Great Australian Pubs

Australia is home to many great pubs which offer you the chance to meet locals when you’re on your travels. Lee Mylne has sampled most of the best and thanks to her new book, Great Australian Pubs, you can get a real feel for which ones you may like to visit.

Largs Pier Hotel, Largs Bay
With its three-storey arcaded facade, the Largs Pier looks more like a European palace than an Australian hotel.

For the best view of the majestic Largs Pier Hotel, you should be on the water. It’s easy, then, to imagine how those arriving by ship would have seen it at the end of a long sea voyage… like something from a dream, a magnificent mirage shimmering on the waterfront to greet them.

Some still see it that way, as passengers on cruise ships coming into Port Adelaide are frequently among those dining at this wonderfully restored seaside pub. With its three-storey arcaded facade, the Largs Pier looks more like a European palace than an Australian hotel.

Elegant it may be (some liken it to Raffles in Singapore), but the Largs Pier is renowned in South Australia as one of the great rock pubs. The Largs has been a starting point for some of Australia’s top bands in the early stages of their careers, and it is still fostering new talent. Every Friday night there are acoustic performers in the Largs Bar from 5–8pm to kick off the weekend.

With a pedigree of performers that includes Bon Scott (who met his wife at the Largs Pier Hotel after a gig in 1971) and AC/DC, Diesel, Cold Chisel, Little River Band and the Angels – to name just a few – the Largs Pier has been the place to go for great pub music since the 1970s. Jimmy Barnes immortalised it in his song ‘Largs Pier Hotel’ which he launched in the hotel bar in 2010 in front of an enthusiastic standing-room-only crowd.

Built by the Largs Bay Land and Investment Company in 1882, the hotel opened on the same day as the Largs Bay Pier and Railway, and the area immediately became a major destination for mail steamers and an important seaside resort for South Australia. For two decades, the Largs Pier Hotel was the first port of call – and first temporary residence – for arriving European immigrants. The hotel has always been ahead of its time; in 1953 it opened Australia’s first drive-through bottleshop and it also served Adelaide’s first counter meals.

Largs Bay is about 16 kilometres from the Adelaide CBD, on the Lefevre Peninsula, just beyond the heart of Port Adelaide. Although you are still in suburbia when you visit the Largs Pier, it’s easy to forget how close the city is when you look out to sea from the verandah of the hotel.

The hotel’s interior lives up to the exterior’s promise. At the top of the sweeping grand staircase (there is no lift), the 15 high-ceilinged ‘heritage’ bedrooms are luxurious without being fussy, and have a modern style, ensuites with spa baths, room service and windows that open to the sea air. Nine of the rooms have doors that open on to the balcony. When choosing your bedroom, remember that Room 11 is reputedly haunted!

On the ground floor, the Largs Bar looks like it belongs in the tropics. With swinging ‘punkah’ ceiling fans, potted palms, wooden shutters and a lovely wooden bar, it leads out to a sheltered terrace with tables overlooking St Vincent Gulf, and is just the place for a beer, a cocktail or a glass of wine. If the weather’s chilly, you will find a cosy spot at the end of the bar, where there’s a log fire, leather couches and low tables. And if you don’t fancy the noisier restaurant area, the bar menu offers only a slightly more limited choice. Woodfired pizzas are available daily for dinner and Friday–Sunday for lunch.

The Pier Restaurant, in an extension on the other side of the hotel, has been designed in a similar way to the bar but has a more contemporary feel and is popular with families and music lovers. A small stage in the corner hosts the music and tables extend out to a large deck.

On the other side of the original hotel, an old dance hall has been linked to the building and converted to 19 motel rooms (including one fully self-contained unit), all of which have individual direct street access to the Esplanade.

Largs Pier Hotel
198 Esplanade, Largs Bay
(08) 8449 5666
Heritage rooms: $159 standard; $184 deluxe; $205 deluxe spa or corner room; $245 executive spa suite. $10 surcharge Sat. Motel rooms: $154 single or double; $174 family room. Extra person $20 adult, $10 child under 12. Cots $10.
Bars open from 9am daily until 10pm weekdays and 12am weekends.
Open for breakfast 6.30–11am daily; lunch 12–3pm and dinner 6–9pm Mon–Thurs; all-day dining 12–9pm Fri–Sun.
Top drop
The range of beers on tap includes Carlton Draught, Cascade Light, Carlsberg, Coopers Pale, Coopers Clear, Pure Blonde, Carlton Dry and Vale Ale, plus Bulmer’s cider.
Nearby attractions
Historic Port Adelaide has many attractions including the South Australian Maritime Museum, where you can board a full-scale replica of a sailing ketch. The Bond Stores in Lipson St are the museum’s main gallery. Climb the lighthouse, built in 1869, and take in the views of the port.
More info

Edited extract from Great Australian Pubs by Lee Mylne, published by Explore Australia Publishing
RRP: $32.95 

Written by Debbie McTaggart