By Caroline Duncan
August 10, 2020 | 5 minute read
Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld
Pubs tell you a lot about a place. Whether they're grand, rustic or somewhere in between, you'll find many offer great meals, a selection of local wines and beer, and the kind of friendly welcome only a country pub can provide. In the case of the six pubs below, they also offer something quite different.
So if you’re bored with your local, or keen to experience some country hospitality, grab your designated driver and check out these great pubs, all within three hours drive from the Melbourne CBD.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld
At the southern edge of the Grampians National Park, in the tiny township of Dunkeld, you’ll find the Royal Mail Hotel, one of Australia’s great gastro pubs. In 1944, fires destroyed one third of the buildings in the Dunkeld township and the Royal Mail is one of the surviving buildings.
Enjoy stunning views of the Grampians, you can wander the pub’s 1.2 hectare kitchen garden. or check out the award-winning wine cellar that holds 28,000 bottles.
For food, there's the high-end restaurant Wickens, offering five and eight course menus that take produce from the kitchen garden and turn it into world class cuisine. More casual dining can also be had at the pub’s other restaurant, the Parker Street Project.
Gold Mines Hotel, Bendigo
This rambling two-story pub sits on 1.2 acres, across the road from Bendigo’s historic Victoria Hill Mine site. While Bendigo has no shortage of pubs – it is said that during the gold rush there were 20 people for every pub, many of which remain today - this beautiful historic spot is worth a visit, whether you sit inside the rooms that hark back to yesteryear (or around the fireplace if you go in winter) or outside in the gardens on a hot summer night.
The Gold Mines has changed hands a few times over the last decade, and has recently reopened under new management. The new owners have implemented a menu based on local seasonal produce and have plans to open a cellar bar soon.
Radio Springs Hotel
Radio Springs Hotel Lyonville
Between Daylesford and Trentham in Victoria's central highlands, you’ll find Lyonville, population 175. At the intersection of High and Main Streets there's a sign that says “Centre of the Universe” which points to the rambling Radio Springs Hotel. Set on two acres of flower-filled gardens, this funky pub is an eclectic delight with two different dining options, a wide range of local wines and craft beers and a cinema.
That’s right, a cinema! The owners have built it themselves with old cinema parts from around Australia, and screen mystery movies a few times a week.
Coach & Horses Inn Clarkefield
This old-fashioned pub in the Macedon Ranges is very easy to hit up from Melbourne, and you have the added bonus of drinking with ghosts! The pub, said to be haunted, attracts ghost hunters and ghost busters from around the world due to the legends and folklore tales of murder, robbery and shootings at the pub. The pub’s cool room was also used to keep bodies cold back in the days before morgues.
Fortunately ghosts aren’t the only spirits you’ll encounter here – you can also buy some from the bar, along with a great range of beer and wine. Every day the pub posts a secret word on their Facebook page which will get you a free beer, wine or soft drink when you order a main meal in the bistro.
18th Amendment Bar
18th Amendment Bar Geelong
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to drink during the prohibition era, a trip to the 18th Amendment Bar in Geelong will transport you back in time to the 1920s and 1930s, when alcohol was illegal and clandestine speak-easies were all the rage. Featuring décor inspired by the era, at the 18th Amendment Bar there are literally hundreds of different spirits to chose from and impressive cocktails – including one that’s served hidden in a book.
Kilcunda Ocean View Hotel
The Kilcunda Ocean View Hotel, or "the Killy" as it's known, has arguably THE best view of all pubs in Victoria. Boasting a panoramic view across the coast and out to Bass Strait, and situated close to all the attractions on the Bass Highway and Philip Island, this is a pub you really shouldn't drive past.
With a head chef originating from Havana, Cuba, the menu features a range of central and south American flavours and dishes alongside more traditional grub. There's locally-sourced wines and craft beers, and live acoustic entertainment on Sunday's.
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