If all your wandering around Port Adelaide leaves you feeling a little dehydrated, fear not there are ample establishments which can come to the rescue and you won’t have far to walk. Being a port town and having catered for the needs of seafarers for 150 years plus there is almost literally a pub on every corner (and in fact there used to be!).
The tourist authority has thoughtfully put together a Heritage Pub Trail guide. While the intent is to introduce you the history of pubs there is no reason not to use the guide as the basis of a good old pub crawl – noting that I do not condone the irresponsible consumption of alcohol! When picking up the guide from the tourist office do ask for the Heritage Pub Trail guide and not the Heritage Pub Crawl guide!
The guide lists and provides good detail on ten pubs (within easy walking distance of each other and all of significant historical interest). This is less than half the current pubs in the port area and around a quarter of what used to operate here. By the turn of the 20th century there were more than 40 drinking establishments within walking distance of the docks.
Not everyone was happy about the ready flow of alcohol. The Reverend Joseph Kirby led an abstinence campaign against the port area’s drunken excesses, leading to a 1909 vote which closed a third of Port Adelaide’s pubs. The Dock Hotel (which reputedly also hosted a “brothel of repute” and a smugglers tunnel to the wharf (one of many pubs which did!)) was one of the pubs closed by the good Reverend’s actions. It reopened in 1986 as the Port Dock Brewery Hotel – picture two attached – and named its strongest dark ale Old Preacher, in honour of its old foe, Kirby.
Not happy with getting rid of a significant number of pubs, in 1915 during WWI severe restrictions on opening hours were imposed and pubs throughout Australia were required to close at 6pm. This actually had less impact on the pubs than one might have thought as it gave rise to the “six o’clock swill” where patrons drank up big time just prior to six and staggered out of the pubs at six as they might have done at a later hour. It was not until 1976 (much later than in other states) that South Australia eased this restriction and extended pub hours until 10pm.
You will note that most if not all of these pubs also provide, or certainly formerly did provide, accommodation. While accommodation may indeed have been a profitable business it was also a requirement of the 1839 South Australian liquor licensing laws one of which stated that a publican was required to provide for:
“…a traveller and his horse, or a traveller without a horse, the horse of a traveller not becoming a guest of the house …or any corpse which may be brought to his public house for the purpose of a Coroner’s inquest.”
Any publican not providing such a service was committing an offence and liable to be fined up to 20 pounds.
In addition to serving drinks of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties these pubs all serve pub grub (food) the quality of which I suspect varies from pub to pub as it does in other Australian pubs. I have not yet, myself, partaken of solids in any of these establishments.
In the event that you over imbibe, the good Port authorities have that covered too. Make your way to the facility in picture five, alongside.
Lastly a word of warning as you make your way around the pubs – most of them have at least one resident ghost!
The Heritage Pub Trail guide can be picked up from the tourist office or downloaded from http://www.portenf.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=2093. This trail can be covered in conjunction with the main Heritage Walking Trail – Walk the Port (refer to my introductory page comments and separate walk review).
Address: Various in the older parts of Port Adelaide