Meet You At The Local
Scenic Rim Historic Pub Trails
SINCE the rise of the corporate pub it’s become harder to find old style country pubs.
But that’s not the case in the Scenic Rim, which is home to a number of traditional Aussie pubs which serve up generous helpings of charm, cold beer and old-fashioned hearty pub meals.
18 Kidston St, Canungra
THE Canungra Hotel started life in 1916 as the Bellissima Guest House. Sawmill owner Robert Lahey built what was considered to be one of the finest hotels in the state, principally to offer accommodation to the travelling businessmen who were in Canungra to service his sawmill. The hotel was named after the ship which brought Lahey and his family to Australia from Ireland.
It had its own electrical plant, water system and septic. The first license was granted to Bernhard William Conaghan in 1928.
After the Bellissima was licensed a bar was built beside it.
The guest house was destroyed by fire on January 22, 1937 and the Canungra Hotel was built in its place by owner Mr Shaw of Sydney. The new pub was opened by new licensee, Mrs Keating on October 9, 1937.
The pub is now popular with passing tourists and locals alike. It is a family-friendly pub, and features a games room for children.
St Bernard’s Hotel
101 Alpine Terrace, Mount Tamborine
ST Bernard’s Hotel was built by Robert Muir in 1881 on the site of the present council quarry as an accommodation house for its managers and staff. Muir bought almost 2000 acres of heavy scrubland at the top of the southern end of Tamborine Mountain, with the intention of growing sugar cane on the cleared land. But Mr Muir was drowned in the flooded Logan River at Yatala in 1887.
The new owners started a village settlement and moved St Bernard’s to its present site in 1898. Over the years St Bernard’s has had many roles, including post office receiving centre. In 1915 it was licensed and during the 1920s St Bernard’s was used as a convalescent Private Hotel and accommodation house for up to 100 guests.
Today St Bernard’s offers visitors a country home-style atmosphere with the warm ambience you’d expect to find in a country pub. Sit under the pub’s 100-year-old trees and take in the coastal views.
Corner of Mt Lindesay Highway and Collins St
07 5544 1121
Lorraine and Barry MacFarlane have owned the Rathdowney Hotel/Motel for the past five years and in that time Lorraine has spent many hours trying to establish the pub’s history.
Despite her efforts Lorraine says it has been very difficult to secure detailed information about the pub’s early years.
Early newspaper clippings suggest the pub was nearing completion in 1910 and the first license was issued to Frank Stretton around that time. His wife Bridget Stretton was listed as the licensee in 1913.
As well as serving meals and drinks the Rathdowney Hotel has six units in which accommodation is provided to visitors.
In 2010 the MacFarlane’s plan to celebrate the pub’s 100th year, along with the rest of Rathdowney.
Australian Hotel, Boonah
32 High St,
Boonah QLD 4310
07 5463 1444
THE Australian Hotel, which Boonah locals affectionately call the Aussie, is thought to be the town’s first pub.
It was built on its existing High Street site in 1888 and was established by the Blumberg family and opened under the management of Mr FW Wilkins, who had ‘considerable experience as a publican in California and elsewhere, and as he is about to erect a billiard room and there is excellent shooting in the vicinity, no doubt his entrepreneurship will be well rewarded’ (QT 18 April, 1889).
However Mr Wilkins’ tenure was not long-lived and in 1890 Adolph Blumberg took over the hotel. Later the hotel was run by Mrs Elizabeth Blumberg, widow of Levi.
In 1893 the pub survived an arson attempt. On 24 November, 1893 the Brisbane Courier reported that Boonah’s first policeman, Senior Constable Dunn noticed a flash of light as he returned from his stables to the station about 3am.
He looked towards the Australian Hotel and noticed the front of the building was ablaze.
The fire was extinguished using blankets and water and a volunteer firefighter found that the verandah had been doused with kerosene. So much kerosene had been used that it had run under the building where the stumps were well alight.
The pub survived the attempt and in the 1940s a dining room was added, along with a gentlemen’s room.
Current lessee Brenda McGarrity says judging by photographs from the pub’s early days it was quite an upmarket establishment, furnished in beautiful hand-carved timber furniture.
A photograph in the Boonah Archives shows a group of well-dressed men sitting on the balcony of the Australian Hotel being given a demonstration in the new phonograph machine. The picture is thought to have been taken around 1905.
Brenda, who runs the pub with husband Michael, says it’s a very friendly and welcoming pub.
Visitors to the pub will receive a lesson in Australian politics, care of resident political animal Michael.
He’s hung photographs of all of the Australian Prime Ministers on the walls.
The pub has starred in a feature film, alongside Aussie actor William McInnes, and Brenda says overnight guests may come face to face with the pub’s resident ghost.
But have no fear, she’s very friendly.
“She’s only about 23, I’ve tried to find out how she died,” says Brenda.
“Quite a few people have seen her. She’s good, she’s happy and she’s not scary.
“There’s a terrific feel to this old pub, there’s something nurturing about these old buildings.”
Commercial Hotel, Boonah
39 High St, Boonah
BOONAH’S ornate Commercial Hotel was built on its present site in 1904. Before it was built, the site was home to the Royal Exchange Hotel (formerly the Dugandan Hotel).
According to the Fassifern Guardian the owner of the former Royal Exchange, JC Streiner, had been leasing the hotel out since 1887 and had tried to sell it in 1890.
His lessees didn’t stay for long and by the turn of the century the facilities were said to be out of date and suffering under the stiff competition put up by the Australian Hotel and Simon’s Hotel. It is believed that when Robert Denner took up the license in 1904, Streiner was already planning a grand new building.
However his plans suffered a blow when Denner was jailed on suspicion of murder in May 1904, for shooting one of the pub’s patrons.
According to newspaper reports from 1904 the incident happened on the evening of May 2, after closing time.
‘Many men were in high spirits and were still roaming the streets,’ writes the Fassifern Guardian.
“The circus was in town, using the grounds of the Royal Exchange to set up their tents and to stage their entertainments.
“Robert and Elisabeth Denner had retired to bed, as had their young son George.”
At midnight John O’Brien and two of his brothers and a group of other men knocked on the front door and yell to be served. Elisabeth asked them to leave but was unsuccessful. When Robert heard his wife yell: ‘Robert, Robert! Murder, murder!’ he grabbed his loaded shotgun and rang to her aid. He saw O’Brien with his hands around her neck. One barrel of the gun was discharged into the ceiling and then Robert tucked the gun under his arm. During a scuffle the fun went off and O’Brien apparently said: ‘Good God, I’m shot.’
But Denner denied hearing anything being said and so locked up the pub and went to bed. It was only when his son told him he could hear O’Brien moaning that he asked for the police to be called. O’Brien was taken to hospital where he died. Denner was taken to prison.
A Supreme Court judge sentenced him to five years hard labour, regretting that he could not deal with the case more leniently ‘in account of the provocation received’.
Later newspaper articles referred to ‘moves afoot’ to have the sentence reduced.
These days the Commercial Hotel is owned by Sally and Noel Summers, who bought the pub 24 years ago and have since undertaken extensive renovations and extensions.
When they first bought the pub it still featured the famous ‘blue room’, a small room where locals would play cards.
These days it features a public bar, restaurant, accommodation, poker machines, TAB, keno and drive-through liquor barn.
Corner of Rathdowney and Mt French Roads, Boonah
07 5463 1048
MUCH conjecture surrounds the history of the Dugandan Hotel. In some circles it is believed to be Boonah’s oldest pub building, built by the Stumer family in 1886. However those who subscribe to this argument say it is not the area’s oldest pub, due to it starting life as a general store, before being transformed into a hotel in the early 1900s.
However an article published in the Fassifern Guardian in 2006 argues that the Dugandan Hotel was actually a new building, commissioned by the Goan Family, and constructed to replace the Stumer store.
An article in the October 9, 1909 edition of the Fassifern Guardian says: ‘Mr Goan’s fine new hotel at Dugandan is now almost completed and it is expected that everything will be in readiness for opening business on or about the 27th.’
Later in the month the Guardian reported: ‘The new hotel at Dugandan is now completed. We were shown over the building yesterday by the builder, Mr Vincent, and were impressed with the thorough workmanship put into its construction. Now that the structure is complete to all outward appearance it looks quite an architectural acquisition.”
The article went onto outline the features of the hotel, which included accommodation, a cellar and water tanks to ensure cool liquor, a kitchen and servants’ rooms.
These days the Dugandan Hotel, or the Dugie as it’s affectionately known by locals, is run by publicans Winnie and Gary Parker. They’ve been behind the bar for the past six years and pride themselves on running a true iconic country pub.
“The Courier Mail called us an iconic Australian country hotel,” says Winnie.
“We haven’t revamped the hotel, it’s in keeping with the country style.
“We offer hearty pub meals, home-made rissoles and steaks.”
Simon’s Tavern, Boonah
High Street, Boonah
(07) 5463 1007
THE Simon’s Tavern which stands in Boonah’s High Street looks nothing like the ornate hotel which first opened its doors on the site in 1902.
Carl Gustav Simon was the original developer and owner and Simon’s Tavern. A Fassifern Guardian story suggests the pub was the result of a German Lottery win for Simon and his two friends.
The trio shared the winning 2000 pound windfall and Gustav Simon decided to use his new fortune to build an impressive two-storey hotel beside his existing saddler building. He engaged local architect, Edward de Saluz Kretshmer to design the building. By 1902 it was open for business.
A story in the Fassifern Advocate on September 13 said: “Would you find a second hotel in Queensland that could compare with this; with its paneled walls in all rooms and passages throughout the whole building? An hotel which, besides the bar, can boast of 30 lofty and well-ventilated rooms, and where the proprietor, standing inside the bar, can overlook the front and back entrance, and at the same time can see through the doors of six rooms and conveniently serve at three bar tables.
“As to the outside appearance of the hotel, those who have seen the freshmen kiosk of Mr Muling in the Brisbane gardens, or the mansion of the Royal Bank, Gladstone Road, South Brisbane, and even the German Hotel at Woolloongabba, will be able to form an idea as to its lofty and elegant forms.”
However despite winning the lottery, Gustav was apparently nearly bankrupted by the cost of building the large ornate hotel. One local historian says Gustav’s finances were so tight that he was forced to wear a shop-bought suit to the opening. It was only that his friend and successful local businessman, Charlie Behrendorff agreed to lend him money, that Gustav was able to finish the southern weatherboard wall of his hotel in Crows Ash weatherboards.
Gustav Simon died on April 11, 1905.
The original Simon’s Tavern burned down and was replaced by the current building in the 1970s.
Mt Alford Hotel
901 Reckumpilla St, Mt Alford.
THERE are many stories about the origins of the Mt Alford Hotel.
Publican David Cushway has spent the past three years since arriving to the pub trying to separate fact from fiction.
He says some locals claim the original Mt Alford Hotel was built up the road on another site. Others say the existing pub is built on the original site.
The very first Mt Alford Hotel was lost to fire and was replaced by the current building about 80 years ago. However in the mid 1970s the then owner decided to give the heritage pub a ‘face-lift’ and bricked into the timber façade to ‘modernise’ the building.
While the outside of the pub reveals little about its heritage, inside it’s a different story.
David says the original VJ timber boards and ceilings are still on display, as are parts of the original pub bar. He and his wife Robyn have also invested much time in sourcing as much local memorabilia as possible and it is now displayed throughout the pub and restaurant.
“Our motto is ‘It’s ugly but it’s friendly,’” says David.
“That’s what we find. Once people get inside they get a totally different feel for it.”
Meals are served six days a week at lunch-time and on weekends. ‘Pub grub’ is served at night mid-week.
Historic Rosevale Retreat Hotel
903 Rosevale Rd, Rosevale
THE historic Rosevale Retreat Hotel is a living reminder of a by-gone era. It was built in 1852 as a homestead and liquor was readily available to travelers. The earliest records indicate that a license was granted to Matthew Carmody in 1887.
The hotel was built before there were formed roads, electricity, phones and motor vehicles. It was built on the banks of Black Gully Creek, just one mile from its present site. It was moved in 1893, the year of the great flood, which saw most of the Rosevale area wash with water.
The move took five years to plan and exact, and in 1898 two bullock teams were able to move the pub. Two teams of 14 large shorthorn bullocks were used for the move, which was led by Sam Denman and Mr N Bails. The building was placed on the back of four long-haul wagons and the bullocks were yoked in tandem. The move took five days to complete and during that time the Hotel continued trading.
Shaded by its century-old English Elms, the hotel remains a living museum to the past.
Royal Hotel, Kalbar
66 Edward St, Kalbar
THE Royal Hotel at Kalbar dates back to 1900 but has recently undergone significant renovations which have brought it into the 21st century.
The pub’s owner-operators Tim and Rosie Stanford have retained the Royal’s country charm, while introducing modern comforts such as a large open-air dining space.
Tim says the original pub featured about 15 small single rooms which used to house men working in the area on potato farms.
The couple bought the pub in 2007 from Dorothy Graham, who with husband Victor had owned it since 1973.
The pub’s restaurant is popular with locals and visitors alike.
Royal Hotel, Harrisville
1 Queen St, Harrisville
HARRISVILLE’S first Royal Hotel was built 134 years ago, but this original building burned down in the late 1900s. A local house was shipped in to replace it and was opened as a hotel. But half of that building later burned down and had to be rebuilt and still stands today, welcoming tourists and locals with a cold beer.
The first publicans were the Dunns and Jackwitz, who was also the local blacksmith.
The pub serviced the local cotton and beef industries and was one of three pubs in this small but busy town.
The Royal is now owned by the Kallistos family and is run by publicans Gary and Alison Summers.
Meals are served seven days a week.
Allison says the pub is home to seven ghosts, which legend has it were killed in one of the pub’s fires.
Commercial Hotel, Harrisville
30-32 Queen St, Harrisville
Harrisville’s Commercial Hotel is known as ‘the top pub’ by locals, and was built in the early 1900s. Lessee, Graham Kent, says the pub serves meals seven days a week, and offers accommodation to visitors as well.
Peak Crossing Pub
15 Fassifern St, Peak Crossing
Like so many of the Scenic Rim’s historic pubs, the modern-day Peak Crossing pub isn’t the building which was first constructed in the early 1900s. That first building burned down some years ago and was replaced by the more modern establishment in the 1970s. That said the Peak Pub still oozes country charm, if not from the architecture, definitely from the publicans and the locals who drink and dine there.
The Peak Pub was recently awarded the prize for serving up Ipswich’s best steak.
Publican Sherie Briggs says the large rump steak served with chips and vegetables for $24 was representative of the value for money offered by the pub.
The Peak Pub has long been popular with locals and visitors alike.
Photographs and news clippings hung throughout the pub reveal the good times had by pub-goers over the years.
When the train line used to pass by the pub it was common for travellers to hop off at the pub, have a session, before rejoining the train and continuing on to Ipswich.
Another tale told by locals is that the patrons of years gone by would sit on the front verandah, drink their fill of scotch and wait for the local dentist to come and pull any troublesome teeth.
Thankfully this service is no longer offered by the pub or the local dentist.