Everyone loves a good pub feed, a refreshing beer, or simply catching up with mates in a laid-back environment. Being able to head to the pub for a refreshing pint or a satisfying meal is one of Australia’s favourite past times, and Canberra’s no exception.
Canberra is home to countless amazing pubs, both in the CBDs and in the outer suburbs. There really is something for everyone, from busy and energetic venues to quieter local pubs, all of which provide our city with the priceless comfort of knowing there’s always a pub down the road.
Maybe you’re branching out from your local watering hole, or you’re visiting town and you want to know where to go. With so many options available to you, picking one can be tricky. That’s why we’ve put together a list of what makes a great pub, as well as a guide to a handful of the best pubs Canberra has to offer.
What makes a great pub?
Pubs are simple and laid-back, always with something for everyone to enjoy, but there’s a handful of things that can really make or break a pub. Here’s a few things you can look for in a truly great pub:
- Atmosphere. Whether it’s good décor, live music, sports on screens, a nice location or a friendly crowd, your enjoyment of the pub relies on a lot more than just good food and drink – you’ve got to feel good there too!
- Good food. Just because we call it “grub” doesn’t mean it can’t be high quality! No one wants a dry burger or greasy chips. Great pubs take pride in their menus, locally source their ingredients, and make sure that while their menu sticks to the classics, there’s still something for everyone.
- Good drinks. What’s a pub without its drinks? The best pubs in town are the ones with a wide range of quality wines, cheap prices on the house beverages, and an interesting selection of beers on tap and in bottles.
- Family friendly. The pub is a great place to take the kids on the weekend if you don’t feel like cooking, and a great pub will be able to cater to your childrens’ needs, perhaps by offering colouring books and games to distract them, or by having a kids’ section on the menu to keep them satisfied.
The best pubs in Canberra
Riotact’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on Riotact and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Cornerstone CBR, or “Gungahlin’s Pub,” is an excellent place to settle in for a beer and some classic pub grub if you’re up the top end of town. With regular specials and a featured cocktail of the week, as well as being one of the best places in town to watch live sports, Cornerstone brings energy, enthusiasm and quality to their service and makes sure you’re leaving impatient for your next visit.
As ‘Local Guide’ Tycho Petrie writes in their Google review, “Absolutely great place. Great food and well-priced. The food was quickly ready, and the general vibe of the place was perfect.”
The Old Canberra Inn is a quaint, family-friendly local with hearty pub meals, rotating Australian craft beer on tap, carefully selected wines and spirits, great live music and other entertainment. A living piece of Australian history, built in 1857, The Inn guarantees good vibes.
The cocktail list is exciting, and wines cover sparkling, white, rose and red. Beers on tap rotate. Non-alcoholic beverages are popular.
The Old Canberra Inn sources locally ingredients and the menu features something for everyone. Small plates include hand cut chips, chicken wings and sausage rolls. House specials are delicious. Big plates feature juicy steaks, yum schnitzels and beer battered fresh fish. The line-up of burgers is impressive, and each comes with chips or salad. Vegetarians are well catered for throughout the menu and all meals on the kiddies menu come with a fun ice cream sundae for dessert.
Entertainment is fun and weekly events include Jackpot Joker and Trivia nights.
The Old Canberra Inn also caters for functions. Choose The Schumack Room, a sunny indoor/outdoor area drenched in wisteria and surrounded by established gardens. The Kookaburra Room accesses the adjoining beer garden for alfresco moonlight cocktails and starlight beers. This smaller area is ideal for intimate dinner functions.
The Old Canberra Inn is family friendly, and pet dogs are welcome.
Matt Dent on Google wrote, “This place has an awesome vibe ... Super blast from the colonial past. Awesome live music, craft beers on tap. Plenty of space. Shade and cool breezes in summer and super warm fires in winter.”
The Dickson Taphouse is a classic corner pub with something for everyone. In the heart of Dickson on Wooley Street – where all the action is – the Dickson Taphouse offers great beer, tasty food, a friendly, warm décor, and live music and events. Guests can also shoot a game of pool or play darts.
Sit at the bar or cosy up in the lounge area or in a comfy booth. The Dickson Taphouse has over 100 beers to choose from and rotating local craft beers on tap which means every taste is catered for. Also on the drinks menu are plenty of quality wines and creative cocktails.
At the Dickson Taphouse, guests can book into the restaurant for quality pub snacks, including marinated olives, fries, meatballs, wings and more. The line up of main meals, some with their own gourmet twist, include burgers, fish and chips, and steak. Pastas are all made in-house and are egg free. Choose a type of pasta and then choose a sauce.
Fun special events include Trivia Night and daily Happy Hour. Weekly specials include a two-for-one pasta night. Live music Fridays and Saturdays feature local musicians.
The Dickson Taphouse is also available for function bookings, and has designed a special functions menu. Drink packages are available.
Simon Hamilton wrote on Google, “Great food and beer. New and interesting meal options added to the regular menu every week. Same with the beer ...”
The Alby, which spans close to 1,000 square metres, is Woden’s largest local—for dining, enjoying a drink, great food and fun games.
On the ground floor of the Albemarle Building off Furzer Street, The Alby was designed by Capezio Copeland and developed by DOMA.
Spaces include Bar Dining, a Beer Garden, and a Game’s Basement
The Alby’s Bar Dining space encompasses a bar, mix of low and high-top tables and a Chef’s Table, catering to any style of function. The central fireplace allows the bar and dining areas to be split, catering for smaller groups or creating a semi-private space without losing the bar atmosphere. The Chef’s Table brings guests together on one large table for a shared dining experience.
At The Alby, the expansive open-air Beer Garden is perfect for sunny afternoons and warm evenings.
Reminiscent of a traditional pub, The Basement is complete with timber ceilings. Three 85-inch tvs showcase sports and this space features Australia’s first Duckpin Bowling, as well as pool tables and pinball machines. The bar menu features snacks, nachos, tacos and burgers.
Check out the ‘What’s on’ section of The Alby’s website for the latest happenings. Gift cards are available.
On Google, Rohan Fuhrman wrote, “Great to see more decent pubs opening in the Woden area and livening the place up. This has a great outdoor seating area for the warmer weather, but also has a cool downstairs sports bar with pool table, modified bowling alley and pinball machines ... has a great friendly vibe. Will definitely be back.”
The Kingston Hotel, affectionately known as ‘The Kingo’, is one of the capital’s original watering hotels. With heritage rustic charm and an elegant, homely interior, The Kingo offers boutique beers on tap, live sports, well-priced food and a friendly environment. Enjoy two lively bars, two bistros and a huge outdoor garden seating area.
On Google, Paul Isaks wrote, “Great pub atmosphere. Private room available for group functions, which also doubles as part of the restaurant dining room. Excellent smart pub food.”
If you’re looking for more relaxed dining options in Canberra, you might like our article on the best gastro pubs, the best steakhouses and the best bistros Canberra has to offer. For more sparkle our articles on the best restaurants and the best fine dining in Canberra may help. And, should you fancy a tipple perhaps the best cocktail bars or the best wine bars may also be of interest.
Your experience with pubs in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you been to any of the pubs listed above? Did we miss your favourite pub in town? Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Canberran pubs dog-friendly?
As long as there is outdoor seating other than an internal courtyard or beer garden, the majority of Canberra pubs are dog-friendly, as long as you keep your furry friend on a leash and they don't cause too much of a bother for other guests!
Can I watch pay-per-view sports at pubs?
Yes, but not all! While almost every pub will have sports playing on a TV somewhere, it's usually the free channels that everyone has access to. However, there are some pubs in Canberra will play pay-per-view sports regularly, so keep an eye out for those!
Can I bring my kids to the pub?
Absolutely! Pubs are generally very family-friendly places - there's comfy seating, great food (often with a kids' menu), and since pubs anticipate that people will bring children, they often have colouring books and games on hand to keep your little ones occupied.
What is craft beer?
Craft beer comes from smaller, independently owned breweries, who brew smaller quantities of beer and allow themselves to experiment with flavours and brewing techniques in ways that larger beer companies can't.
Can pubs serve cocktails?
All pubs stock spirits as well as beer and wine, so yes, they can do cocktails. However, pubs tend to prioritise beer over cocktails, so if you're looking for a good cocktail then you should probably look around for a cocktail bar instead!