The great Victorian pub trip: 10 road trip-worthy regional watering holes

100-year-old Elm trees make the Cosmopolitan Hotel’s garden a gorgeous spot to sit.
100-year-old Elm trees make the Cosmopolitan Hotel’s garden a gorgeous spot to sit. Photo: Tim McGlone

When a mate and I accepted the assignment of finding Victoria's best regional pubs for a road trip, we approached our task seriously. There are about 1,500 pubs in the state, and in order to legitimise our research, it was important we got to as many as we possibly could. Tough work, but someone has to do it. 

Having driven along rugged coastlines, through forests of tall ferns, past wheat crops and over rolling hills, we've found 10 country pubs worth calling into when you're next on the road. 

The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Trentham

Owner Rod Hughes jumped in the deep end when he bought Trentham's burnt-down Cosmopolitan Hotel in 2005, having never owned a venue before. We're so glad he did. On a sweltering summer's day, sit in the shade of 100-year-old elm trees and chat with friendly staff, but it's just as nice inside in winter, sampling the region's pinots next to a roaring fire.

What to order: Like all the meals here, the pork belly with caramelised apple is almost entirely local and absolutely delicious.

While you're in the area… a hand-built scotch oven from 1891 is still in use at the legendary RedBeard Bakery around the corner.

21 High Street, Trentham, 5424 1516, thecosmopolitanhotel.com.au

The Goldmines Hotel, Bendigo

Whereas most beer gardens are basic congregational spaces with a few pot plants thrown in, the Goldmines is the reverse – a botanic garden first, and a place for drinking second. Publican Peter Garton and his team are working on adding an outdoor cinema to this already extraordinary space.

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What to order: a shiraz – any of them – from nearby Heathcote.

While you're in the area... there's an Elvis exhibition on its way to Bendigo's highly regarded art gallery.

49-57 Marong Road, Golden Square, 5443 3004, goldmineshotel.com

Swiss Mountain Hotel in Blampied. Regional Victorian pub road trip for Good Food online. Images supplied by freelance writer Tim McGlone; please credit. Single use only. January 2022.

Swiss Mountain Hotel in the heart of spud-growing country. Photo: Tim McGlone

Swiss Mountain Hotel, Blampied

Despite a large clientele of day-tripping Melburnians, this humble, curiously semi-circular weatherboard inn still feels like a local's local. It's more or less the only thing in Blampied, at the heart of spud-growing country in central Victoria, where it's been since 1865.

What to order: a Mt Macedon Pale Ale with panoramic potato-farm views out the front.

While you're in the area... take it easy at the Hepburn Springs Bathhouse, a 15-minute drive away.

3454 Midland Highway, Blampied, 5345 7006, swissmountainhotel.com.au

The new atrium at Portarlington Grand Hotel. Regional Victorian pub road trip for Good Food online. Images supplied by freelance writer Tim McGlone; please credit. Single use only. January 2022.

Portarlington Grand Hotel's new atrium. Photo: Tim McGlone

Portarlington Grand Hotel

An $8.5 million refurbishment of the Portarlington Grand Hotel has given us another reason to visit this once sleepy Bellarine hollow, now coastal hot spot sans crowds. The Atrium, a three-tiered space with sea views and contemporary nautical vibes, contrasts with the old-school facade of the 19th century-built hotel next door.

What to order: the town's famed mussels are hard to go past.

When you're in the area... check out The Whiskery: a boutique gin and whisky distillery along the main artery into Portarlington.

76 Newcombe Street, Portarlington, 5259 2260, portarlingtongrandhotel.com.au

Wye Beach Hotel, Wye River. Regional Victorian pub road trip for Good Food online. Images supplied by freelance writer Tim McGlone; please credit. Single use only. January 2022.

It's hard to beat the view at Wye Beach Hotel. Photo: Tim McGlone

Wye Beach Hotel, Wye River

Perched up on the wooden deck overlooking the surf at Wye River is as good as a pint of beer can get. The 'Rookery Nook' is a Great Ocean Road gem.

What to order: the refreshing Prickly Moses Pale Ale is brewed around the corner in the Otways.

While you're in the area... go for a surf – there's a beach break and a point break within sight of the pub, and a surf school for beginners.

19-21 Great Ocean Road, Wye River, wyebeachhotel.com.au

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

A 30,000-bottle cellar recently named the world's best means range of choice shouldn't be a problem at the Royal Mail. Sitting at the feet of the spectacular Mount Abrupt, this perennial leader in destination-dining managed to keep its star team of 14 chefs together throughout the pandemic.

What to order: January's menu at fine-dining restaurant Wickens includes wild rabbit, tomatoes and anise hyssop, zucchini flower mousse and pickled mussels.

While you're in the area... the hotel's Mt Sturgeon Bluestone Cottages have been converted from shearing sheds into a secluded country retreat.

98 Parker Street, Dunkeld, 5577 2241, royalmail.com.au

The Caledonian Inn, Port Fairy. Regional Victorian pub road trip for Good Food online. Images supplied by freelance writer Tim McGlone; please credit. Single use only. January 2022.

The Caledonian claims to be the oldest pub in the state. Photo: Tim McGlone

The Caledonian Inn, Port Fairy

Boasting the oldest continuous liquor licence in the state, not much has changed at "The Stump" since it was built in 1844. It's a piece of Victorian history in a charming town of stone cottages and rugged coastlines.

What to order: The beef burgers here are built like high-rises.

While you're in the area... try a scoop from Poco Artisan Gelato.

41 Bank Street, Port Fairy, 5568 1044

The Wandiligong Hotel

The Wandi makes it onto many of these lists, and for good reason; champions of live music, an old-school timber and corrugated iron bar, dazzling beer and wine lists, excellent pub grub and a ripping beer garden, all set in an idyllic village tucked away in alpine country.

What to order: the dhal makhani is a great option for vegans.

While you're in the area... pick your own apples at Nightingales Alpine Apples' farm gate.

580 Morses Creek Road, Wandiligong, 5750 1050, thewandipub.com

Micky Bourke's Koroit Hotel

Evidence of Irish spirit is not hard to find in tiny Koroit, the tricolour flying proudly seemingly everywhere you look. It makes sense then that country Victoria's best Guinness can be found here, in a typically intimate interior with several cosy corners, stained-glass windows, a chess board and occasional live music.

What to order: can only be a Guinness – slainte.

While you're in the area... Koroit's Irish Festival in April celebrates all things Celtic, complete with a parade of red heads down the main street.

101 Commercial Road, Koroit, 5565 8201

Sailor's Grave Brewing, Orbost

OK, Sailor's Grave isn't actually a pub, it's a brewery. But the exceptional rotating range of craft beers on tap at this new opening on the banks of the Snowy River in the state's far-east makes it too good to leave out of this list.

What to order: the brewers recommend an easy to drink 3.5 per cent Lemon Meringue Cream Sour.

While you're in the area... take in both high country and floodplains with a cycle along the Snowy River.

97 Forest Road, Orbost, sailorsgravebrewing.com