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Published February 16th 2016
Take a step back into Canberra's history this weekend
Canberra is constantly evolving with new bars, pubs and microbreweries opening every year with great success - however it hasn't always been the case. Looking back into Canberra's history, there was a period when no pubs were allowed in the ACT at all, with teetotaller "Minister for Home Affairs" King O'Malley declaring it a "dry" state between 1911 and 1928. Locals had to go over the border to Queanbeyan if they wanted alcohol and by all reports, they were bringing it back over the border in carriage-loads. Ironically, one of the most popular Irish pubs now in Canberra's CBD is called King O'Malleys, cheekily thumbing its nose at the teetotalling politician of yesteryear.
Canberra's historical pubs have their own stories to tell with heritage listed buildings, rustic features and the odd ghost in their attics. Here are three fascinating watering holes from Canberra's past to enjoy a coldie at this weekend.
THE OLD CANBERRA INN, Lyneham, Inner North The first pub in Canberra
If you love historic pubs then you have to make this pub your number one priority to visit. The Old Canberra Inn was the first pub in Canberra and it even predates the city itself. The original building was built in 1857 and became a licenced bar in 1876. It was a popular pub and coach stop on the Yass to Queanbeyan mail run until it was sold in 1887 and became a private home until 1974. It was then renovated and relicensed as the Old Canberra Inn.
New owners (since April, 2015) have stepped in to restore this historical venue and create a popular pub environment for the whole community. With low ceilings, rustic building materials, log fires and photographs of early Canberra on every wall, it is my personal favourite on this fascinating list. The Old Canberra Inn has become a regular venue for trivia nights, live music, functions and delicious pub grub (see menu here).
There are a number of beer gardens around this property to relax in or why not sit inside and enjoy its historical charm by the fireplace. With a cubby house and kids activities around the back, it is a pub for all ages to enjoy.
ROSE COTTAGE PUB, Gilmore, Tuggeranong Historical buildings
Rose Cottage is as historical and authentic as they come. The land on which the current Rose Cottage pub is situated was originally part of Cunningham's Tuggeranong Station from 1857. The two main buildings that we still see today were built between 1874 and 1878 as residential cottages, with the current "Mary's Bar" built at the later date. Over the years the property has changed hands a number of times and is now privately owned and home to the heritage listed Rose Cottage Pub - for a full history, see their website here.
This pub has live music, pub food, a huge beer garden and the authentic "Mary's Bar", where you have to duck your head to get in and order your drinks. If you visit in winter, stoke up a fire pit and settle back for a beer in a rustic, historical setting tucked away behind trees, just metres from the busy Monaro Highway.
Address: Corner of Isabella Drive & Monaro Hwy, Gilmore
THE KINGSTON HOTEL, Griffith, Inner South The oldest continuous pub.
The Kingston Hotel, or the "The Kingo" to locals, was one of the first, and only remaining, pubs to open its doors after the alcohol ban was lifted in 1928. At the time, Kingston and Manuka were the social hub of the growing city and it was the perfect location to open a watering hole for thirsty locals. Opening around 1930, this pub technically remains Canberra's continuous oldest pub, having been serving locals for over 80 years. During its early years it was even used as a base for ASIO agents who were monitoring the USSR Embassy across the road.
The Kingo now thrives as a popular family friendly pub, with a huge outdoors area, relaxed atmosphere, Maddies Bistro, "cook your own steak" options and a range of cold beers on tap. With six pool tables, it is a popular spot to catch up with friends and watch sport on the big TV's. This local pub is a favourite for birthdays, farewells, family reunions and for the community to get together - the way pubs should do.
Above are three of Canberra's most historical pubs, however if you head over the border into NSW you will discover more historical pubs in Queanbeyan, Collector, Gunning, Murrumbateman, Braidwood, Bungadore, Gundaroo and the smaller towns of rural NSW. If you like bushranger history, ensure you have a look at the Bushranger Hotel in Collector (50 minutes north of Canberra's CBD) and for a dining experience why not drive to Gunning (30 minutes north of Canberra's CBD) for a meal at Grazing, in the historic Royal Hotel.
So head on down to the local pub this weekend and take advantage of the fact that the ACT is no longer a "dry" state and meet some friendly locals - just like Canberrans have been doing for over a century. If only the walls could talk.