Finding a good local is a prerequisite for visiting any capital city.
These days, classic Aussie pubs have morphed into places you dress up and go out to for a good meal plus a night of entertainment.
From modest watering holes to spaces worthy of design awards, with this list in your arsenal, you’ll never be caught short of a fine bevvy in Adelaide again.
Since taking over the historic space in 2003, the owners of the Wheatsheaf have taken it from strength to strength.
Today, you’ll find an established venue in Adelaide’s local music scene, serving folky ambience and creations from its own on-site brewery. This innovation goes alongside a mix of imported craft beers, local wine producers and a list of boutique spirits.
While there’s no kitchen on site, you’ll find food trucks outside four nights a week. There’s also an outdoor beer garden, live music and poetry, plus a number of other surprises. Venture inside and we’re sure you’ll find a few…
Address: 39 George St, Thebarton
2. The Exeter
Located in the centre of Adelaide’s East End precinct, The Exeter Hotel has laid claim to serving patrons the perfect mix of “cold Coopers Ales, delicious pub grub, and live music. No pokies, no bullshit.”
No bullshit is correct. In fact, rumour has it that the venue hasn’t received an upgrade since 1929, when green tiles were added to the outside façade. Everything else here remains as it always has been.
Many come for the live music, which echoes throughout the premises almost every night. Others come for the city-famous Curry Night, held Wednesdays from 6-9pm. What they all stay for, however, is the brazenly Australian drinks list, and a good old-fashioned approach to pubbing.
Address: 246 Rundle St, Adelaide
3. Port Admiral
Standing pride of place in Port Adelaide’s iconic waterside corner, a drink here is a lesson in historical South Australian landmarks. It’s the suburb’s oldest existing building, established in 1849 on Black Diamond corner – clearly they’ve been doing something right, because Port Admiral has been impressing patrons ever since.
It’s pub dining as it was back then, adapted to contemporary audiences. The hotel now serves as a front bar, saloon, beer garden, outside terrace and a bottle shop – nailing the balance required when you serve as the suburb’s main drinking jaunt.
Address: 55 Commercial Rd, Port Adelaide
4. The Norwood Hotel
Whilst holding the claim of ‘heritage-listed’ isn’t uncommon in Adelaide (seriously, is every building beautiful here?!), The Norwood Hotel is a local institution that truly deserves its title.
Whether it’s a happy hour beer with mates, dinner with family, or a coveted special event, this hotel has served South Australians for over a century – all in the comfort of a grand Victorian building, might I add.
Stop here for modern Australian food, as well as your favourite pub classics.
Address: 97 The Parade, Norwood
5. The Cumby
If you hear someone refer to this place by its ‘given’ name – The Cumberland Arms Hotel – you could probably make an educated guess that they aren’t an Adelaidean.
To pretty much everyone in the area, The Cumby is part of their colloquial vocabulary, a permanent fixture of the CBD dining scene – both pub and otherwise.
Following a pretty schmick refurbishment, punters can choose from the alfresco beer garden for pub grub and drinks, or the more upmarket bistro dining option inside. Whichever you choose, the Cumby is well worth the visit.
Address: 205 Waymouth St, Adelaide
6. The Grace Emily
Some call The Grace Emily ground zero for Adelaide’s live music scene. A haven for local musicians, who use the pub stage as an entry point to the ears of listeners. And that’s just the way they like it.
The online events calendar is packed to the rafters, though Monday is reserved for Billy Bob’s BBQ Jam, an open mic night and jam session hosted by Billy Bob and the BBQ Boys.
A breeding ground for local culture, you’ll find co-publicans George Swallow and Symon Jarowyj serving beers behind the bar every night of the week.
Address: 232 Waymouth St, Adelaide
7. The King’s Head
The rules at The King’s Head are pretty simple: everything that this place serves – be it beer, wine or food produce – comes exclusively from South Australia. As such, they attract visitors who are keen to support local, and get a little jolly as they do it.
Through 12 rotating taps, staff at The King’s Head pour local craft beer and cider – including some small batch brews you’ll find nowhere else.
They also showcase the best and most varied fruits of the surrounding wine regions, none of which you will find anywhere near a Dan Murphy’s sales bin.
Address: 357 King William St, Adelaide
8. The Archer
Following extensive renovations, The Archer rejoined North Adelaide’s pub scene in 2019, promising a solid all-rounder of a venue. It went on to deliver.
At its core, this place offers everything you’d expect from your local pub, a comfortable front bar, an atrium eating area, a spacious beer garden and many flexible function spaces.
Top that off with a location that puts you a short walk from Adelaide Oval and it’s the perfect place to celebrate into the early hours post-match.
Address: 60 O’Connell St, North Adelaide
9. Earl of Leicester
Tucked away in the borough of Parkside, this charming old pub has cemented itself as a local favourite.
Once renowned for cheap pub-grub – favoured mostly among young people – new management has seen the old Earl of Leicester find a new lease on life. It now serves generous portions of delicious food, varied beers and boutique wines, all in a historic 1890’s setting.
Just make sure you try the schnitzels. They’re massive in scale, and equally as delicious.
Address: 85 Leicester St, Parkside
11. The Elephant
If it’s a large British pub, filled with nostalgia that you seek, then this place ticks the box.
Housed in the back streets of Adelaide’s East End, this is what a local pub ought to be. There’s a cinema right next door, but the space also hosts live entertainment in the upstairs bar every Friday and Saturday night.
And with over 30 draught Beer and Cider taps, there is sure to be a drink for everyone to enjoy.
Address: 1 Cinema Pl, Adelaide