Two Classic Pubs on an Amazing Scenic Route

This is the tale of two classic old hotels (pubs) on the Grand Pacific drive just south of Sydney. One has been in continuous operation while the other was closed about 20 years ago before undergoing a fantastic renovation that has restored it back to its former glory.

Between the Royal National Park (just south of Sydney) and the city of Wollongong the original coastal road runs along cliff tops and through small townships. To one side is the railway line; to the other the Pacific Ocean. For a large part of the route just inland from the railway line the sheer cliffs rise further forming an incredible backdrop to the villages and townships.

The Imperial at Clifton

We had driven past this building a few times over the past two years and I had noticed that it was being restored to its former glory. When we returned from a week away recently I decided to take the scenic route (again) and saw that it was now open for business.

The Imperial hotel was first opened as a licensed premises in  1879 as a place for local miners (at Coalcliff) and their families – but no doubt mainly for the thirsty miners. The place went through a complete rebuild in 1911 when the owners built the two story hotel we know today. In the 2003 the Imperial was forced to close when a landslide closed the road in the area. Then sadly it was pretty much left to rot for almost 20 years.

Mural on the old walls.

The dining area overlooks the Pacific
The drinking straws here are…well, real straw
View from the garden of The Imperial
Breakfast for Dani…
Classically tiled bar area
The original wooden staircase beautifully restored

The Imperial has not only been refurbished to the highest standard it still retains many original features. The place has been re-imagined beyond being purely a place to eat and drink. They have created bespoke areas for special events and culinary workshops. It has all been done very tastefully and the place really looks great.

We stopped there for breakfast before heading off to Scarborough beach. The next time I pass this old pub I intend to stop for a couple of beers…

View from the back

Unfortunately due to the time of day the lighting was not favourable to the best photos of the front of the building. Another time I will get better shots…

The new owners have carefully restored the classic features

…and the hotel’s minibus parked right out front did not help…

The Scarborough Hotel

Just over one kilometre (one minute’s drive) down the coast lies The Scarborough Hotel. This famous hotel/drinking establishment was first opened in 1886. It is the region’s oldest licensed venue and another source of refreshment for the local mining clientele. They say that the town of Scarborough – which was formerly named South Clifton – changed its name in 1903 after the hotel.

It has never been rebuilt or even massively refurbished and still contains many original features.

Inside one of the original old dining/drinking areas
The beer garden has a fantastic water feature: The Pacific Ocean

A great garden space with a stunning backdrop

Which is best? You Decide…

I love the architecture of these early Australian hotel/pub buildings. Regular readers will see that I regularly take photos of old pubs and hotels anywhere we visit no matter how small the town of village.

Both of these classic buildings offer food as well as drinks. Only The Imperial offers breakfast however; from 7am !! The stunning backdrop alone makes them both well worth the visit. So,  which is best? That’s a bloody good question. The Scarborough has the better outside space for sure but the recent work done on the Imperial, especially the attention to some of the ‘original’ detail, makes it slightly more interesting; for me at least. But don’t take my word for it. If you are in the area visit both (as we did) and judge for yourself.

Finally a quick shout out to the staff of both establishments. They were genuinely friendly as well as being exceptionally helpful and efficient. Trust me, I really notice things like that!

Leave a Reply