Whether you like a brewsky (that’s a beer to Aussies), chardy (wine) or cocktail (no explanation needed), Sydney’s pubs have you sorted. Locals love a drink, and the tradition of pulling up a bar stool dates back to the early years of European settlement. Which means that today, you can enjoy a ‘cold one’ in a historic establishment, or sip something craft in a more refined outlet.
Some of the oldest pubs in Australia are located in The Rocks harbourside precinct of Sydney. Here, convict-built sandstone venues have been serving thirsty customers for more than 150 years. Start your historic journey at Fortune of War(1828), then move on to The Lord Nelson (1841), Hero of Waterloo (1843) or Orient Hotel (1843), all of which retain their colonial charm, but with a side of modern-day pizzaz. Late-night revellers often flock to The Argyle, housed in the former Argyle Stores buildings dating back to 1826. Check out their website for updates on regular daytime music festivals.
The Orient Hotel, The Rocks
You'll find more colonial-era pubs dotted throughout the city and its suburbs. The Woolwich Pier Hotel opened in 1885 and was completely revamped in 2018. It still sits pretty in this inner-north suburb, by the water. The London Hotel in Balmain dates back to 1870, while northwest of Sydney on the Hawkesbury River, the Macquarie Arms Hotel, built in 1815, is the oldest of its kind in Australia. And it’s still kicking.
If you’re thirsty, head to inner-city Paddington – there’s a pub on pretty much every corner, and many are housed in historic buildings. Try the lively Paddo Inn, dog-friendly (and legendary) The London, The Light Brigade for its great roof terrace, or The Unicorn, where you can order a beer and a burger, or a ‘big and fancy’ steak.
The pub scene in Surry Hills takes things up a notch. Dive in at The Dolphin, with its striking interiors, stellar food and a dedicated wine room. The wrap-around verandah of The Clockis a great spot to watch the world go by, while the Keg & Brew specialises in craft beer and has a rooftop bar with views of the city skyline. Nearby in Chippendale, The Old Clare features a sun terrace with a pool, perfect for an evening drink.
Live music fans should head for Kings Cross Hotel in Potts Point or The Beach Road Hotel in Bondi. The Beresfordin Surry Hills also regularly hosts musicians, not to mention cabaret sessions and drag shows. You can play basketball on the court at Marrickville’s Vic on the Park – your dog is even welcome to hang out with you.
Pubs with beer gardens
Make the most of Sydney’s sunny weather (well, most of the time) in a beer garden. The Newport on the Northern Beaches has one of the city’s largest outdoor areas to drink and be merry, offering a sprawling multi-level space that’s great for families. At The Oaks in Neutral Bay, you’ll sit under a huge 70-year-old oak tree while devouring burgers and steaks. While Newtown’s Courthouse Hotel draws locals with its fairy lights, craft brews and nachos – there are more varieties than you can count on one hand.
If you like your pubs with a side of water views, Sydney doesn’t disappoint. The Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel and Coogee Pavilion sit just steps from the sand in the eastern suburbs, and both come with multiple restaurants to refuel at after a big session. In the north, the Manly Wharf Bar looks back towards Sydney Harbour and offers amazing tacos and burgers. Meanwhile, you can see the beach from every window at The Collaroy in Pittwater.In The Rocks, the rooftop of The Glenmore looks out over the harbour and the Sydney Opera House. Hard to beat this view.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the traditional owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.