Discover our pick of the best bars and pubs in Wollongong
Much of Wollongong’s charm lies in the friendliness of the locals, who have an ease and attitude all their own. And one of the best places to get a sense of that is by pulling up a stool at a bar or pub to conduct a survey as to why the city’s glass is always half full. Here’s the lowdown on the best bars and pubs in Wollongong.
Howlin’ Wolf Bar
The Howlin’ Wolf Bar broke new ground for Wollongong when it opened its doors in 2017. The bar, which has an amber-lit ambience, boasts the Illawarra’s largest collection of whisky and craft beer. All up there are 260 different whiskies to try as well as 18 gins, 13 rums, 50 craft beers and expertly made cocktails. Slink into the Howlo for beers, whisky, burgers and beats alongside flanno-clad patrons who might be modern-day bushrangers, but are more likely barbers.
One of the best loved bars in town is The Throsby, a sophisticated space to get together with the girls or take your new squeeze. The light and airy bar is all polished concrete, coffee-coloured banquettes and light woods. The bar serves an exceptional range of Australian and Italian wines alongside contemporary Italian food from Ain’t Nonna’s that is, truth be told, better than what your Nonna used to make. (Shhh, don’t tell her.)
The old Hillman Humber building, which is over 80 years old, underwent a sleeker-than-sleek revamp in 2014 and it’s become an inner-city sanctuary for a craft beer or cocktail. The three-level Humber Bar features a ground-floor eatery, cocktail lounge and rooftop bar strung with fairy lights, which is where the bar’s stylish clientele eventually gravitate to. Book in for a bottomless brunch of pizza and Pimms or mosey down to the middle-level Art Deco cocktail bar to mingle with other singles.
Night Parrot Wine Bar
Like the bird itself, the Night Parrot Wine Bar pops with bright, vivid colour. Use your most raucous voice to order an Old Fashioned and then use your feet to grasp onto a stool until you’re served. This sophisticated bar, located in the heart of Wollongong, serves a range of Asian-inspired street food. Order ‘smaller’ plates such as kingfish sashimi, crab san choy bao, and spicy chicken wings to share or hog the pog with a ‘bigger’ option like braised wagyu brisket.
The Little Prince
You’ll find skilled and friendly bar staff and DJs at The Little Prince, which is part of the same hefty family as Howlin’ Wolf Bar, Dagwood and Births and Deaths (located in the old Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages). It’s worth visiting The Little Prince to read the menu alone which is divided into sections such as Smashable Classics, Beers from the Tap, and Fermented Grape Juice. Happy hour is positively jubilant: take a seat under the wall mural by Kaff-eine and order some hot nuts and a jug of Hairyman pop ale.
Headlands Distilling Co.
The grain-to-glass philosophy is core to Headlands Distilling Co’s products, which are available to sample at the distillery from 4pm-7pm on Fridays or from noon-4pm on Sundays. The four young blokes behind Wollongong’s first distillery kicked off the concept in 2014 and since then have produced hand-crafted whisky, vodka and barrel-aged gin. The affable young entrepreneurs conduct tours of the distillery and tastings of their high-quality spirits, which includes the world’s first Illawarra plum cask whisky.
Thinking about drowning your sorrows after a messy break-up? Don’t expect the bartenders at Wollongong’s first dedicated gin bar to encourage such self-indulgent behaviour. While it’s true the Juniper staff keep everyone’s glasses nicely topped up, the only advice they offer you is which of their 58-strong list of boutique gins you should try. And who knows? After a few Four Pillars and gin martinis, you might even find your next crush at this sophisticated neon-lit bar where good vibes, casual bar food, and the humble G+T collide.
His Boy Elroy
Don your best flat cap and cardigan, pop in your going-out nose ring and do your best to rock the I-just-got-off-the-couch look before you wobble down the way to His Boy Elroy in Wollongong where you can vacuum down a few Illawarra Brewing Company IPAs with laidback locals. The narrow space dedicated to burgers and beverages is full of Wollongong cool cats who remain unconcerned about their daily calorie intake. Enter the larger-than-life Dirty Bird with fries.
This character-filled Czech pub looks like it might have been furnished from a squat house in Prague. And we mean that in a good way. You can’t manufacture this kind of charm: think cosy Nanna-style lounges, framed embroidery, butter-yellow walls, ‘70s-style lampshades and ceilings a-tangle with a mix of Chinese lanterns, party lights and bunting. Moo Minn opens at noon each day for tipsy tapas, which includes a rotating list of small plates such as crispy cauliflower, arancini, Slovak loaded fries and spring rolls.
Pepe’s on the Beach
You’ll probably bump into that guy you met splayed out on the hot sand in his Speedos, skin the colour of caramel, if you head to Pepe’s on the Beach on a Sunday, when scantily clad locals gather together to sway, cocktails in hand to the music. Curl up like a croissant in the hanging chair with beach views while enjoying Cali-inspired snacks such as shoestring fries, soft tacos with pulled Mexican pork and jalapeno poppers. Happy hour is held every Monday to Friday between 3pm and 6pm.
Five Barrel Brewing
Five Barrel Brewing is a top spot to crack open a few cans with brewer Phillip O’Shea who took his love of home brewing and turned it into his business. The core range includes a golden ale, pale ale and ESB (extra special bitter) as well as a few single-keg batches that are only available in the taproom. The brewery is open throughout the week for tours and tastings and the kitchen is open Thursday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.
North Gong Hotel
North Gong Hotel has some of the Gong’s best old-school bar bites such as chips and gravy and chicken wings which are best devoured in the sunny beer garden that overlooks the iconic Illawarra escarpment. The pub in north Gong has a great range of tap beer available from its three bars as well as a family-friendly bistro. The expansive sunny garden is the kind of spot every pub wishes for and is perfect for people-watching during one of its infamous Sunday sessions.
Headlands Austinmer Beach
If you’re a fan of Instagram stars The Inspired Unemployed you’ve likely seen the lads camped out at Headlands Austinmer Beach with their entourage. That’s like another way of saying this place is hot property. Put your hands in the young capable staff who are an integral part of the experience here and can nudge you toward the brasserie and bar, or beer garden, depending on your mood. Had one too many slushie cocktails? Book a self-contained luxury apartment for the night.
The Imperial at Clifton
Ready, steady, revamp. The paint is only just dry at The Imperial at Clifton, located 500 metres from the Seacliff Bridge, which has undergone a serious facelift. Locals have been obsessively scrolling through the social media feeds attached to the heritage-listed building in order to watch the painstaking progress of the renovation and the results are in: it’s the Greater Gong’s new super-swish clifftop hub. The Scarborough Hotel is another one of the star attractions set between the sea and escarpment in the Illawarra.
The Daring Squire
It’s likely your bartender will sport a Hawaiian shirt and the Jungle Giants will be on the playlist at this open-spaced communal brew house which also features outdoor tables looking out onto Flinders Street in the heart of Wollongong. Named in honour of Australia’s first and most sought-after convict turned brewer, The Daring Squire has colonised a cottage and renovated it with the history of James Squire in mind. It’s pretty much always party time at the Daring Squire, where lumberjack chic and femullets are the dress code.
Find more great travel tips and itineraries in our Ultimate guide to Wollongong holidays.