Do you fancy sharing a drink with a ghost? Some of the coaching inns and watering holes that served weary Heritage Highway travellers in the 19th century are still operating today!
Settle into the cosy pubs and soak up the old world charm. Enjoy a quiet drink, quality country fare, and warm hospitality—with a colourful tale or two to boot. Also, tour the grand old estates living modern lives as award-winning boutique distilleries.
We’ve listed six historic places for a quiet drink along the Heritage Highway (please do nominate a designated driver or book yourself a room at the inn).
1. The Clarendon Arms
The quaint heritage village of Evandale is home to the hip Clarendon Arms (c. 1847). Enjoy a few bevvies in front of the wood fire or relax outside in the beer garden (with live music on Sundays). The British pub-style menu features seasonal produce from Tasmania and their very own kitchen garden. Choose from hearty winter dishes, light summer plates, themed share platters, coffee and cake, and Tasmanian brews, wines and spirits.
The National Trust classified building has a colourful past. The hand-painted murals inside—created by artist Arne Brewster in 1978—represent significant events throughout Evandale’s history. Admire 160-year-old convict-built walls in the beer garden and ponder the remnants of the old watch house and convict cells hidden beneath the Georgian facade. John Kelly, notorious bushranger Ned Kelly’s old man, was once a prisoner here. More recently in 1992, Mark ‘Chopper’ Read drank here before shooting former bikie boss Sidney Collins.
2. The Ross Hotel
The Ross Hotel has faithfully served travellers since its establishment by William Saddler back in 1835, and offers a bar, restaurant and accommodation. The pub represents ‘temptation’ on the Four Corners of Ross (the Town Hall offers ‘recreation’, the Roman Catholic Church promises ‘salvation’, and the jail is ‘damnation’). Enjoy the friendly atmosphere, warm up by the fire, admire the building’s heritage and architecture, and explore the cottage gardens. Devour quality country style meals and sip fine Tasmanian beers and wines.
A few ghost stories roll around relating to the convicts who built the hotel, as well as the unfortunate hanging of a stable boy whose servant girlfriend apparently still resides at the pub. ‘George’, the resident ghost, has appeared to many over the years. The living also occasionally spot a small girl at the bottom of the stairs. Did anyone else just feel a shiver?
3. St Andrew’s Inn
Heritage-listed St Andrew’s Inn (c. 1835) at Cleveland—one of Tasmania’s original convict-built coaching inns—has recently reopened to the public, oozing old world charm. The all day breakfast and lunch menus offer hearty country fare featuring fresh local produce, plus coffee and Devonshire tea. The inn is pet friendly to well-behaved fur babies (please contact the owner first).
In the 19th century, nearby Epping Forest was a favourite bushranger haunt, so coach drivers would gather at Cleveland then form a convoy. In one unfortunate incident, bushrangers bailed up the people in the Bald Face Stag Inn next door (c. 1830s, now Cleveland House) and shot one person dead! The culprits were arrested and hanged for murder.
Don’t forget to say hello to Lucy, St Andrew’s resident ghost. Legend has it she waylays unwary men on the stairs, takes their clothes, then neatly folds and leaves them. We’re not sure if she washes and irons them first, but she’s certainly nicer than those troublemaking bushrangers!
4. The Crown Inn & Bushrangers Bistro
The Crown Inn was built with local stone in 1835 beside the Jordan River at Pontville. Today, this country style bistro serves excellent pub meals with a rare standard of personal hospitality. Enjoy a great feed and a few drinks inside by the fireplace or outside in the fresh air. Settle in for a good yarn with the cheeky locals and soak up the rustic atmosphere.
Word on the street is that the Crown Inn’s most famous patron was Martin Cash, the infamous bushranger known for escaping the ‘inescapable’ Port Arthur penal settlement, not once but twice!
1. Old Kempton Distillery
In 1842, convict embezzler-turned-innkeeper William Ellis built Dysart House, a grand coaching inn at Kempton. This historic gem is the modern day home to the Old Kempton Distillery. The convict-built stables once sheltered 22 horses, and now house the distillery’s Tasmanian-made copper still.
Visit the cellar door, whisky tasting rooms and cafe and relax in the beautifully restored rooms of the main residence. The country-style kitchen serves up amazing Devonshire tea, antipasto platters and daily specials, with a focus on local produce. Book yourself in for the daily tour and tastings to learn the secrets behind their premium small cask whisky, Embezzler Gin and other handcrafted spirits.
2. Shene Estate & Distillery
Shene Estate & Distillery, at Pontville, was the ostentatious country residence of early colonialist Gamaliel Butler. The striking estate has an incredible atmosphere and a fascinating history, with direct links to King George III, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and World Heritage Sites. The Kernke family acquired the property in 2006 and have been passionately restoring and conserving it ever since.
Shene Estate & Distillery handcraft the award-winning Poltergeist Gin and Mackey Whisky onsite. Book yourself on a behind-the-scenes tour with a family member to taste their perfect G&Ts, explore the living museum, and hear some captivating tales. You can also swing by their road side stall on Sundays between 10am and 4pm to purchase a bottle of gin and meet the makers.
To see what’s on, check out our Events Calendar.
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Clarendon Arms, Evandale | @jellibat/Instagram