December 9, 2020

10 great SA country pubs

Offering icy cold beer, inviting menus and warm country hospitality, SA’s regional pubs are as much a destination as a stop along the way. 

Clare: Watervale Hotel
Having re-opened in September, fine dining with a casual country pub atmosphere is back on offer at the Watervale Hotel. Visitors can revel in the views of surrounding hills from the verandah and beer garden, or cosy up by the fire or in the formal dining room. Owners and self-confessed “ethical epicureans”, Warrick Duthy and Nicola Palmer, infuse local flavours into dishes inspired by street food from around the world. Chef Nicola is blessed with fresh produce from their nearby organic and bio-dynamic Penobscot Farm, and transforms the freshest ingredients into gourmet creations, available from 11am to 9pm daily. Wines from nearly every Clare Valley label fill the wine list, in addition to cocktails and mocktails featuring Penobscot produce. The new beer garden is a great spot to soak up the sunshine.

Clare: Magpie and Stump Hotel
Venture east to the charming village of Mintaro for one of South Australia’s oldest pubs, the Magpie and Stump. The country hotel was recently renovated to infuse the heritage stone building with vibrant, new life and has become a popular destination with its handcrafted menu, intensely local wine list and live entertainment. Dishes such as pan-seared octopus, crispy-skin chicken with roasted zucchini and eggplant and rack of lamb with pea and mint puree, along with generous pub classics, can be enjoyed by the fire or on the sprawling lawns. The pub hosts Koerner Wine’s cellar door in an intimate tasting room when, in the warmer months, you can hear from the winemakers themselves.

Clare: Sevenhill Hotel
All the elements of the perfect country pub can be found in the wining and dining experience at the Sevenhill Hotel. Owners Paul Longbottom and Kate Shadiac credit their success to a combination of great house-made food sourced from surrounding producers, their staff’s wealth of knowledge of Clare Valley wines, and an infectious passion for hospitality. Visitors can bask in the pub’s country heart and warm design, inside by the flickering fire, intimately in the cellar, or lingering in the garden.

Adelaide Hills: Stanley Bridge Tavern
Boasting one of the best beer gardens in the Adelaide Hills, the Stanley Bridge Tavern is a great place to soak up the sunshine, or head inside to their cosy bar or refurbished dining rooms. Their menu is a crowd-pleaser with fresh flavours, local produce and a great mix of refined, yet approachable dishes, and pub classics.

River Murray, Lakes & Coorong: Palmer Hotel
Established in 1869, the Palmer Hotel offers a traditional country pub atmosphere, just one hour from Adelaide. Sitting on half a hectare of land, the pub’s huge beer garden features Moreton Bay fig trees, lush tropical flora and bird-attracting natives. Seasonal dishes and the favourite pub classics are on the menu.

Flinders & Outback: William Creek Hotel
The William Creek Hotel is located in the centre of the town nearest to Lake Eyre on the Oodnadatta Track. The heritage-listed William Creek Hotel is built with old sleepers from the Ghan Railway and features a restaurant and front bar catering to needs of travellers and locals. Memorabilia and old photos scatter the walls, adding to the rustic vibes, with the kitchen offering classic pub grub dishes. Breakfast and lunch options are also available. Pull up a barstool and enjoy a cold beer while marvelling at the many international business cards and banknotes stuck to the roof and walls. 

Flinders & Outback: Prairie Hotel
Kangaroo fillet, emu mignon and camel sausage with red wine native pepper leaf jus – also known as the famous FMG (feral mixed grill) – is a popular choice on the Prairie Hotel’s recently refreshed menu. Well known for its innovative dishes and ‘feral food’, this Flinders Ranges icon celebrates native ingredients and seasonal produce. Desserts also take inspiration from native produce, including the quandong pie. A much-loved hotel cherished by diners who have visited from across the globe.

Kangaroo Island: Penneshaw Hotel
Penny’s Restaurant, located at the Penneshaw Hotel, is the perfect place to while away a Sunday afternoon, settle in for lunch, or wait for your ferry to the mainland. The rustic decor of the renovated bar and dining area provides a family-friendly atmosphere with country charm. With its clifftop views over Backstairs Passage and the option of dining in the alfresco area, lucky diners may spot whales or other marine life.

Yorke Peninsula: The Dalrymple
A visit to the “Dal” in Stansbury is a must when you’re on the Peninsula – this pub is close enough to the beach to throw a chip at a seagull. Owners Robbie and Georgie Rankine consistently deliver a lip-smacking modern Australian menu under the tutelage of award-winning head chef, Will Glazbrook. Known for taking care to include local produce in their changing seasonal menu, some lesser-known facts are that the Dal does great take-away fish or calamari and chips in a cone, the bottle shop is an extension of an interesting wine list and the beer garden is dog friendly.

Yorke Peninsula: Marion Bay Tavern
Something of an institution; it wouldn’t be right to visit southern YP without at least calling in for a frothy. The Tavern is the last stop between Marion Bay and Innes National Park and offering great views of the bay, it’s the place to end up after a day spent swimming or fishing. The all-day wood fire pizza oven burns brightly in the background and locals, fishermen and visitors gather around the bar, making their choice from a large selection of craft beers, a good wine list and great country menu. It’s casual, friendly and slick all at the same time.


This information first appeared in The SALIFE Food & Wine List 2020.

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