed beer and foraged peanuts, served on bespoke hand-woven beer mats. But sometimes, it’s better to get off the beaten track and get reacquainted with a schooner that costs a casual five bucks.
So… The rules. If it’s got VB on tap, a faded wood wrap-around bar filled with the drawl of long time locals, and is run by a bloke or lovely lady whose name ends in ‘o’, then it’s legit. If they have a parmy, matching outdoor table-umbrella combos, and require you getting eeeverrr so slightly lost on the way, then it’s legit.
Let’s go, guys. There is much exploring to be done!
The Scarborough Hotel
One to visit if you’re road trippin’ to Woollongong, or simply need to get yo’ ass out of the city for a while. It’s only an hour and a half from Sydney’s CBD. Visitors can expect “strewth”-inducing views of Wombarra Beach, a cracking menu full of pub classics that will keep everyone happy, and beautiful garden huts that offer the perfect position for long lunching with your loved ones in the sunshine. Side note: it’s fun to pronounce it as Scaaar-Braaaaah, but you don’t have to.
The Loaded Dog Hotel
This place is fun because the town shares its name with the very vehicle in which I was conceived. What? Nothing. In all seriousness, this pub in the Central Tablelands is awesome and well worth the drive for some epic food, a top selection of beers, and live music. Named after the famous Henry Lawson story, The Loaded Dog Hotel is the kind of place you pop into for a beer and a steak sandwich, then end up staying all afternoon chatting to the friendly bar staff and rediscovering your love for a band (not a DJ).
Patonga Beach Hotel
Can’t you just picture it? Walking barefoot down Patonga Beach, gentle breeze, not a care in the world… And then you catch a whiff of fresh fish and chips, and you know you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Try and nab yourself a spot on the picturesque veranda, a cold bottle of wine, a bucket of prawns, and the jackpot you’ve been searching for will be well and truly hit. Hell, you can even stay the night if you like, there’s accommodation available. Bonus: Apparently these guys were listening to The Whitlams, because The Patonga Beach Hotel is proudly a pokie-free establishment, which we can all get behind *raises schooner*.
Jack Duggan's Irish Pub
Sure, you may remember Bathvegas for the time you went gold panning there in primary school, or potentially lost your morals in the halls of the uni bar, but once you visit Jack Duggan’s Irish Pub, that’s how you’ll remember this town. These guys have won a tonne of awards, and for good reason. Traditional pub grub meets traditional Irish fare up in here; with one of the best pub steaks you’ll ever have the privilege to order. Friday and Saturday nights are for live music, so pack your dancin’ shoes, Shirley.
The Lennox Hotel
You know that epic parmy I was talking about? This is it, right here, smack bang between Ballina and Byron Bay. Of course, a frosty beer and good times galore are a given heretoo, because live music is alive and well in this neck of the woods. So escape the human soup that is central Byron for a while, and go kick up your heels at The Lennox. Parmy mandatory.
Ah yes, Tumbulgum. The town that is almost as much fun to say as it is to visit. And it’s really fun to say. This joint, situated just outside Tweed Heads, ticks all the aforementioned boxes and then some. Park your behind outside in the sunshine, order some fish and chips because delicious, call in a few jugs of beer and watch the afternoon drift away while the kiddies run wild on the play equipment. Just make sure to say hi to the Tumbulgum groper on your way in, he deserves your respect.
There’s something magical about walking into a new place, but feeling like you’re just in your own lounge. Don’t be put off by The Family Hotel’s seriously remote location, it’s been sitting there since 1882, with cold beers, comfy accommodation and home cooked meals. This one is extra special, because it sits juuust near the border of NSW, South Australia, and Queensland. So if you’re still deciding where to end up on your road trip, this is the perfect spot to stop for a night and decide. Hey, take your time; there are worse places to spend an evening making new friends.
Just a little way down the road (well, about five hours, but that’s not too much in road trip time) is Silverton Hotel, which might look like the main scene of a country western film from the outset, but once you’re in, you’re never going to want to leave. No doubt it’s going to be ten billion degrees while you’re there, so grab yourself an ice-cold beer, sit in the beer garden and make some friends. Side note: Mad Max 2 was indeed filmed in Silverton, so be sure to check out the memorabilia around the pub.
You need to say a firm and resounding ‘YAASSS’ to this place, firstly because it’s simply wonderful, and secondly because it’s right near the actual town of Yass. Other reasons to make Binalong Hotel a top priority include: comments that it’s Binalong time since you’ve had such a delicious pub steak, bopping your head to awesome live music, and getting to know the legends behind the bar. Happy days.
If the country reallyyyyyyy isn't for you, here's some of Sydney's Best Pub Nights.
Design credit: Gabrielle Stjernqvist