Aratula is a tiny, blink and you will miss it town on Cunnigham Highway in Fassifern Valley and is the last stop before heading over the ranges via Cunninghams Gap. The only pub in town is the Aratula Hotel, a great country pub that stubbornly resists gentrification, which is exactly what most of their patrons love about it.
The Aratula Hotel is one of the few stops on Cunninghams Highway
As country towns go, Aratula is not an attraction in itself but it is a welcome stop on the way to somewhere else and near enough to other attractions that it has a fair number of visitors. The main activity here is antiquing.
Nearby is Lake Moogerah and also the various hikes at Cunningham's Gap. As such, the town supports two cafes during the daytime and the Aratula Hotel is often the main option at night. Of course, there are also two service stations for those lovely service station coffees and pies and 24-hour service.
Lake Moogerah is popular for water skiing, fishing, swimming, kayaking, hiking and camping
The hotel is a single-story basic building with a bar area out front, a dining room at the back and a beer garden on the side. There is also motel accommodation and a free camping area, so it is a perfect rest stop not far outside of Brisbane.
The food starts with the basics. During the day, you will get a burger and chips for $15 and all day you can fill up on the pub classics for $20, which include 200g steaks, sausages, rissoles or schnitzels. These come with a choice of chips or mashed potatoes and salad or vegetables.
Steaks, Mashed Potatoes & Vegetables at the Aratula Hotel
Of course, if you want something a little more fancy, consider a mini pork roast for $27 or beef cheeks cooked in red wine for $35. There is also plenty of options in between.
Remember, their serving sizes are huge. They explained that this is because they need to feed hungry truckies passing through who love a big feed. My advice, unless you have an appropriately sized appetite, don't bother with the entrees.
You could fill up on the entrees like the garlic bread alone at the Aratula Hotel
Drinks are pretty basic and they have the most common beers on top, including XXXX Bitter, which every country pub has to have on tap (or I would assume they would be lynched or at least run out of town). They also do coffee, though they admit only have a small espresso machine, so maybe a step up from service station coffee, but I am not sure by how much.
Entertainment & Events
The hotel often hosts events, from music festivals to car rallies. If an event is on, then the hotel becomes a destination in its own right.
The last time I went there, we we were hiking at Goomburra and were running a little late coming back. So we were very hungry and the only choices were the Shell Service Station across the road or the Aratula Hotel. So we popped in and ordered two steaks and being winter, we also ordered the mashed potato and vegetables to help warm us up.
Not sure where the vegetables come from, but the pumpkin is grown by the owners in the backyard
What we got for $20 was a nice big feed. The steaks were tasty and the mashed potato and vegetables filled us up. They also served it with mashed pumpkin. My friend wanted to know what they added to the pumpkin to make it so delicious. Turned out, the great taste came from the fact that they just use pumpkins they grow outback. Fresh is always best!
There is something about country style service that a lot of people don't get. It is rarely as polished or smooth as you would find in the city, but they genuinely want you to feel welcome and happy. You just have to accept their style of service.
An example of this was my friend made the mistake of ordering garlic bread before the steaks came because she was naively thinking about the sort of serving sizes you would get for the same price in the city. Anyway, the garlic bread was so big we could have just filled up on it and been on our way, so there was some leftover. My friend was too shy to ask for a container to take it with her, so instead wrapped in paper towels to take with her. The moment they saw this, they rushed over to give her a box for her to put it in.
The temptation for many reviewers is to decide is something is good or bad. But that is not really the job of a reviewer. Instead, my role is to help people decide if a place is right for them. If you are looking for a place to stop on your way along Cunninghams Highway or you are in the area and you want a decent feed for $20, like friendly country style customer service, and have no pretensions, then this is the place for you. After all, there isn't much other choices in this area.