A Weekend Walking Tour of Canberra’s Pub Scene
Canberra is host to a wide array of pubs, fitting for any occasion or situation.
With an eclectic blend of exciting new places and classic venues steeped in history, the Capital truly immerses visitors in its pub scene.
To experience the scene best, I went on a walking pub tour around two distinct areas- the main hub of Canberra, Civic and Braddon, and also the inner south suburbs of Manuka and Kingston.
I found that Canberra’s pub scenes exuded a warm and unique atmosphere- extended not only from the pubs themselves, but from the people and the streets on which they reside.
With each of these pub tour routes conveniently walkable, and packed with a diverse range of sights, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the journey.
Read on for my experience of what could be your next weekend well-spent in the nation’s capital.
Round One: Civic and Braddon
On a brisk and windy 15-degree Friday afternoon, it was clear that winter was on its way. So just before the chills rolled in and the warm summer sun went away, I took the opportunity to head into the city and explore some of the best pubs that Civic and Braddon had to offer.
With adventure on my mind, I ordered an Uber into the city and arrived at my first destination, King O’Malley’s.
King O’Malley’s, City Walk, Civic
As soon as I walked into King O’Malley’s, I was transported to Dublin, Ireland, despite being firmly in the heart of Canberra. The venue gave off such a warm and comforting feeling.
This environment was very much appreciated, being a good shelter from the wind outside. The music played across the pub was calming and relaxing, providing an escape from the busy nature of the city.
The architecture and design inside the classic Irish pub showcased a lot of wood finishes. Whether it was the bar, walls, tables or chairs, they all incorporated a rustic wood look that complimented the cosy feeling. The pub was dimly lit, adding to the charm.
The pub featured a large array of space, meaning I never felt cramped. It also boasted a few chess boards where you could play with your friends or compete against strangers, adding to the variety of attractions that King O’Malley’s offered.
There was also a lovely beer garden to enjoy on warm summer days which faced out on Garema Place. Out there, you could enjoy the non-stop action that the heart of Canberra had to offer.
The next stop was Civic Pub, about a 5-minute walk from King O’Malley’s and as soon as I stepped outside of King O’Malley’s, it felt like I was somewhere completely different.
I started walking through Garema Place and felt overwhelmed by the sense of organised chaos happening around me, with so many different things to take in. There were people rushing to cut through the city or eating their lunch, and the birds were squawking while fighting over food scraps on the ground.
I found it to be a truly immersive place. With so much action happening around me, I couldn’t help but be swept up in it all.
Once I exited Garema Place, I found myself passing popular restaurants and bars such as Kokomo’s, playing their poppy, upbeat music, which added to the overall positive feel that the city provided.
At this stage though, the wind was picking up and I was very excited to get to the next pub to seek some shelter.
I approached Lonsdale street and the atmosphere shifted from the upbeat, busy, always moving environment of the city, to a slightly more relaxed environment of Braddon. Filled with cafes, cyclists and a flood of restaurants and bars, this was the place to be!
The street looked like it had been moved straight out of Sydney or Melbourne, having its own unique energy compared to the rest of Canberra. It was quite contagious. Just on the right as I walked up Lonsdale Street, was Civic Pub.
Civic Pub, Lonsdale St, Braddon
Civic Pub was a classic example of a traditional Aussie pub. You walk in and are immediately captivated by its classic aura, whether it’s the pokies being heard in the background, the sport on the TV, or the tradie talking loudly after a few beers after work.
There was something special about Civic Pub, a pub that’s proud of its tradition, with a country classic feel in the heart of the City. It wasn’t flashy, or modern, and it didn’t want to be.
Being on the dimmer side in terms of lighting, the area had a warm and relaxing feeling, similar to King O’Malley’s. Dark wood finishes and a long bar that stretched the majority of the main room rounded out the interior.
The music was quiet, but the atmosphere was brought in from its customers. It also hosted an array of pool tables that you could play at while waiting for meals, or in-between beers.
When I left Civic Pub, I was Immediately met with a massive gale of wind. This made me happy that the next destination, Assembly, was only 20 metres down the road.
Despite the cool, I passed lots of people with their coffees just walking down the road experiencing Lonsdale street. Cyclists, runners and people on scooters were also a plenty, each adding to the overall vibe in Braddon that nowhere else in Canberra provides.
Assembly, Lonsdale St, Braddon
Assembly, fittingly christened ‘The Peoples Pub’, is the newest pub that I visited. It opened in 2019, but in just two short years it had risen up to be one of Canberra’s favourites.
I walked in and the atmosphere was completely different to the previous pubs, a more youthful-feeling space with louder music, younger crowds and a much more energetic vibe.
It was an environment that I honestly got lost in for hours. I didn’t want to leave, so I didn’t. I ended up staying until night-time.
It was busy from my arrival at around 4pm, all the way through to when I left at 8pm, really showing the appeal of Assembly.
During the day it was more of a casual pub, but at night it transformed into a hotspot. Whether it was dinner bookings or people getting a little bit rowdy before hitting Canberra’s nightlife, it was perfect for both.
Assembly also featured a large beer garden out the back which had a fun and lively feel to it. Luckily for me, it also had heaters to combat the cold winds.
Additionally, the food was delicious. I ordered the fantastic halloumi fries as a starter, with the main being a chicken parmigiana. To be a good pub you have to serve a good parmi, and Assembly didn’t disappoint.
Overall, Assembly was a great venue to enjoy dinner and a few beers with some friends, it brought a fresh and new feel this pub scene, being in a city that can be caught in its tradition. Assembly have well and truly established themselves as a crowd favourite.
Round 2: Inner South
I woke up the next day ready to go exploring another set of pubs, and was interested to see how they would vary from the last three I visited. Also, I wanted to explore a side of town I don’t get to visit too often.
I drove to Manuka with excitement, anticipating what the day was going to bring. I soon found myself at my first destination.
Public, Manuka Arcade, Griffith
Public was more of a modern pub in its feel and design. It delivered a bright and fun atmosphere, perfect for lunch, dinner or after work drinks.
When I walked in, I was greeted by lots of large hanging plants dangling from the high ceiling, this created a positive and energetic feel to Public that was very welcoming.
Public was a lot brighter than previous pubs, which also added to the more modern feel. Polished concrete and wood floors also make the area feel new and updated compared to the classic carpet aesthetic.
The versatility of Public was truly amazing, it could be where you go for the game, where you go for dinner or even where you go to have drinks late into the night.
It hosted a good mix of sit-down tables and bar tables/chairs to cater to different people, and also a large outdoor area with heaters for the colder months.
Enjoying myself, I began my walk to the next pub: The Kingston Hotel. I was thankful that the winds had stopped compared to the day prior, and that it had turned out to be a very nice day.
A short walk removed me from the hub that is Manuka, exiting from the busy restaurants and cafes and entering a more peaceful and quiet area in Kingston.
I began to notice all of the greenery from the trees and grass that lay each side of the roads. It provided a completely different feel compared to the city walk, as now I was well and truly in the suburbs.
As I took a right turn just past Manuka Oval, I walked on and found one of Canberra’s oldest pubs, The Kingston Hotel.
The Kingston Hotel, Canberra Ave, Kingston
The Kingston Hotel was a pub straight out of the 1990’s. It felt much grungier in its design and it didn’t have the same relaxing feeling that other pubs in Canberra had. It was, however, rich in history, being one of Canberra’s oldest pubs, opening in 1922.
It featured retro tables and chairs that matched the old carpet, and light fixtures which didn’t seem to have been changed for 20 years. Unlike other classic pubs like Civic Pub, it had white walls and an overall brighter feel.
However, even with the use of some lighter walls, there was something about it that just didn’t make me feel at home like the other pubs had.
The walk from the Kingston Hotel to the next and final destination, The Dock, was truly enjoyable, as I got to walk through Telopea park.
Unlike the city where I was immersed in the hustle of it all, in Kingston I was able to relax and immerse myself in the suburb and the nature.
Walking through this luscious green park with trees as tall as buildings and the sounds of birds chirping and the laughter of kids playing truly made me forget about everything else and enjoy the walk through the park.
It was a bit longer than the previous walks at around a kilometre long, but the beautiful scenery of Telopea park it made it go nice and quick.
It really immersed me in what the suburbs of Canberra had to offer.
Once I finished the walk through Telopea park, I was spat out at Kingston foreshore and transported back into a more modern feeling area.
The views of Lake Burley Griffin provided a nice calming ambience as I walked along its side.
I wondered down the Kingston foreshore without a care in the world after a really enjoyable afternoon, passing restaurants and cafes as I went, and about halfway down the foreshore, I entered The Dock.
The Dock, Giles St, Kingston
After winning the title of best pub in Canberra from the Australian Hotels Association (ACT), I had very high expectations walking into The Dock, and I’m happy to say that they were exceeded.
The Dock had a warm and positive atmosphere that many pubs can’t achieve. It’s blend of traditional and modern style created a truly unique experience.
It had a classic feel, with a modern look. Aussie rock and iconic pop songs played on the speakers, and I knew that would lead to some singing late into the night.
Contributing to the positive environment was the energy from the patrons, lifting me up when when I was there. I fed off the positive energy that was going around.
Similar to Public, it was very versatile and fitting for lunch, dinner, catch ups or drinks long into the night. Whatever you needed, The Dock could provide.
It had a smaller indoor space than some of the other pubs visited, but was equipped for outdoor entertaining. Whether it was the long benches facing the water, bar tables on top of old recycled whiskey barrels or normal seating, they offered a wide range of choice.
The inside boasted 4 screens above the bar dedicated to sport, and a large projector faced the wall playing the day’s featured game.
Facing the water, The Dock provided views that couldn’t be achieved at many other locations in Canberra. At the heart of Kingston foreshore, The Dock was a magnificent pub.
Overall, it’s clear to see that Canberra has a very rich pub scene with many different styles of venue. The tour made for a very enjoyable weekend, in which I found the opportunities to both relax and be entertained.
The unexpected highlight along my journey was not the pubs themselves, but the unique feel that each pub brought to the table. It was truly something special to experience, and something I didn’t recognise was so well represented in Canberra.
Also, the chance to explore areas that I may not have visited before, like Telopea park, was a real joy, and something that I will definitely do again.
So why not chuck on some walking shoes and explore Canberra, one pub at a time. You never know what you might discover.