Simply the best spots, bar none

The Commercial Hotel, Eumundi, now Joe’s Waterhole.
The Commercial Hotel, Eumundi, now Joe’s Waterhole. CONTRIBUTED

THERE'S something special about stepping into an historic Aussie pub, where the warmth of the people and the character of the town seem etched into the wide verandas and creaking floorboards.

Pubs were once the heart of any town. With their slow-rotating ceiling fans and dim-lit bars, the watering holes preserved the town's culture and championed the mateship that held the community together.

Pubs are the heart of the nation - the places where songs are sung and yarns are spun.

A great pub can take you on a journey through time.

Like a living museum, each has its own story to tell, but only to those willing to lend an ear.

The Mooloolaba Hotel (aka Pub Mooloolaba) is one of those treasures, and not too many know it as well as Ashley Robinson.

Forty odd years ago, in the days before resort and holiday apartments swamped the prime real estate, the Mooloolaba Hotel took pride of place on the beachfront and was a force to be reckoned with.

"Its public bar with ocean views covered the area where Hot Pippi's now is, and behind the bar, the saloon - a room with 13 pool tables - went towards the reception of the Mantra," Ashley recalled.

Complete with an upstairs nightclub and accommodation, the bountiful bars stretched all the way across to its Venning Street cellar.

The man responsible for this mother of all pubs was Roy Thompson who, in the late '70s, completely changed the face of the old Mooloolaba Hotel.

"Tommo really deserves the credit for changing it from a dreary old hotel and turning it into something. He really got the ball rolling," Ashley said.

Australia's top pub-rock bands of the time, including INXS, Midnight Oil and Hunters and Collectors came to quench the thirst of local music lovers, and at its peak, the pub was making a fortune.

Ashley said that despite its enormity, the pub was the hub of the community.

"In those days, the pub was the focal point in the area, so many different characters went there - from builders to fishermen - and many of them got paid there, too," he said.

"It's amazing how many people have told me they spent their honeymoon at the pub, or actually met their husband or wife there."

He said detached bottleshops and monumental liquor bars were the beginning of the end of an era in pub culture.

"In those days, the publican knew what was going on in the community," Ashley said.

"They had to be a Protestant and a Catholic, a Labor or a Liberal supporter, depending on who they spoke to.

"Things could never be the same.

"It's a different world now." Luckily for us, some Sunshine Coast pubs seem to be stuck in a timewarp that keeps alive the spirit of the great Aussie watering hole.

Acclaimed travel writer Lee Mylne has been to just about every good pub in Australia, including the Sunshine Coast.

Her new book Great Australian Pubs documents her journey through the iconic watering holes of the country.

She said pubs had a huge part to play in the lives of people living in small communities, especially in the Outback.

"I don't think it's just about drinking. Out there, where there's almost no one and nothing, it's the hub of their social life," she said.

"It's somewhere people can go to have a chat, catch-up and eat a nice cheap meal."

For many of us, the pub may not be the first place that comes to mind at tucker time, but Mylne is adamant certain pubs offer some of the best meals and entertainment around.

"There are pubs, and then there are PUBS," she laughed.

"To be honest, there are some terribly ordinary pubs, but those certainly don't get a mention in my book."

THE APOLLONIAN HOTEL, est. 1868

Boreen Point's historic Apollonian Hotel does get a mention in Mylne's book, and deservedly so.

It was built as a music hall in the 1870s by Billy Barlow, shortly after James Nash discovered the first flecks of gold in Gympie.

After being renamed and rebuilt in 1879, the Apollonian has changed little in more than 130 years.

Publicans Phil and Lou Riley have come back after a 15-year break to reinvigorate this rustic hinterland treasure with its nearly 4m ceilings, wide verandas and cedar doors and windows.

Apart from its breath-taking setting, you can be sure the Apollonian's famous Sunday spit-roast complete with salad and damper is a meal not easily forgotten.

JOE'S WATERHOLE EUMUNDI, est. 1891

One of the great Coast pubs is Joe's Waterhole in Eumundi where yarns are still spun as often as drinks are poured and the beer-loving barflies are local legends.

Former Queensland boxing champion and local larrikin Joe Whiting swapped his canefield for the pub, formerly known as the Commercial, in the 1860s.

The place became famous for its welcoming atmosphere and

cheery locals, not to mention Joe's cheeky behaviour.

Sophie Eaton may as well be part of the furniture after working at Joe's for more than 30 years.

"Joe used to glue money to the bar," she recalled.

"Someone would leave and he'd yell at 'em for leaving their money, and they'd go back and it be stuck there and he'd just laugh."

She said the pubs tried to maintain Joe's vision of mischief and mateship and a welcoming place for the weary traveller or local beer lover.

But things aren't all the same as they used to be.

"Things used to get a bit rowdy in here," Sophie recalled with a hearty laugh.

"Friday nights used to pack 'em out with all the cowboys and the jukebox and the pool table.

"Most of 'em are like family here because they've been around for so long."

Take one look at Merv's corner to know that sitting in his reserved seat won't get you any brownie points with the bar- maids.

He doesn't even have to turn his head away from the bar to watch the TV because his rear-vision mirrors, screwed to the wall, do the job for him.

Sophie seemed to share the sentiment that pubs aren't just the sloppy spot for the boys, and the community comes first, even now.

"You've got to be a councillor, a marriage consultant, an accountant and a jack-of-all trades to work here," she said.

After 30 years, you can tell Sophie still loves the place, and that has to be saying something.

THE COUNTRY LIFE HOTEL, est. 1914

Kin Kin is just a stone's throw away from Noosa but they are worlds apart.

The drive to the hotel is beautifully scenic, especially in the late afternoon when the sun streaks through the bush shading the long, winding road to the village.

When you reach town, there's no missing the pub.

The Country Life Hotel stands like a landlocked lighthouse in the middle of a sea of green.

As I pulled up, a row of motor-cyclists rode off, leaving a trail of dust and smoke behind them.

When the dust settled, a man was leaning on the horse rail out front, and the roar of engines was slowly replaced by the voices coming from the bar.

It's hard to imagine water gushing though the windows as people ran for their lives, but in the infamous 2009 floods, that's exactly what happened.

After all its hardships, the hotel's survival is a testament to the perseverance and unrelenting Aussie spirit of not only the pub, but also the people of Kin Kin.

Anyone who has lived in Kin Kin has something to say about the tiny town's great big pub - some flattering, others a little less so.

"I thought it was a pit," 84-year-old Joyce Bain said.

Joyce said her husband seemed to have a love affair with the place in the '60s and she said she became quite the jealous spouse.

Glenda English laughed as her mother recalled her father's drinking habits: "I used to have to ride my bike down here at dinner time to tell him dinner was ready or he just wouldn't come back up to the house."

Gladys Bounds, also 84, used to work at the pub when she was 15, and ride her bike all the way from Cooran to get to work.

But that was almost a lifetime ago and now she said she "couldn't recognise half the place".

"Back then, the pub was no place for a woman," Joyce said, shaking her head.

It seems things have changed a lot, though, judging by the laughter coming from a toddler's birthday party on the table behind us.

Pete Kidd's son Ian is the publican of The Country Life Hotel.

Pete said Kin Kin would have nothing without the pub holding the community together.

"There's nowhere else to go," he said.

"This is a country pub. You've got to look out for the people's kids even more than you have to pour beers."

LANDSBOROUGH HOTEL, est. 1888

Possibly the Coast's oldest pub, the Landsborough Hotel, formerly the Mellum Club Hotel, was a pitstop for passengers of the Cobb & Co.

The Cobb & Co line developed in the heyday of the gold rush, creating a few resting stops from Brisbane to Gympie.

The pub was the centrepiece of the then Mellum Creek community and a haven for weary travellers headed to the goldfields farther north.

The pub opened its arms to the women and children headed to the Blackall Range and local workers in need of a calming coldie.

The charming colonial building is a Queensland classic, with a large outdoor deck to enjoy your beer and meals that they say allow you to "taste a bit of history".

Terry Morrow has been looking after the place for the past 14 years, and judging by the atmosphere, Landsborough residents and travellers alike think it's the place to be. You can hear the trains pull in at the local railway station across the road, and from where patrons sit in the public bar, they can easily be transported back to the days when the city boys came up from the big smoke to enjoy a cold country beer.

PALMWOODS HOTEL, est. 1912 and WOOMBYE PUB, est. 1900s

Not all pubs have decided to cling to the olden days, and although they appreciate their history, Palmwoods and Woombye hotels have decided to modernise their hinterland watering holes.

Their dining halls are packed with people any day or night of the week.

They've managed to put a modern spin on the hotels without taking away from the warm feeling you'd expect from a great Aussie pub.

Palmwoods had its 100th birthday this year, celebrating its historic past and the bright future of this family pub.

Rick and Terry Gizzard run the pub known for its mouth-watering meals and rumour has it the Palmy has the best steaks on the Sunshine Coast.

Woombye Pub is another golden oldie on the Coast but you wouldn't think so by looking at its polished and sleek interior design.

The pub's classic exterior, however, gives an inkling of a clue to the old girl's real age.

The classic Queenslander, like many of the Coast's pubs, has been around since the 1900s.

It was the designated Middle Camp depot for Cobb & Co passengers and happily hosted those on foot, horseback or coach.

After the Cobb mailing service stopped, things weren't looking too good for business, until Frederick Schubert stepped in during the 1880s.

Moving his family to the area would bring a fresh start to the community that would later be called Woombye.

Schubert bought the land for the Criterion Hotel in 1880, and that is where the Woombye Pub stands today.

Publican Neil Turner has managed to create the perfect mix of old and new by paying homage to the old Criterion and creating a unique contemporary character to reflect modern Woombye.

And it has built a reputation for world-class live music and great variety of ice cold beers.

>> Read more lifestyle stories.

Topics:  joes waterhole eumundi, pub



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