16 of the best pubs in regional Victoria

People enjoying eating and drinking on the waterfront at Metung Hotel

Tianna Nadalin

Posted June 21, 2021

Get your Sunday lunch on with our guide to the best country pubs in Victoria. 

The battle for 'best country pub' has long been raging in Victoria. And, while a winner is yet to be crowned when it comes to regional counter culture, there is no shortage of convivial taverns, historic hotels and inviting inns at which to enjoy a delicious meal, washed down with a dose of good old fashioned country hospitality. From Kilcunda to Castlemaine and Wandiligong to Wye River, we've poured through the state to bring you this guide to 16 epic country pubs, hotels, taverns and inns worthy of adding to your next regional Victoria roadtrip. 

The front of Craig's Royal Hotel lit up at dusk

Craig's Royal Hotel, Ballarat. Photo: Visit Victoria

16 of Victoria's best country pubs

1. Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine

With top-notch food, two pool tables and a sprawling beer garden, Castlemaine's The Bridge Hotel has some seriously enviable country pub vibes. Head chef Brunno Rocha has put a Brazilian spin on some Aussie pub staples, with the modern menu showcasing locally sourced ingredients. Hello, hand-crumbed chicken parma with smoked leg ham, jalapenos, house-made sugo and Meredith goat's feta. Head down on Friday, Saturday or Sundays for live music (or, if you're game, sign up for karaoke Wednesdays). There are even outdoor fire pits to keep you warm and cosy on the coldest of winter days.

2. Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat

There might be gold in them thar hills but, when it comes to hidden treasures, Craig's Royal Hotel in Ballarat is the real gem. The gleaming Lydiard St stunner was built in 1862 and, in its rich 150-year history, has played host to princes, poets, prime ministers and even prize-winning jockeys. Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, was one of its earliest celebrity guests, staying the night in 1867, while Dame Nellie Melba sang from its balcony in 1908. Now, after a five-year restoration project that has returned the magnificent Gold Rush-era pub to all its heritage glory, Craig's is a must-visit destination on any pub roadtrip.

3. Farmers Arms, Daylesford

It wouldn't be a list of must-visit regional pubs without mentioning Daylesford's iconic Farmers Arms Hotel, the town's oldest, and perhaps most beloved pubs. The charming watering hole was established in 1857 and has become a beacon for thirsty travellers looking for an authentic country pub experience. The sustainable, seasonal menu features a rotating list of local suppliers, while the drinks list is pouring with local drops. And with 18 wines by the glass,16 beers and ciders on tap and an extensive cellar, you can sip your way around the region without leaving the comfort of a well-worn chesterfield lounge chair.


The front of Maldon Hotel

Maldon Hotel. Photo: Visit Victoria

4. Bull and Mouth Hotel, Maryborough

If you’re a fan of early 20th century architecture, then the Edwardian Baroque stylings of Maryborough’s Bull and Mouth Hotel won’t disappoint. The imposing landmark opened on the site in 1855 and has remained a welcoming sanctuary for locals and holidaymakers alike ever since. The pub is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner but, if you're making the trek, head down for a hearty dinner and delight in house specialties including pan-fried pumpkin gnocchi tossed with burnt butter, slow-cooked duck, walnuts, apple, goat’s cheese and orange jus. Or keep it classic with one of their famous chicken schnittys.

5. Heathcote Inn

What’s better than spending a weekend in wine country? Having lunch at a charming inn in the middle of wine country. Heathcote Inn’s paddock-to-plate ethos showcases the abundance of gourmet artisans, organic farmers and world-class winemakers that call the region home. Wrap your tastebuds around their parmesan-crusted Western Plains pork served with sauteed apple, Drouin potatoes and Harcourt cider caramel, or the grilled Tara Valley scotch fillet washed down with a glass of warming Silver Spoon shiraz.

6. Maldon Hotel

When the National Trust of Australia declared Maldon the country’s ‘First Notable Town’ in 1966, it’s local pub gained instant notoriety, too. And deservedly so. The menu plays all the classic pub hits – like bangers and mash, house-made pot pies and open steak sangas (with lamb and beef sourced from a nearby biodynamic farm) – while a rotating selection of local and classic brews flows from the bar taps. The bustling Maldon Hotel is also home to the Maldon Blues Club, which hosts gigs every six weks, and entry will set you back less than a pint of your favourite amber nectar.

7. Inverleigh Hotel

Blink and you might miss the tiny town of Inverleigh. But you can’t miss the beautiful bluestone building that houses its namesake hotel. Situated on a leafy corner, just 20 minutes from Geelong on the Hamilton Highway, Inverleigh Hotel sets the benchmark for authentic country hospitality. It's got two beer gardens sheltered by towering peppercorn trees, giant outdoor games, a pool table and an open fire, as well as menu that features all your pub faves (and then a few more), making it worth the detour the next time you're hitting the Great Ocean Road.

The front of Hotel Sorrento

Hotel Sorrento. Photo: Visit Victoria

8. Mountain View Hotel, Wandiligong

When it comes to northern stars, the Wandi Pub shines bright. This laid-back Bright local is run by a couple of mates and that's exactly what dining there feels like. While the rambling beer garden might be blanketed with white powder during the ski season, there's plenty of room to relax, unwind and warm up inside. Whatever you do, don't miss honey and rosemary lamb snags with what could be the state's best mashed potato. And instead of dessert, opt for a coffee s'more instead. Because any cocktail that comes with a shot of espresso, Baileys, vodka, a chocolate ripple biscuit and a toasted marshmallow is a winner in our books. Heading up to the ski fields? There's even a shuttle service to get you to and from safely.

9. Wye Beach Hotel, Wye River

If brilliant beach views are more your style, look no further than the Wye Beach Hotel. Nestled into the cliff side overlooking the moody indigo hues of Wye Beach, the iyllic coastal pub is the ideal spot for seaside sips and post-surf feasts.

10. Hotel Sorrento

While the Continental Hotel and Portsea Pub have long lured Victorians to the Positano end of the Mornington Peninsula, over the past few years, Hotel Sorrento has become one of the region’s hottest cosmopolitan hangouts. Make no mistake, this is not your average coastal pub. The stately sandstone castle, which stands proudly atop the Sorrento clifftops as you round the bend into town, is old-world charm meets modern luxury, personified. With a sprawling rooftop terrace, award-winning restaurant and carefully-curated cocktail bars offers something for everyone.

11. Buchan Caves Hotel, Buchan

When the original Buchan Caves Hotel burned down in 2014, the local community rallied behind owners Marg and Greg Brick to get their local rebuilt and, after launching an online campaign in 2015, the Buchan Caves Hotel became the first crowd-funded pub in the world. Though the building is new, the pub’s rich history dates back to the 1800s, when it was a meeting point for tourists on their way and from the nearby limestone caves. Stop in for a parma – a house specialty.

People eating and drinking at the back of Marlo Hotel

Marlo Hotel. Photo: Visit Victoria

12. Metung Hotel

Sprawling outdoor verandah? Water views? Riverside dining? If you're after a pub that ticks all the boxes, look no further than the Metung Hotel. Situated on the shores of Bancroft Bay, in the heart of Gippsland Lakes – an intricate network of inland waterways – this relaxed waterfront bistro offers style and substance. The menu highlights regional produce, with fresh seafood one of the heroes. Try the panko crumbed scallops, seafood laska or prawn spaghetti, washed down with a glass of local Gippsland wine.

13. Criterion Hotel, Sale

The lakes district might be the last place you'd expect to find one of the Victoria's most impressive gastropubs. But Sale's stunningly refurbished Criterion Hotel is one of the state's best kept secrets. The Cri, as locals call it, was originally built in 1865 but, after closing in 2006 and falling into disrepair, it was purchased by a local developer who rebuilt the grand beauty from the ground up, including a complete restoration of the heritage-listed façade and veranda. It is now recognised as one of the largest intact nineteenth century hotels in Victoria. Take a seat at one of the refined booths and eat your way through a mouthwatering menu of the Gippsland food bowl's finest fare. 

14. Fish Creek Hotel

Behind the rendered white walls of this stately Art Deco building is a country pub of grand proportions. Built in 1939, the Fish Creek Hotel was bought by Gippsland brothers Simon and Terry Peavey in 2013, who treated the community hop temple to a fresh makeover, including restoring the iconic six-metre mullet sculpture by Venus Bay artist Colin Suggett that sits atop its roof to its fishiest glory. Fish Creek Hotel is the closest motel and bistro to the natural beauty of Wilson's Promontory, making it a great place to pull in for a pub lunch. There's a decent selection of local wines by the glass, while the kitchen is slinging handmade pasta, local porterhouse and platters of the finest Prom coast cheeses.

People having a drink at the front Ocean View Hotel

Ocean View Hotel, Kilcunda. Photo: Visit Victoria

15. Marlo Hotel

Perched on a hill overlooking the Snowy River and its estuaries, you'll find the Marlo Hotel. The humble beach pub has been keeping the fine folk of this friendly South Gippsland fishing village fed and watered for more than 120 years. The Marlo Hotel is a throwback to the laidback pub vibes of yesteryear, where friendly service and generous hospitality still reign supreme. Tuck into lime and chilli fried calamari, Pambula oysters or a Snowy River T-bone steak, while sipping on local craft beers and wines.

16. Ocean View Hotel, Kilcunda

The Kilcunda Ocean View Hotel is a pub to behold. From its sun-drenched front deck you can take in uninterupted views over the glistening ingido seas of Bass Strait crashing into stretches of rugged coastline and rolling hills. Add to that live music and a menu inspired by head chef Ivan Sanchez-Pirez' Cuban heritage and you've got yourself a real triple threat. Delectable house specialties include Argentinian-inspired barbecue chicken, Cuban-style pork ribs and a Havana pizza, as well as plenty of pub favourites. Take a seat by the fireplace in the lounge bar and enjoy local wines and craft beers on tap while being serenaded by local musicians as they croon away on the grand piano.

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