New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published November 5th 2016
Enjoy an Aussie pub lunch with a side of bushranger history
Do you enjoy going to a pub for a good steak ,or a chicken schnitzel the size of a plate? Do you particularly like going somewhere that has a bit of Aussie character, as well as delicious food? Here in Canberra we have a number of historical pubs around the region, however if you feel like a Sunday drive to get out of the city and get some country air, then check out these unique pubs just over the border into NSW. As the ACT was a "dry state" between 1911 - 1928, Canberra locals frequently went over the border to Queanbeyan and other towns in NSW to visit their pubs, so there is a good number of them still out there from this period - and long before.
Here are three historical pubs which have a lot more to offer than the average pub - they also have the added bonus of bushranger history, ghost sightings or pub grub that customers drive over the border for. You could always visit one pub for a counter lunch, drive to the next for some live music and then stay for dinner at the last one - and spend the day exploring the region in between. The only problem is - which one would you go to first?
The Bushranger Hotel, Collector. Image: The Bushranger Hotel Facebook
1/ The Bushranger Hotel is located in Collector, 40 minutes north east of Canberra's CBD, off the Federal Highway to Sydney. It was established in 1860 and was one of the five original hotels built in Collector, to cater to many people travelling past its doors to the Kiandra Goldfields in the Snowy Mountains. It is also famous for a deadly run-in with a notorious gang of bushrangers. In 1865, Ben Hall and his gang entered the town after a day of mischief and mayhem on the surrounding travelling routes out of Goulburn. Local police soon heard of their arrival, took chase and a gunfight ensued. The Bushranger Hotel was the site of the shooting of Constable Samuel Nelson by John Dunn, a member of Ben Hall's gang. This event has made this pub famous in the region, however there are also whispers of hauntings being experienced here. The Bushranger Hotel is an authentic Aussie pub experience with a toasty fireplace in winter and authentic history all year around. See here for the Bushranger Hotel Facebook for more details.
2/ The Royal Hotel in Bungendore is 35 minutes east of Canberra's CBD, on the way to the Batemans Bay. The town of Bungendore is an enjoyable place to explore, with many buildings from the 1800's still remaining today. This Royal Hotel was built in 1882 and it was the social hub of the rural community, just as it is today. The inside of this pub is an authentic step back in time and it also has a spacious outdoor beer garden to enjoy live music or sit in the sun. There are rumours that bushrangers have stayed here, when gangs were often seen on the main travelling routes in the area. Feel the history, soak up the atmosphere and imagine the stories that this pub could tell, now open for 134 years. Check out the menu here and also see the Royal Hotel website for "What's On" the day you visit. If you love historical towns, then see here for other things to do whilst in Bungendore.
3/ The Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan is the closest historical pub to Canberra, at just 20 minutes south east of the CBD. This historical pub was first built in 1850, then rebuilt and opened as the Royal Hotel in 1926. In 2012 it received a modern makeover, but still keeps its old world charm and character. Due to Queanbeyan's growing population in the early 1900's and visitors from Canberra in the "dry" period, Queanbeyan had 16 pubs open at the one time - and the Royal Hotel was one of them. Check out the revamped outdoor courtyard with fireplace and also enjoy the delicious steaks, ribs, pot pies and pizzas off the menu at The Clearwater Grill. See details here.
Also, if you are still looking for more historical country towns to visit, then take a rural drive to Gundaroo, 30 minutes north of Canberra near the Canberra Wine District in Murrumbateman. They have 25 buildings remaining from the late 1800's including their own Royal Hotel, which is now the fine dining restaurant Grazing. They also have the Gundaroo Colonial Inn, the local pub built in 1872 with large beer garden and outdoor fireplace. See here for a walking map to explore the town.
There is something so uniquely Australian about going to the pub for lunch, meeting some local characters and enjoying the live music and pub atmosphere all afternoon. Along the way to these pubs, why not take a dirt road turnoff to somewhere you have never been before and discover somewhere new to explore. Also imagine what it would have been like when bushrangers would stop travellers on these roads, and steal from them their prized possessions. With so much rich history and local secrets tucked away in these country towns, it is worth the drive to learn about more about what is around the Canberra region.
Who knows where else you will discover?
If only the walls could talk in the historical town of Gundaroo