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Articles

If Tasmania decided to sail away from the mainland, one thing we'd never be short of is booze.

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Male publican at pouring beer at the bar Publican at work

Tasmania's Oldest Pubs

If Tasmania decided to sail away from the mainland, one thing we'd never be short of is booze. Hundreds of cosy pubs lie dotted around the island pulling pints of James Boag in the north and Cascade in the south.

The island's cold stream water sources have been driving a thirst for crisp ale since colonial days and many of Tasmania's pubs date back more than a century.

The Hope and Anchor Tavern in Hobart was the first pub in the colony to turn on its taps. It was licensed on 25 July, 1807 as The Whale Fishery, and even the Reverend 'Bobby' Knopwood turned up at the opening to sip a few. The Whale opened at a time when the settlement was a rough and bustling hub of portside activity. Punches were traded as frequently as barrels of rum were pilfered from the docks both convenient ways to settle a hefty bar tab.

One notorious English thief, Isaac 'Ikey' Solomon (a man widely regarded to have been the inspiration for Fagin in Dickens's Oliver Twist), was reported to frequent The Whale in the late 1820s. By 1830 his local had some stiff competition: Hobart had reached saturation, with one pub operating for every 200 residents.

With the Hope and Anchor only recently reopening after several years closure, The Bush Inn located 30-minutes north-west of Hobart at New Norfolk now claims the title of Tasmania's (and Australia's) oldest continually trading hotel. Built to serve the folk travelling west into the Derwent Valley, the Bush Inn was also on the receiving end of Australia's first long-distance phone call (from Hobart) in 1888.

Good times weren't contained to the south though. In the Midlands, about halfway between Hobart and Launceston, sits the town of Ross and the famous old signpost at its crossroad. The four directions are labelled Recreation (the town hall), Salvation (the Roman Catholic Church), Temptation (the Man O' Ross Hotel) and its inevitable result, Damnation (the local jail). The Man O' Ross opened in 1835 and still stands as a temptation to those looking for a boozy afternoon, heritage style.

North in the Pyengana Valley, the Pub in the Paddock has traded on the same patch of grass since 1880. It was later to gain fame for its resident beer-swilling pig, who was reportedly able to drink Tasmanian cricketer David Boon under the table. The now-deceased hog once managed to down "76 full strength beers in one session".

Thanks to Tasmania's isolation many of its old pubs have avoided gentrification (in particular those '70s renovations often suffered by big city watering holes), retaining much of their original architecture. Open fireplaces and friendly hospitality lend an old-world charm that makes the oldest pubs popular with tourists as well as locals. They're also a great place to sample a local drop: Lark or Sullivan's Cove whisky, MONA's Moo Brew beers and regional wines are usually at the top of the pour lists.