Sydney's best beer gardens

The Courthouse Hotel beer garden pumps on summer weekends.
The Courthouse Hotel beer garden pumps on summer weekends. Photo: Jennifer Soo

The beer garden is not an Australian initiative, but we do happen to do them better than anywhere else in the world. (Except maybe Germany, where the concept of eating schnitzels in the sun originated.) Great beer gardens are more than an outdoor drinking area – they're community hubs for clinking glasses with old pals and new friends. Here's to Sydney's best sun-dappled boozers.

The Courthouse Hotel

Newtown without The Courtie is like Bondi without the beach, and the beer garden pumps on summer weekends when Young Henrys jugs can be found on most tables. The best outdoor spot for a beer is next to Lennox Street where it feels like the nucleus of every You Am I song about guys and girls and hurts and hearts in the inner west.

202 Australia Street Newtown, 02 9519 8273, solotel.com.au/venue-details/pub/courthouse-hotel

Schooners under the Oaks' tree is Sydney classic.

Schooners under the Oaks' tree is Sydney classic. Photo: Edwina Pickles

The Oaks

Interior stylist Sibella Court gave the Oaks' upper level an art deco makeover in August and while it sure is pretty, the beer garden's fairy-light-lit oak tree remains the star attraction. A round of steaks and schooners under its foliage is a Sydney summer classic.

118 Military Road Neutral Bay, 02 9953 5515, oakshotel.com.au

Tommy's Beer Cafe

After what I understand was a long battle with local council, Tommy's secured a booze licence for its beer garden last summer and Glebe became all the better for it. It's like hanging out in the backyard of eastern European relatives with suckling pig on a spit and Cernovar lager umbrellas bigger than my apartment.

123 Glebe Point Road Glebe, 02 9660 6870, tommysbeercafe.com.au

Prawns at the Newport Arms.

Prawns at the Newport Arms. Photo: James Brickwood

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The Newport

Justin Hemmes' Northern Beaches super-pub might have the largest beer garden in Sydney. Maybe Australia, I don't know. The place is bloody huge. It also boasts lots of delicious food such as blistered-crust pizzas and kingfish ceviche, plus yoga sessions, movie nights and a magnetic Scrabble board that must need a full time security guard to see Pittwater grommets don't use it to write swears.  

2 Kalinya Street Newport, 02 9997 4900, merivale.com.au/thenewport

Waterviews for miles at Watson's Bay Boutiqe Hotel.

Water views for miles at Watson's Bay Boutique Hotel. Photo: Supplied

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel

Another Disneyland pub like The Newport, this eastern hotspot becomes hectic on summer weekends with locals and yachties keen on water views, seafood and Pimms jugs galore. Bring a group of pals and commandeer a shady table designed for rosé and prawns.

1 Military Road Watsons Bay, 02 9337 5444, watsonsbayhotel.com.au

Golden Barley

More beer gardens should be like the Barley and have a giant wall of ferns so you can pretend you're drinking Resch's at Jurassic Park, but with fewer velociraptors and more thong-wearing old mates holding court under umbrellas.

165-169 Edgeware Road Enmore, 02 9565 1166, goldenbarleyhotel.com.au

Petersham Bowling Club's bowling green is a beer garden in disguise.

Petersham Bowling Club's bowling green is a beer garden in disguise. Photo: Janie Barrett

Petersham Bowling Club

Sweet Christmas, I love this place. I don't know of another bowling club in Australia with no pokies or mainstream beer. Instead of VB, Carlton and New, it's local legends on tap like Batch, Grifter and Black Font. The bowling green was put out to pasture a while ago and functions as a beer garden in disguise for kids to perform cartwheels and me to lie on the grass and whistle Paul Kelly.

77 Brighton Street Petersham, 02 9569 4639, thepbc.org.au

Saturday lunch at The Henson.

Saturday lunch at The Henson. Photo: Fiona Morris

The Henson

Another example of a joint blowing up the pokies and becoming a beaut family hangout. There's a ball pit next to the beer garden that will keep any two-year-old entertained for at least three hours while mum and dad enjoy pisco sours and poke bowls. All kid's meals come with a side of grapes, too. More of that kind of thing everywhere, please.

91 Illawarra Road Marrickville, 02 9569 5858, thehenson.com.au

A quiet moment at The Norfolk.

A quiet moment at The Norfolk. Photo: Edwina Pickles

The Norfolk

I should mention at least one beer garden suitable for people allergic to small children. The Norfolk's cantina-style courtyard gets loose on a weekend with Sunday-sessioning students and if you can score a table, lock yourself in. The bloody marys fly thick and fast and the tacos are chubby and fresh.

305 Cleveland Street Redfern, 02 8322 2030, thenorfolk.co