Classic Pubs of Victoria: A Celebration of the State’s Iconic Watering Holes

By Stephane and David Bowker
Cover image for Classic Pubs of Victoria book
Cover image for Classic Pubs of Victoria: A Celebration of the State’s Iconic Watering Holes, by Stephane and David Bowker

A classic pub provides much more than a place to have a drink. A classic pub is a place where friendships are born, communities are built and travellers are welcome.

Join Stephane and David Bowker on their 5,000-kilometre pub crawl through Victoria, and discover vibrant city hotels, iconic rural pubs and outback drinking holes. Meet the locals, hear about the history, and have a drink or two along the way.

This book is not just about an extended pub crawl though – it is also an invitation – an invitation for readers to take in the glory of Victoria via some wonderful establishments: its classic pubs.

History tells us that in Australia, when a town started there was always a pub at the top of the list of required establishments. You could tell the success of a town by the number of pubs it had. All the great yarns have been told in pubs, and many of them are about pubs!

Page spread of the Mitre Tavern in Melbourne CBD
The Mitre Tavern, tucked away in Bank Place, Melbourne is an enduring piece of Melbourne’s history. As the city of Melbourne has grown and spread, this beautiful old tavern has remained cosseted between the high-rise buildings of the bustling Melbourne CBD.

Tourists always seem to marvel at the fact that in Australia a town of just a few hundred people can have several pubs, but many people will live around and about and distance has never deterred an Aussie from finding his local “watering hole”, whether he gets there on horseback, by car, truck or even on shanks’ pony.

Page spread for Flowerdale Hotel
In Flowerdale the pub is the gathering point for many activities and is the rallying point for emergency situations such as bushfires.

Victoria is no different: from the Goldfields to the High Country, from the Great Ocean Road to the ‘burbs of Melbourne, pubs remain the heart of sporting, community and family groups.

So how did we go about finding and writing about the Classic Pubs in Victoria, and how did we choose from such a large list of exceptional pubs (over 1,000 licenced premises exist in Victoria)? The answer was a long road trip: we simply had to visit them; we had to get a sense of their charm, their appeal and their welcome.

Page spread of Macs Hotel, Portland.
As a part of Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast, Macs Hotel has had many roles to play over the years, from a house of questionable morals to a sanctuary for survivors of shipwrecks.

So what is a Classic Pub? The definition of “classic” could be a hotly debated. Depending on what you read or the experience of the people you talk to, you would undoubtedly receive a wide range of answers.

So let’s start with a definition for a “Pub” – more formally known as a “Public House”. We took this to be any establishment with a bar and public rooms licensed to sell alcoholic drinks, and often providing meals.

Page spread of the Dinner Plain Hotel at Dinner Plain in Victoria's High Country.
The Dinner Plain Hotel is warm and welcoming. It has the usual alpine accoutrements of large open fires, good food and fine wine (and beer of course!).

For the purposes of this book we firstly judged a potential Classic Pub to be one that over time has come to be thought of being of the highest quality and an outstanding example of its kind. Taking this consensus of public opinion gave us a long list, but a list that only we as authors could hone down to the contents of this book.

To do that we developed, along our journey, our own definition, which proved very helpful in deciding which pubs we should include, whether they were bush pubs, city pubs or regional pubs, historically significant pubs or quirky pubs.

Page spread of Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Grampian Ranges.
Many folks would think of Halls Gap as the gateway to the Grampians, however the small town of Dunkeld has much to offer too. With a backdrop of Mt Sturgeon at the southern end of the Grampian Ranges, the Royal Mail Hotel is a perfect starting point for a Grampians adventure.

For us, a Classic Pub is one that when you walk into it, you feel immediately at ease: it has character, characters and a sense of friendship (or mateship) and having entered you quite frankly don’t want to leave.

Everybody has a favourite Pub and maybe yours will be in this edition, but don’t stop there! Join us on our journey through these wonderful and Classic Pubs of Victoria.

Classic Pubs of Victoria: A Celebration of the State’s Iconic Watering Holes (2014) is available at all good bookshops now.

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