TOP PUBS: Your ultimate guide to CQ watering holes
ONE thing is for sure, we're spoiled for choice when it comes to great pubs in the Mackay region.
From a haunted hotel in the middle of the bush, to a waterfront beach bar constructed of decommissioned boats, just north of us in Airlie Beach, we've got a bit of everything.
The pubs of our region are where families share a meal, where miners and mill workers gather to drink away a hard day's work - where we look to have a quiet one and relax with our mates.
They are the destinations where day-trippers escape to find a change of scenery. They are the meeting places of community organisations and clubs, where funds are raised and sporting clubs are supported.
Many of these pubs act as hubs of small townships or communities. They've been built up into successful businesses by hard-working publicans with compelling stories and backgrounds. They're supported by the locals who frequent them.
Visiting these drinking spots is an excellent way to get a taste of the region. Take in the mystical views at Eungella, or stop for a hearty meal after a day of watersports at Kinchant Dam. Meet the lovely couples who are running some of the more remote destinations, or stay in town and enjoy some nightlife from the rooftop bar.
Enjoy the tour of some of the most interesting spots for a cold one in the region and start planning your very own pub tour today.
Bowls Club A Local Hub
THE Seaforth Bowls Club is the community hub for the tiny beachside town of Seaforth.
"It's a relaxed and family-oriented setting," club manager Darran Boswell said.
"One of the club's most popular events is its annual Family Fun Day, a day of free family-friendly activities. Face painting, inflatable water slides, cent sales and live entertainment have filled the bill in prior years.
"It's a chance for the club to thank local families that support us all year."
The recently erected Men's Shed also resides on site. Built with a government grant, it's been a huge asset to the community.
A bowls club wouldn't be a bowls club without lawn bowls events. Regular carnivals, juniors , ladies and social bowls are on the weekly schedule. All abilities and ages are welcome.
Grey nomads find their way to the club, as Seaforth is a popular caravanning destination. It's quickly become a place of respite for the weary traveller to grab a cold drink and a meal.
Mr Boswell said the club's menu was set for an update in the near future. Healthier menu options and local produce will be the focus.
Pub Enjoys Revival
TINA and Jason Beazley became the lessees of the Middlemount Pub in 2016.
Just prior to that the Beazleys were running a pub in Cobar, New South Wales, and were ready for a change.
"Every little town needs a country pub," Tina Beazley said.
Her favourite part about running a country pub is the community spirit and at the end of the day, it's a good social life.
However, it is not without its challenges.
"Once a pub shuts its doors on its locals it can be hard to regain the community's trust.
"You have to lure people back with great service. Making the pub family-friendly and creating a relaxed atmosphere also helps," she said.
The Middlemount Pub has been revitalised and is now the vibrant hub of the sleepy town.
Next time you find yourself out in Middlemount be sure to drop in for a crumbed steak or a chicken parmy, they're the house specialities.
View Is A Hole In One
RECOGNISED as one of the top courses in the region, the 18-hole course at Moranbah Golf Club is not only challenging but picturesque.
General manager Rochelle Brunker said, We 100per cent have the best view in all of Moranbah. It's spectacular.
Founded in 1971, the club has hosted several professional, amateur and charity events over the years.
"We're open to men and women of all ability and ages and all of the equipment you would need to play a game of golf is available for hire. We only charge green fees," Ms Brunker said.
"Often mining workers will take up golf after moving to Moranbah. Because of that it is important the club remain inclusive for all to enjoy."
The club is available to cater for a range of different functions and events. The amazing view has made it a popular wedding venue.
The club is all-inclusive when it comes to weddings, too. Ms Brunker was proud to say they had recently hosted their first same-sex wedding.
If you're after a meal or a snack, the on-site restaurant, Woods and Irons offers fresh and delicious food daily.
For more information on functions and events, such as the John Allen Memorial Golf Day, visit: moranbahgolfclub.com
Love Is In The Air At Eungella
FIRST opened in 1934 as a repatriation lodge for asthmatics, the Eungella Chalet's location still provides fresh air and cool weather.
"The highlight of working at the Chalet is the weather. It's always 5 degrees cooler up here," manager Tess Ford said.
Fresh air paired with the mystical view of the Pioneer Valley attracts day-trippers and tourists from all over.
In its early days the Chalet, was a popular honeymoon spot for Mackay locals. This has sparked bookings for milestone anniversary celebrations.
"One couple in particular recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary here. They had honeymooned at the Chalet and she still had her original dress and invitations, which we set up at the party," Ms Ford said.
The Chalet is still attracting romantic visits, especially during the winter months when the weather is ideal for cuddling up near the fireplace in one of their ten private cabins.
Eungella Chalet isn't only for lovers. It s a family-friendly place to come grab a bite to eat, enjoy the view and if you drop in on a Sunday arvo, live music will be your soundtrack.
The crumb steaks go fast and there is an extensive gluten-free menu available. Hot coffees and cold beers are always available, too.
Couple Revived Local Pub
BUILT and opened in 1906, the Criterion Hotel at Finch Hatton was established to feed hungry mill workers at the Cattle Creek Sugar Mill.
The pub enjoyed success for many decades, due to the mill and the railway being built in its vicinity.
In 2011 the pub was struggling to stay afloat and required some committed owners to get it back on its feet. That's when Karen and Bob Collier purchased the hotel and put some life back into the local watering hole.
Married for 45 years, the Colliers have managed a couple of successful businesses together and they were more than equipped to take on the challenge.
Mr Collier operates the front of the house from behind the bar and Karen is at the back of the house, driving the helm from the kitchen.
It's not your average country pub kitchen, either. Mrs Collier described the food as, more a la carte than country pub.
With plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian options, there's something for everyone. The food is so popular, they do a lot of outside catering.
The Criterion also offers accommodation, but be warned, room 8 is known to be inhabited by a cheeky ghost.
Best Dam Pub In Valley
LOCATED 41km west of Mackay in the Pioneer Valley, the Kinchant Waters Pub overlooks the Kinchant Dam.
Lessee Sharon King is two years into managing the pub and said the highlight of running a country pub like Kinchant Waters was the people.
"The small local crew we get here all the time have become like family. We also get a lot of campervan tourists that return for visits," Ms King said.
Not long ago Ms King's partner Adam Chivers joined her in running the pub.
It's been a good fit, she does all the book keeping and he does handiwork and maintenance. "We're a good partnership, surprisingly," she laughed.
They have decided its something they want to continue doing together for many years to come.
According to her, the favourite item on the menu is the chicken parmy and said, "People are always surprised we have oysters and that they are so big."
With a relaxing vibe and a great view of the dam it's the perfect place to unwind with mates after a day on the water.
Just watch out for Dollar the goose, who has been known to judge patrons on arrival. You may get a honk or a hug, depending on his mood.
Open for lunch 7 days a week from midday-2pm. Open for dinner, Wednesday-Saturday from 6-8pm.
Loved By The Locals
A LITTLE more than two years ago, Tina and Jason Buzz Beazley became the new owners of the Mirani Hotel.
They came across the hotel while driving up to Eungella and thought it was a great location.
"A family member had just bought a block out that way, and we just saw it and couldn't believe it was shut," Mr Beazley said.
"I said to my cousin 'if we buy it will you help us run it?' and we went from there."
Mirani Hotel is a traditional country pub, filled with locals, laughs and great food.
One weekly event that draws in a crowd is the Monday night Texas Hold'em poker competition, which starts at 7.30pm.
Follow Mirani Hotel on Facebook for daily specials and event notifications.
Authentic Aussie Local
PUBLICANS Rowena and Ray Colgrave have owned the Koumala Pub for the past three years. Mr Colgrave left the mining industry not long ago and purchased a cattle property in the district. Together they run both businesses.
"The running joke is that we go from cows--t to bulls--t," Mrs Colgrave said.
She comes from a family of publicans and was practically raised in the Eton Hotel, which her parents managed when she was a girl. Becoming a publican in a one-pub town had always been what she was drawn to.
Mrs Colgrave said she preferred seeing the same local faces day in and day out, than a random face you may never see again.
This particular pub acts as a place to meet and discuss the cane and mining industries.
She said she's learnt more about the two standing behind the bar these past three years than in her entire life.
"Locals congregate and share their days and I get to take it all in," Mrs Colgrave said.
It's not just locals who make their way into the pub, though.
"We do get a lot of tourists showing up, as we are along the Bruce Highway and they've heard it's a great place to stop," she said.
There are no gaming facilities at the pub and because of that the locals often joke that they are forced to chat with each other because there are no screens to stare at.
"Tourists will often show up and a few minutes later they'll be deep into a marvellous conversation with a local," she said.
Of course there is the infamous crab wall, well what has now become an all-sorts wall. A wall full of prize-winning catches from the decades.
"People like to come in and take photos in front of the wall - it's definitely not your average pub, but its got charm and is worth a visit when in the area," Mrs Colgrave said.
"It's just a really authentic Australian country pub, that's why I love it here."
City sleek at Capella
IN THE centre of the Central Highlands you'll find the township of Capella.
It is a community based around coal mining and the agricultural industry, which offers a great lifestyle and business opportunities.
It's also where you will find the Capella Hotel, a country pub with flair.
Current owners Barbara and Donald Carne purchased the hotel in 2004 and have completed extensive renovations over time in an effort to update the hotel to its current sleek, 'city vibe'.
"Some people reckon we've brought a bit of the city to the bush," Mr Carne said.
Budget to motel-style rooms are available to suit the needs of a range of travellers.
The Carnes pride themselves on their personalised country service and their well-trained staff will make sure you are comfortable during your stay.
"Good service that's second-to-none is what keeps us in business," he said.
The family-friendly restaurant offers a range of items. Highlights include their $12 rump steak served with salad or vegies.
The kids menu and play area will keep the little ones happy, while parents can relax and enjoy a cold beer.
For more information about the Capella Hotel Motel visit capellahotel.com.au.
Committed To Community
ASHLEY DOWD relocated from NSW to Moranbah 10 years ago to take up the position of general manager at Moranbah Workers Club and he's happy he did.
"The schools, the social environment and the family-friendliness of the town," Mr Dowd said were all reasons he remained in Moranbah.
The club plays a big part in the small mining community of Moranbah and its focus is to support families.
Since 2013 the club had donated more than $600,000 to local clubs and organisations through its Community Partnerships Program.
The Community Partnerships Program awards sponsorship money to clubs through an application process.
Some groups who have received major sponsorship include the Moranbah Squash and Volleyball Club, Moranbah Bowls Club, Moranbah Golf Club, the Annual Memorial Charity Golf Day and Moranbah Miners Leagues Club.
With children's play areas, courtesy buses, weekly events, a sports bar and a bottle shop for members, there is something for everyone.
There are 3 function spaces, generally available to hire free of charge for community events. These spaces are also available for events and parties.
Mr Dowd said they were always making an effort to update the interior of the club.
"Renovations have occurred four times in the past 10 years. The latest update of the bistro cost $2million and was invested in creating more space in the eatery, as well as updating the furniture," he said.
The favourite item in the bistro was the seafood tower, a selection of fresh and fried seafood for two.
If you are a keen punter, the gaming room boasts ninety of the latest machines and is open daily from 10am-late.
Hours of operation are:
Monday to Friday from 9am-late, Saturday from 8am-late and Sunday from 8am-9pm.
Club sticks to origins
ESTABLISHED in 1934, Sarina Golf Club has been a well-loved part of the community for many years.
The club, located at the southern side of the Sarina township, was started with the main focus for it to act as a community hub.
A stipulation in the club's original constitution even required the club operate as public.
An institution of the Sarina community, the golf club was established for and by its locals and their generosity.
The original clubhouse, an old farmhouse - torn down not so long ago - was donated to the club.
Parcels of land the course sits on to this day were also donated by a Sarina resident. Even the pipes used for watering the course were provided by Plane Creek Mill and Queensland Rail.
In a testament to its origins, anyone and everyone is welcome to come for a drink or to have a crack at the 18-hole country course.
Weekly events and competitions are held regularly and there is something available for all levels of ability and ages.
The club offers venue hire for a range of different events and functions. While catering is not provided on-site, the friendly staff can assist with organising local services.
Country pub gets religious
THE General Gordon Hotel, of Homebush, was built in 1886 to quench the thirst of mill workers of the nearby Homebush Sugar Mill.
"It's just an old-school pub, with a nice little bar for the locals and a beer garden for functions," owner Lorraine Butlin said.
The hotel's affordable camp sites lure grey nomad and backpacker traffic throughout the year and Ms Butlin said she books several country weddings and other celebrations, as well.
If your group is up for a big night you can book an overnight event and party into the wee hours, camp and arrange for a recovery breakfast the next morning.
Weekly dart events are held on Tuesdays and Fridays from 7pm and on Thursdays they hold a 'church night'.
"It doesn't matter what else you put on, they come from everywhere for 'church night'," Ms Butlin said.
"It's just one lady selling raffle tickets with her top off."
The night was inherited from the previous lessee and she didn't think it would last.
"But it's only become more popular and the women like it just as much as the blokes," she insisted.
Sporting Club Is Top Spot
ANOTHER exciting year is on the cards for Magpies Sporting Club. This year marks the club's 35th anniversary and Magpies Rugby League Club will reach their milestone 100th anniversary.
More than three years in the making, the facility at their home ground Sologinkin Oval has been completed and features gender-friendly change rooms, a gym, spas and ice baths.
The approximately $2.5million project was funded solely by Magpies, without financial assistance or the aid of government grants.
Home to three exciting eateries, it s no wonder the club was recently awarded Best Club in Central Queensland for 2018 by Clubs Queensland.
Centro Restaurant, a casual dining option ideal for families, offers a range of kid's meals to choose from.
If you're after a steak, try the signature 300-gram black onyx rib fillet with creamy potato gratin, streamed greens and red wine mushroom cream sauce.
Visit the the Hub Cafe for barista-made coffees and house-made desserts including, banoffee pie and nutella mousse.
With twenty big-screen televisions, plus TAB and Keno facilities the Magpies Sportsbar is the perfect location to take in live sporting coverage.
Magpies also boasts Mackay's largest gaming room, open until 4am daily.
Magpies food and wine evenings are not to be missed. Held quarterly, the events feature 7 courses of cellar-door wines paired with delectable fare matched by experts.
Centro is open for lunch daily, midday-2pm; dinner 5.30-8.30pm. For bookings call, 4965 6100.
Hub Café is open daily, 9am-late.
Magpies Sportsbar is open daily from 9am-late.
Drop Anchor At Airlie Resort
HIDDEN in a picturesque valley just outside of Airlie Beach is the Freedom Shores resort.
The idea behind this truly unique resort was sparked when the owners acquired the old Shute Harbour jetty poles.
These beautiful pieces of history-filled timber inspired an entire nautical-themed resort built around reclaimed boats, sustainable resources and waterfront views.
Guests of Freedom Shores can choose from three accommodation experiences palatial resort suites, bespoke boat bungalows or the exclusive Denver.
The Denver is a reconditioned boat housing a queen bed, small bathroom and seating area at the stern. This boutique accommodation option can only be reserved by directly contacting the resort manager.
The award-winning Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill is a short stroll from the accommodation and is open to the public.
Northerlies is housed in a building on the resort site and features a bar made from a reclaimed fishing trawler. All timber used in the erection was sourced within 100km to ensure the building was built in the most sustainable method available.
Head chef Zibby Deca has created an inspired menu utilising local produce wherever possible.
The menu, described as fresh Australian beef and seafood, serves up sashimi, several different cuts of wagyu beef and share platters to graze on while enjoying a cocktail. Gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well as a kids menu, are also available.
With 18 different craft beers on tap, including the Northerlies own brand, the consummate beer lover will be spoiled for choice. If you can't decide on just one, then order a taster paddle for $10.
If you're not a beer drinker, the extensive wine list has something for everyone.
Though this may all sound quite posh, the atmosphere is relaxed and family-friendly, with an oversized Jenga set and other outdoor games to keep the kids amused while adults kick back and enjoy the waterfront views.
Enjoy live music every weekend at the Northerlies during their Funked Up Friday sessions and Saturdays and Sundays, which showcase popular local bands and musicians.
They also host several ticketed music events throughout the year, follow them on Facebook for a schedule of events.
Available for functions and weddings, this destination offers spaces to create an exceptional day with facilities to celebrate a ceremony, dine and stay overnight. An experienced wedding and events manager is employed to bring your dream to reality.
Northerlies is open 7 days a week and offers a local shuttle service to and from Airlie Beach, as well as taxi discounts.
For more information on Freedom Shores and Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill, phone 1800 682 277
FAMILY FRIENDLY AT CALEN
NESTLED among canefields just north of Mackay is where you will find the Calen Hotel.
The two-storey boarding house was rebuilt in 2012 after the original premises were destroyed by fire. It now boasts an inviting combination of traditional architecture with modern open-plan design.
Lessee Sarah Spreadborough, who started running the pub in April 2017, made an effort to keep the pub true to its origins while making some improvements along the way.
Buffet meals, which are available on Fridays and Saturdays, have proved to be quite popular. Freshly-made pizzas from the pizza oven are also on offer.
The kitchen is open for lunch and dinner, Wednesdays through Sundays.
Competitive pool players might want to check out the Friday night competition worth a grand prize of $200.
"You will not find a more laid-back and friendly place to relax and have a cold beer, a great feed and conversation," Ms Spreadborough said.
"Only a half-hour drive from Mackay and, with Ballantyne's Strawberry Farm and swimming holes just up the road, the pub is the perfect place to visit after a family outing and the jumping castle is up all the time."
History haunts hotel
ONCE called the Heidelberg Inn, the heritage-listed Bowen River Hotel at Strathbowen Leichhardt Range Rd, Mount Wyatt, is a hidden gem.
One of only a handful of surviving country hotels constructed using bush carpentry techniques, the building became heritage listed in 1992.
It wasn't until 2003 when the renovated pub opened as the Bowen River Hotel.
Current lessee Clare Ringland said the pub even had a resident ghost, Greg 'Dougie' Dougland, who visited from time to time.
Mrs Ringland and her husband said they had seen him walk through the walls of the pub on several occasions.
If the traditional handiwork, historical relevance and resident spook are not enough to draw you for a visit, maybe their works burger will, it's the most popular item on the menu.
Bowen River Hotel holds several events throughout the year and camping is available just watch out for crocs.
The Bowen River, which runs next to the pub, is known to get quite high.
Check conditions before venturing out for a visit.
Hotel is right on track
LOCATED in Marian, the Railway Hotel Marian was established in 1907 and stood for many decades until one fateful night.
In 1975 a wild storm ripped through Marian, destroying the entire second storey of the hotel. It was soon demolished and reconstructed into the single-storey brick building that stands today in Daly St.
Bryan Sheedy, one of the owners and manager of the Railway Hotel Marian for the past 10 years, was part of the extensive renovations that have taken place since.
Updates that have seen motel rooms gutted and transformed into what is now the bistro, the addition of a drive-through bottle shop, the relocation of the kitchen and an overall update of the pub with furniture and fittings.
When asked how he would describe today's Railway Hotel Marian, Mr Sheedy said, "It's a family-based hotel with a high standard of food and service".
The bistro is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week and offers a friendly dining experience.
"We maintain all the local favourites but we also provide options for those who are looking for something a bit different," he said.
A menu favourite is the hotel's crispy pork belly, served on prawn rice, with greens, salt and pepper calamari and a plum and citrus dressing.
Weekly events keep the hotel vibrant and lively. With early morning bingo on Wednesdays, to trivia night on Thursdays and live music scheduled nearly every weekend, there is something for everyone.
No need to worry about parking or organising a lift, because a courtesy bus operates Wednesday through Sunday.
"Meeting different people, providing a service to the community and supporting local sporting and other organisations in the valley are the highlights of the job," Mr Sheedy said.
"I just enjoy being a publican."
The Railway Hotel Marian is also available to host and cater events. For more information visit railwayhotelmarian.com.au.
The Duke Stays On Brand
ONE of Mackay's oldest pubs, the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel or as the locals call it the Duke, can be found on the main drag at Walkerston.
The traditional country pub was built in 1882 and underwent extensive refurbishments in the early 1950s and again in recent years.
Venue manager Robert Masterton has only been at the Duke a short time, but had spent the past 8 years managing pubs and venues around the region.
Mr Masterton said they had recently introduced Sunday breakfast at The Duke, which proved to be quite popular.
"It may very well be the only pub in Mackay where you can get bacon, eggs and toast for $3.99," he said.
"If you're not a morning person, head in later on for a steak. We specialise in good quality steaks from our supplier Fresco s Quality Meats.
"If you're looking for something lively and fun to do on a Sunday arvo, drop into the Duke's beer garden. There you will find live country music and dancing. Don't forget to order a cold beer."
The Duke is also a community institution and acts as the headquarters to groups such as the local RSL branch and rotary groups.
Girls, ghosts, good time
JUST south of Mackay, along the Bruce Highway, sits the Bakers Creek Tavern. At first glance it's your average country pub, but you're sure to find a few surprises inside.
Alice Springs transplants and management team, Kathy and John Read started running the tavern in 2013.
Having never visited the region before, the married couple came to Bakers Creek not knowing what to expect.
"It was not a big adjustment, being that we're from Alice Springs we're used to the heat. But yeah, no, it's very quiet. I could tell you some stories though," Mr Read teased.
It's not always quiet at the tavern, as the week comes to a close things heat up.
Friday nights are the biggest draw, exotic barmaids serve drinks topless. It might not be for everyone, but it certainly encourages the crowds to make the trek south.
The ladies of the tavern aren't the only reason to visit the country pub. The couple, along with a handful of the staff, have encountered ghosts on more than one occasion.
With a casual country setting, decadent Friday nights and a chance paranormal encounter; Bakers Creek Tavern has a lot to offer.
The tavern is also available for functions, phone Kathy Read on 4959 5464
Pub with a point of view
THE Eimeo Pacific Hotel has resided on its cliff-top home for more than a century.
Overlooking the tiny beach village of Eimeo to the west and, to the east, out to the Pacific Ocean, its stunning views are unmatched.
It's a spot for locals and tourists to enjoy the million-dollar view, cool ocean breeze and, if you visit in September, you may be lucky enough to catch a whale on the horizon.
Described as a 'contemporary take on classic Australian fare', there are options for all palates. A range of steaks, seafood, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu items are available.
The bistro offers al fresco and indoor seating options, all showcasing the hotel's spectacular views.
An on-site café serves devonshire tea, house-made desserts and freshly baked scones daily.
Try a schooner of the house Eimeo Lager or a specialty cocktail mixed by one of the friendly bar staff.
Also available for events, the huge function room on the second floor boasts panoramic views of the Pacific.
Club gets back its MOJO
ONE OF Mackay's oldest pubs will get a bit of a facelift from bar manager Jenghis Smith.
Originally from Byron Bay, Mr Smith has travelled throughout Australia managing pubs and brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the Ambassador Hotel.
Mr Smith's initial focus has been on MOJO. He's given the rooftop bar a few updates since starting earlier this year, including fresh seating options and what he promises is a 'really, really awesome new sound system'.
"MOJO now has the clearest and loudest sounds in Mackay, without a doubt," Mr Smith said.
And the sound system will get a fair amount of work with the long list of national DJs set to take to the turntable in the coming months.
Come and enjoy Overload, MOJO's Sunday session. Every Sunday, from 3-8pm, MOJO showcases three live bands on the rooftop in a chilled atmosphere to ease you into the coming week.
Mr Smith also promised something exciting was coming to the first floor of the Ambassador Hotel. The top-secret project involves a renovation and concept yet to be seen in Mackay.
Bar keeps it fresh and local
MACKAY'S only American-style smokehouse, The Paddock and Brew Company, has just been crowned an Australian Good Food Guide Reader's Choice winner for 2019.
It's well-deserved, too.
"Providing great service and great food to the customers of Mackay, in a different way is what we're all about," restaurant manager Nora Al Kuraishy said.
Warmed by retro-fitted Edison lamps in a clean and modern setting, guests can enjoy a range of craft beers alongside quality smoked meats.
One of the most popular menu items is the Pit Masters Plate, which showcases a selection of five different smoked meats. It's ideal for sharing and allows you to taste a bit of everything.
If you're not in the mood to share, Ms Al Kuraishy suggested the Prized Paddock, their take on an American works burger.
Independently owned and operated, the business remains committed to using locally sourced produce and ingredients whenever possible, in an effort to deliver the paddock-to-plate experience.