City of Pubs

Trail curated by: The Adelaide City Explorer Team

Adelaide has often been described as a city of churches. In reality, the city has always had just as many places to buy alcohol as places of worship. In the colonial period, hotels - often known as "pubs" after the British "public house" - dotted the city, often on prominent street corners.

In the Adelaide City square mile alone, there are more than 70 current or former hotel sites. Over the years, their names, owners and customers have changed many times, but our colonial historical hotel buildings remain an important part of the social fabric and architectural heritage of the city.

Particularly in the colonial period before 1901, Adelaide’s hotels were the focal point of business and social life. In the boom years from the 1860s to the 1880s, new hotel buildings sprang up all over the city. Among them were the gracious Botanic Hotel on the corner of North and East Terrace, and the imposing General Havelock on Hutt Street.

During that time, many of the existing pubs were torn down and replaced with larger, grander structures. Very few of the simple watering holes from the earliest days of the colony remain in their original form. The Beresford Arms is one exception.

One of the great legacies of the boom period is that many of the pubs built then can still be enjoyed today. Their distinctive design and decorative verandas and balconies have endured, and they still provide a welcoming stopover for thirsty city explorers.

Take this trail to discover the charms of Adelaide’s hotel buildings and pub culture for yourself. All but one of the hotels on this trail are still open for business, so there’s plenty to enjoy! The Beresford Arms ceased operating as a hotel in 1861 but is still interesting to visit to see the recent conservation work that has restored the building to its original 1840's appearance.

Locations for Trail

Opposite the entrance to Adelaide’s fine Botanic Gardens, on the corner of North and East Terrace, stands the elegant Botanic Hotel. The architecture and Italianate style of the Botanic Hotel has been compared to a tiered wedding cake. The hotel…

This corner landmark is one of the city’s oldest hotels and a notable feature of both East Terrace and Rundle Street. The Stag has been on this site since 1849, when it was first licensed by George Taylor. In its early years, the Stag was the site…

Like so many of Adelaide’s heritage hotels, the Exeter has seen a number of makeovers since it opened on this site in 1851. The hotel we see today was rebuilt here in 1888- rumour had it due to competition from the nearby Tavistock Hotel. The…

The Austral Hotel and adjacent shops a complex unique on Rundle Street for its size and composition. In 1880, architect William McMinn was commissioned to design 14 shops and a hotel covering almost two town acres. The complex was established for the…

The former Woodman’s Inn is easy to find due to its distinctive timber decoration. It is a now rare example of the Queen Anne style popular at the time of Australian Federation in 1901. However, the site's history and the hotel's name date from…

The site of the current Tivoli Hotel has been an entertainment and meeting place since 1846. In its 170 year history, it has hosted music, public meetings, theatrical performances and pub rock icons. The hotel’s development followed the growing…

The General Havelock is a typical example of Adelaide’s commercial buildings from the 1870s. Built in 1873, the hotel was originally quite severe, without verandahs or balconies. These were probably added in 1887, when plans for alterations were…

The Arab Steed is one of the first hotels in the southeast corner of the city, and since September 1849 there has been a hotel named the ‘Arab Steed’ on this site. The first, like many early colonial businesses, appears to have been a…

This former hotel is one of the city’s most important and precious heritage sites despite its humble appearance. The simple structure was built in 1839, just two years after Colonel William Light first laid out the city. The hotel is named Viscount…

Sketches of the original Rob Roy Hotel date back to 1850. It was first licensed by Robert Peter ten years earlier in 1840, making it second only to the Queen’s Head in North Adelaide as the longest continuously operating hotel in Adelaide. The…

The Earl of Aberdeen Hotel, built in 1879-80, is an important part of Adelaide's original network of corner pubs. It shows the features of two different periods: a simple 19th Century style in the original part and a more elaborate 20th Century…

Like many other Adelaide hotels, this one in its present version dates from the 1880s, even though a hotel of this name stood on the site from 1857. The western half of the hotel dates from that earlier beginning. In 1880-1881, Joseph Orchard, the…
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